Do you know that feeling? That sinking feeling when you want to do something and then your fears get the better of you?
Your hand reaches for your phone. It’s time to make that phone call. The one that could change your life.
You swallow nervously. Your mind races.
They could say ‘no’. They will probably think your idea is crazy. What if this is not a good time to call them? They may not like you, or worse, hate you for even asking?
A million and more of these doubts buzz around your mind like irritating flies that just won’t let up.
Slowly, your fingers open. Your phone drops back onto the table, landing with a heavy resounding thud. It echoes exactly how you feel: heavy, discouraged, and angry with yourself for it.
You tell yourself tomorrow is a better time to call anyway. More people are in on Tuesdays. Much better chance of getting hold of the one you need.
Still, you know tomorrow is probably not going to go any different.
If only you could find a way to silence the doubts that have killed everything you ever got enthusiastic about.
Well, silencing them may be a little too hard — they probably have been with you for a long time — , but there sure is a way to keep them from stopping you.
You can have all those doubts and eat them too.
Lesson 1 — Your fears are your friends
Your fears are trying to keep you safe. They are a response to unpleasant and uncomfortable emotions and experiences you faced before. They are now trying to protect you from having to go through them again.
They are your friends.
Friends that hold you back, but still friends.
Thank them for their care and reassure them that you are okay now, stronger and better able to deal with unpleasant emotions and experiences.
Lesson 2 — Courage is not the absence of fear
A lot of people think that courage requires or indicates the absence of fear.
Nothing is farther from the truth.
Courage is feeling the fear, acknowledging it, and taking action in spite of it.
Lesson 3 — Expectations kill quicker than curiosity
They say curiosity killed the cat.
I say curiosity keeps it alive most of the time. Curiosity drives learning, going for new experiences, finding new ways to get results you want or need.
Expectations kill you more quickly than curiosity can. Perhaps not literally, but certainly figuratively.
Expecting things won’t go as you’d like, or expecting they will and then getting a result that doesn’t quite look like that, can rob you of all motivation to take action.
Don’t let expectations rob you of what you can do.
Let go of them.
When you don’t cling to a desired result or fear an undesired outcome, you’ll feel much freer to experiment, to try new things, to be curious about what will happen. And you will be far more likely to take action.
Curiosity doesn’t kill.
Curiosity stimulates action. Action to find out, action to learn and move forward.
Lesson 4 — Breathing never hurt anyone
When you fear unpleasant and uncomfortable emotions and experiences, you are making them much bigger than they need to be.
When emotion is triggered, it manifests first in your body. The churning in your stomach, the butterflies in your belly, the tension in your shoulders.
That physical sensation makes us aware of our emotions. It is also what makes them pleasant or unpleasant.
That physical sensation only lasts at most 60 to 90 seconds!
Surely, you can weather less than two minutes of an unpleasant sensation.
Breathing through it helps: slowly breath in, hold, breath out, hold. Each for a count of four. If this can help soldiers deal with the worst of what they are called upon to face, you can certainly use it to face your fears.
Lesson 5 — Pull a Nike
Much as I hate the ‘just do it’ advice — it denies the very real force your fears can exert on you — Nike was on to something when they started their advertising campaigns with this slogan.
Because, no matter how real your fears seem to you, they still “just” are remnants of past experiences and do not need to hold you back unless you let them.
The best way to get past them?
- Acknowledge and thank them;
- Realize you don’t have to be fearless to be courageous and take action;
- Let go of expectations, become curious;
- Breathe through any physical sensations you feel;
just do it.
Bonus lesson — You win even when you lose
Every time you take action instead of letting your fears get the better of you, you are winning.
Taking action always trumps inaction.
Without action, there is no learning.
Even when it doesn’t go as you would like, you simply learned that what you did, doesn’t work — in that specific context. It may still work in a different context, with different people, or at a different time.
Every ‘no’ is a step closer to finding a ‘yes’.
Every action is a win. Celebrate it. You are making progress!
‘No’ doesn’t change your life
Hearing those words demolished the last of my ‘defenses’ against taking action in the face of fearing rejection. It helps me every time I hesitate to pick up the phone, send that mail, reach out for help or whatever else triggers my insecurities.
Now you can make it your mantra too. Recite it whenever you feel those what ifs and those doubts rising in your mind.
Just imagine what it will help you do.
Just imagine what you can create when you don’t let a ‘no’ that hasn’t even happened yet, hold you back.
Just imagine what your future will look like when you see ‘no’ as a stepping stone to ‘yes’ and take action despite your fears.
Just imagine what your life will be like when just a few of the actions you do take in spite of your thoughts and doubts, get you a ‘yes’ instead.
Remember: ‘No’ doesn’t change your life, ‘yes’ does.