Kicking Fear to the Curb

Since I’ve actively begun rooting out fears and staring them down, I’ve learned that I am not alone. As much as we desire to be fearless, I’ve discovered a great many of us are fearful. It can be anything from parallel parking (formerly one of mine) to driving in traffic (another one formerly of mine) to meeting new people. These are just the ones I’ve run into this week.

Those things that make our hearts race challenge us to explore new territory. We want to walk into a new situation fully capable of handling it well or at least appearing to. Meeting people is one of those challenging events that can be panic-inducing for some people. But when it’s over, the rush of empowerment can be intoxicating!

A while back, I invited someone to join me on one of my little jaunts. I planned to attend my first major networking event of the year. These things are less intimidating if you know at least one person in the room. After attending many of them last year, I expected to run into more than a few.

Although walking into a room still makes my heart pound, I rely on positive self-talk and psyche-ups: Some of my friends will be there! Fear and excitement feel the same—I’m just excited! I focus on the benefits of attending #1: I’ll get a network number boost just by being there. Benefit #2: I will meet at least one more new person.

I committed: bought the ticket, told the event holder, and a relative. I locked it in by connecting with someone prior to the event whom I truly wanted to meet. “I’ll look for you there!”

Within a minute I met a friendly face and began recognizing people I knew. As expected, this event wasn’t nearly as scary as the very first one of last year. After introducing my daughter, she held her own and met her own amazing people. The motivating benefit was: Shared experience with a budding entrepreneur (my daughter) and provide a positive networking experience for her. Additional bonus benefits: Meeting the new person in real life (contact was utterly delightful!) Nudge up the needle of network contacts (90+!) and of those new contacts, I will enjoy lunch or a cup of coffee with a number of interesting people. In retrospect, I had really looked forward to the event and succeeded in my goal. Now it’s time to move down the list and find another fear to face head-on.

What does this mean for you?

Maybe your list of nerve-rattling fear-inducing things is short or even non-existent. I admire people who can face their fears head-on and don’t let things shake them or prevent them from living life to the fullest. But, if you’re like me, and haven’t always been so brave maybe you can share how you overcame a particular fear. We’d love to know.

Does your list have more than one or two items on it that limit your life? When I was terrified of getting on the freeway, it took me forever to get anywhere because I always took the back ways. That might work locally, but what if you need to go a longer distance to see a relative? When I finally decided that I wanted the trip more than I wanted to be limited, I drove over 600 miles to visit my sister three states away. It was cathartic. (Even though I topped up my tank at every single gas station in the mountains…)

It has been my experience that most people have at least one–if not half a dozen things–that really frighten them. Things that will keep limiting their lives until they face that fear head-on. In fact, by avoiding it, you give it more power over your life and your mind you will ever realize.

If you want every other fear to pale in comparison you could start with the scariest item on your list. But if you want to start small and build on each victory, that’s fine too. Each one will build your courage and confidence to accomplish bigger feats.  I like to mix them up a little. I work on a big scary and go to one that is less so. Whatever works for you is the perfect way to go about it. The goal is to challenge yourself and be a fear-busting machine.

I’ve discovered that having a plan to overcome the fear is a multi-pronged approach:

  • Name the fear and what you’re willing to do to face it.
  • Write out how your life with this fear is more painful than it will be to face the fear.
  • How will your life improve?
  • What is the single motivating benefit?
  • What are the bonus benefits?
  • Who can be your cheerleaders?
  • Who will you tell and be accountable to?
  • Do it afraid!
  • Celebrate!

When you begin facing your fears, your life opens in unexpected ways. I didn’t know when I began braving the freeway that I would eventually drive to other states without getting lost. But each fear is a steppingstone to your brave new life filled with adventure, new experiences and opportunities, each with a ripple effect. Since beginning this journey I’ve overcome traveling alone, by air and by car, driving fearlessly on freeways, speaking in front of groups, and launching my own business.

If you’re getting ready to face one soon, share with me in the comments. I’ll be pulling for you!

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