Overcoming Fear

The number one thing that holds you (and me) back from being ten times more successful and living the life of our dreams is fear.  Fear paralyzes us because we feel we have no control.  We all have fears and most of them are stupid and made up.  The ancient Japanese saying, “fear is the little death, death by a thousand cuts” is true.  Each time we let fear stop us it steals just a little more of our ability to live to the fullest.   A little here, a little there, and soon we have an average life instead of a Living Every Minute life.  Sure, there are some legitimate fears.  No, I take that back… There are no legitimate fears. Anything you are afraid of is made up in your head; it does not exist yet.  Most of our fears will never come to pass, or if they do, it happens in a very different way than we thought.  As Mark Twain said, “I’ve worried about many things in my life, most of which never happened.”  It’s true. What we are afraid of mostly will not happen, and if it does, it will happen much differently than what we thought.  Fear comes either because we do not have enough knowledge about the subject, we are being irrational, or we do not think we are enough. 

There are many types of fear based on lack of information or irrational thinking, they include

  • fear of snakes
  • fear of flying
  • fear of sharks
  • fear of heights
  • fear of crowds
  • fear of your mother-in-law (This one may be legit.)

Let’s take the fear of snakes, for example.  My wife is scared to death of them.  She doesn’t even like to see a picture of one.  Now, is this because she had a horrible experience with a snake in her youth that gave her a true respect and fear?  No. She has had no relationship with them at all except occasionally seeing one from a distance. Yet, she is afraid.  What is she afraid of?  Is she afraid of one biting her?  I don’t think so. She would never get that close.  I have seen many snake bites as an ER doctor and most happen because the person was playing with the snake. At least in the U.S. snake bites don’t amount to much, so even the fear of being bitten is not realistic. Now, if she spent some time learning about them, studying them, understanding them, then her fear would decrease.  She won’t, by the way, but that’s what would happen.  However, this type of fear, the lack of information, is only partially what keeps us from being successful.  To find the real culprit, keep reading.

For our purposes of living a great life, it really boils down to only one fear: the fear you will not be adequate to handle a situation. Think about it. Some people would call this the fear of failure, but the actual fear is that failure will happen because you are not smart enough, you are not aware enough, you are wise enough to prevent it.  At the end of the day, the fear is that you are not enough. 

In reality, failure is not an actual thing. You cannot fail. You either are successful at the venture you are attempting, or you are successful at getting an education about it, so you are wiser for the next venture. I have “failed” at many things in my life, but when I look back, each one of those supposed failures propelled me to the next thing. 

If fear is what is holding you back, then fear is what you must conquer. Narrowing it down to one fear makes it easier. The best way to overcome fear, then, is to:

  • Get more accurate information about the thing you are afraid of
  • Improve yourself

If you want to overcome your fear of flying, then study flying. I did this. I used to always get sick on small planes, so much so that it was inhibiting me from going on amazing adventures. What did I do?  I took flying lessons. I decided getting sick was probably just due to my fear of flying (or more likely, crashing).  I had no intention of getting my pilots license, I just wanted to understand the aerodynamics of flying better. But what happened? Sure enough, I loved it! I went on to get my private pilot’s license and eventually my IFR certification and have been flying now for 16 years. Amazing what a little information will do for you.  Go ahead, look at the thing you are afraid of and learn about it, study it, and the fear of it will subside. 

Most importantly, improve yourself!  The more you know, the more you work on you, the more confidence you will have that you can handle any situation. The ultimate remedy to fear is constant and never-ending improvement. As the great Jim Rohn said, “If you want the world to change, you must change.” You have to make you better, so you will have more self-confidence, less self-doubt, and ultimately that is what makes you less fearful. The irony is, if you want to become more successful by becoming a better you, now THAT you can control. 

Dr. Tim

Living Every Minute

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