‘Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain’. Ralph Waldo Emerson
My first memory of fear was the boogieman. I then graduated to the devil. I quickly went full circle and got petrified that holy God, the good guy, was monitoring my every misdemeanor.
Then it became being beaten up by everyone who was bigger than you which, let’s face it, was most of the world when you were seven.
Then it was bishops, priests, teachers, exams and end of term reports.
And what of the ignominy of being laughed at by girls or worse again being refused a dance at a disco.
And death always loomed, large and foreboding – either to myself or my mother, who was my only source of income.
And then, there was the nightmare of me forgetting my lines in ‘Juno and the Paycock’ and causing everyone else in the cast to fluff their lines.
And as for money – there’s never been a time when money, or more precisely the lack of it, hasn’t been able to scarify the daylights out of me.
What about you? What keeps you awake at night?
It may comfort you to know that fear is all pervasive.
Susan Jeffers states in her book ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ that ‘Fear seems to be epidemic in our society. We fear beginnings; we fear endings. We fear changing; we fear staying stuck. We fear success; we fear failure. We fear living; we fear dying’.
The reality is that fear is part and parcel of living. And as long as you continue to live and grow and develop you will always experience fear. Jeffers proposes a series of truisms regarding fear:
- Fear will always exist as you continue to grow.
- The best way to manage fear is to go ahead and do the thing you fear.
- The best way to feel better about yourself is to do the thing you fear.
- When you’re afraid, you convey and transmute that fear to everyone else also.
- Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.
And this is one of the great secrets of life – fear is omnipresent. And like the forces of water it has the power to drown or to replenish.
Sadly, many of us have been conditioned to avoid fear and perpetually choose the path of most security and safety.
As a result, we eschew a myriad of opportunities to flourish and blossom and maximise our full potential. We become cocooned in a comfort zone that thwarts our very development. We fail to realise that our exciting future depends on our ability to expand our comfort zones at every conceivable opportunity.
The message clearly is to ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. Get it that your greatest fears may represent your best potential to prosper and thrive.
In his wonderful book ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’, Dale Carnegie described how he was paralysed by the fear precipitated by the collapse of his business during the years of The Great Depression. Not alone was he immobilised as a rabbit would be in the glare of a bright light, his health deteriorated to such an extent that medics feared for his life.
A caring and erudite Doctor explained to the bedridden Carnegie that either he devised a process to confront his fears or he’d surely die. He went on to suggest that the antidote to any fearful situation is the use of the following questioning process.
1. Write down what you’re worried about.
This will clarify the issue to a degree. Significantly, it succeeds in getting the fear out of your head and on to a place where you acquire a greater degree of control.
2. Get the facts.
Many of us are culpable of making critical decisions with insufficient or erroneous information. Refuse to worry until you have the correct information at your disposal.
3. Determine the worst case scenario and resolve to accept this if necessary.
There is great power in confronting the worst case scenario because it’s almost always possible to improve on this. The following two questions enable you to do this.
4. What can I do about this situation?
This unleashes the power of your formidable creative mind.
5. What will you do about it?
This question effectively provides you with a plan of action to turn your fear on it’s head and plough through to a solution. Then, as Goethe so memorably put it ‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it’.
These 5 questions are the elixir to unlocking your fears and transforming them into a power for greatness in your life. I once a heard a wise man suggest at a course of mine that ‘courage is not the absence of fear. Rather, it is experiencing fear in all it’s ferocity and carrying on notwithstanding’.
No stranger to deep fear, Nelson Mandela was impelled to quote the words of Marianne Williamson on that infamous day that heralded his release from Robin Island.
‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.’
Feel the fear and do it anyway.