How do you use fear to muster the courage needed for fulfillment?
I’ve been focused on fear now for the past several weeks. What started as a blog writing project about moving from fear to courage along the path to fulfillment has turned into a self-discovery obsession to know and understand my own fear and how it influences my behavior and choices.
We all have fear.
It’s one of our most powerful human emotions and motivators. It has the potential to influence every step you take along your path to fulfillment – beliefs, thoughts, emotions, feelings, being, and doing. If left unmanaged, fear’s influence will limit what you see as possible.
Knowing your fears, I mean intimately knowing your fears, and more importantly, how they influence your choices and your life, is key to interrupting any unintended hold they may have on you.
Most importantly, how fear influences the actions you see and choose to take – the source for the results, success, and fulfillment, you’ll create with your life.
Fear is Everywhere
What I’ve distinguished is fear is pervasive. I see signs of fear and its effects everywhere – in myself and others. I’m convinced it is underlying and driving all behavior, possibilities, action, and inaction we see to take or not, intended or unintended, and ultimately our fulfillment.
My fear is always in the background conversations influencing my choices. How I see situations, what I believe to be true, what I say to myself about situations and experiences. Is she mad at me? Is he judging me? Am I not doing “it” right? Am I being criticized?
My behavior definitely shows fear in the choices I make with my time, how I allow myself to be distracted when I’m resisting, creating anything new, like my new healthy daily habits and routines.
I’m definitely experiencing fear when I’m “sorting my sock drawer” – any mind-dulling activity that takes me off task, also known as procrastinating.
Also, when I’m trying to be too perfect, avoiding the risk of any perceived “wart” in anything I write, do or say, the other side of this coin, perfectionism.
I get “done is better than perfect” intellectually, just not as a practice. Funny, I’m known for having courage, yet I struggle to have courage when confronting some of my “fear” dragons! What’s up with that?
Is it about control? Being controlled? Is fear about loss of control?
Any of these keep you stuck or moving in a direction other than forward and towards intentions and commitments.
What is fear?
Fear is defined as “a powerful emotion based on the belief someone or something, real or imagined, is a dangerous threat to our physical, emotional, or psychological wellbeing and is likely to cause harm and pain.”
I just learned we’re all born with only two innate fears – fear of falling and of loud sounds. That means any other fears are either learned from our past experiences or inherited from others, society, or culture, etc.
Real physical threats are pretty straightforward because you can see signs of them.
Examples would be fear of a health crisis from cancer or Covid diagnosis. It might also be fear of fire from a burning house or an abuser in a violent household.
These are real, not imagined, and no question they would trigger a physiological, fight, or flight response in any of us.
What about fears based on emotional or psychological wellbeing threats?
These threaten your ego. Fear of not being good enough, criticism, poverty, scarcity, aging, failure, looking bad, offending others, success, rejection, abandonment, to name a few.
These are the fears I’m talking about, the fears rooted in your beliefs – limiting beliefs, inherited beliefs that may no longer be true or were ever true. They serve to block your path, knock you off track, thwart you from going after what you really want.
These threats sure feel real and most likely are based on an experience from the past that triggered a fear reaction carried forward to the present.
An example might be writing this blog, public speaking, making a sales call, confronting a difficult situation or person, asking someone on a date, going someplace you’ve never been before, doing something you’ve never done before, going someplace where you don’t know anyone yet.
As exhilarating as these experiences may be, there will be fear with the potential to be stopped. If you allow yourself to be stopped, the question will be how debilitating it will be and how long you will stay stuck.
Why do some people not get stopped by fear?
The game-changer is how you move around your fears. Your secret weapon is Action – taking even the smallest action in alignment with your intentions can get you unstuck, especially before you’re ready when it’s still uncomfortable.
The goal is to get your fears to work for you and with you rather than against you. The challenge is choosing how to let fear motivate you to take the actions you need to take to have the life you say you want.
How do you do that?
- Knowing and understanding your fears and your response to fear.
- Acknowledging that fear is influencing your behavior, actions, and results.
- Committing to managing any fear that blocks your path.
- Embracing your fear so you can take the next action you see and take it courageously.
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Fear and your brain/mind connection
Your brain and mind play a key role in how you see, hear, and experience the world and your life, including how you process and respond to fear. Understanding the power of your brain and mindset is critical to interrupting these entrenched fear-based beliefs, patterns, and behaviors.
Your brain’s primary function is to ensure survival to keep you safe from any real or perceived threats. It takes in information from your environment to assess any potential threats and causes you to act in response to the fear stimulus. Note to Self: Your brain will work overtime to keep you safe.
The brain does not know the difference between physical threats and emotional and psychological threats.
It responds to all threats the same. Its function is to keep you safe – that’s its job! “Warning, warning Will Robinson!”
I’m amazed at how sophisticated our protection mechanisms are to keep us safe. We use filters to seek evidence from our world that validates our fears, causing us to perpetuate fear and its hold on us.
Further, the brain reinforces what you already believe to be true and uses the past to predict the future. So, we don’t see things as they really are; we see things as we are! This system does not help us move into any future possibility.
Your mind interprets any threats based on your beliefs and thoughts.
Beliefs are what you believe to be true – about yourself, others, and the world around you. Thoughts are the millions of thoughts your mind thinks each day – positive and negative thoughts and self-talk.
Beliefs and thoughts comprise your mindset and are important foundational blocks on your path to fulfillment. Your mindset drives your emotions and feelings, which drive our behavior, actions, and results.
You have to be smarter and more aware than your brain and your mind. When you do, you’ll have a tool to assess and interrupt your ego-based fears.
The risk of staying safe in response to fear is that you hide your authentic self, preventing yourself from taking risks, trying new things, and growing. This stops you from making a move and taking action, blocking your path to fulfillment. It can keep you stuck unless you take steps to work with your brain, mind, and fears.
Are you aware of how pervasive your fears are and how they impact your possibilities, choices, actions, and life?
The good news – it’s a choice to believe and think a certain way, and choices can change – you get to choose! So, fear is a choice, and you can choose not to be limited and motivated negatively by fear.
Embrace your Fears
How do you use fear to motivate and cause the growth and transformation you desire most?
Some say, “get over it!” Move past your fear, overcome your fear. I say your fear is part of you. At the same time, the real you is smarter than your fear. Know and understand your fear and its triggers so you can consciously interrupt them to disable any unintended influence.
Fear Management: Fortify your fear immune system with a strong personal foundation and healthy mindset.
Honor your emotions and feelings, and embrace your fear. Make fear your friend. Calm your fear. Thank your fear for caring and protecting you. Remind your fear that you’re strong, talented, capable, resilient, ready, and willing to move forward and give it a try. Let your fear know you’ve got this!
Maintain a Strong Personal Foundation
Like a house foundation avoids collapsing under stress, your personal foundation supports you in maintaining a healthy response system for your life. This includes supporting your healthy relationship with fear so you can influence the hold it has on you.
Committing to excellent self-care physically and mentally is critical for a healthy fear immune system.
Protecting your physical body with daily practices for adequate sleep and hydration, a healthy diet, regular movement, and exercise will be vital in fortifying your response to fear and fearful situations.
Maintain a Healthy Mindset
Your mindset plays a critical role in your response to challenges, circumstances, and problems by reinforcing confidence, courage, and commitment. It drives your emotions, behavior, actions, and results and is the key to real growth and change!
A healthy mindset protects you from the debilitating effects of fear and can show you the way – and a different way, if needed! It can make a difference between having success and fulfillment, and not! You must take a stand to protect your mindset – both your beliefs and thoughts to survive and thrive!
Daily awareness practices will help you tap into your mind power to see things as they are and drive your self-motivation.
This helps keep your authentic self and intentions in focus, distinguish and challenge any fear and its effect – inherited, limiting beliefs and thoughts, assumptions, excuses, expectations – to see things as they are, possibility and actions, and influencing your mindset and motivation.
Limiting beliefs of any kind and their source must be exposed and challenged. A regular practice that shines a light on your fears to expose and disable their hold on you is needed. When you change a belief, a thought, a memory, from negative or limiting to positive, from scarcity to possibility – you change everything.
Clarity, confidence, and courage will break the hold fear have on you. The clarity to have an awareness of what matters most to you. The confidence to be a stand for yourself having what you say you want most—the courage to take actions every day to move you along on your path to fulfillment.
Be on the lookout for ways to upgrade to the most supportive beliefs, thoughts, memories, programs, and rules aligned with your dreams and desires that empower you.
The game-changer is your response to fear – the actions you choose to take or not take as a result of being afraid and fearful.
If you’re not taking action consistent with your intentions and commitments, fear may be an underlying influencer.
Ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen?”
Challenging fear is critical for living a fulfilling life. You’ll need to be a stand for having what you say you want, be strong enough to take on any risk and fear of criticism, rejection, being thought foolish – whatever it is for you – and take actions anyway before you’re ready – no more getting ready to be ready!
When my commitment is challenged, I remember this FDR quote, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.
Courage and freedom are on the other side of fear.
Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to be Aware of your fears – how they show up for you and influence your life.
Acknowledge you no longer want to be held hostage by your fear. You’re in charge, calling the shots, and committed to being in action.
Yes, your path to courage is Action.
Taking even the smallest action moves you along your path.
Accountability structures that help you hold yourself accountable, like coaching and peak performance partners, are proven interventions to support you moving forward on your path.
Here’s to having the confidence to stare your fear in the eye, embrace your fear and choose consciously to take the next right action consistent with your intentions and commitments every day to clear your path to fulfillment.
Believing in you! You’ve got this!!