Our fears can be vast and wide and differ from tangible things like the fear of spiders, flying or heights, to the less tangible ones such as rejection, commitment, failure or success.
Here are 4 points to help you start tricking your fears:
The first important point is that having fears is not a sign of weakness. We all have them! And they can of course protect us from potential hurt or harm. However, they can also result in an inability to achieve what we want or need and cause paralysis – examples would be when the fear of flying stops you from getting on that plane with the rest of your family so you miss the holiday or the fear of rejection prevents you from asking for the well deserved pay rise or promotion.
The second point to highlight is about the fact that, whilst we all have fears, we have to be honest enough to admit to ourselves when it a fear that is holding us back as oppose to the numerous excuses we try blaming our lack of progress on. Maybe you procrastinate as when you really go for it (whatever it is for you – applying for the new job, asking your partner to move in with you, decide on a course to retrain, sign up for internet dating, write that book….) you ultimately run the risk of failing or being rejected. Or of being successful, which you might not be sure you’d be able to handle! You probably have any number of legitimate excuses why now isn’t the right time to get on with it, but if you’re totally honest with yourself, the time would never be 100% right if that equals all ducks being in a perfect row. For anything to ever happen, the time has to be just right enough, and then it really is down to you if you don’t move – or rather, down to you protecting yourself from your conscious or subconscious fears. Honesty here is pivotal and it requires courage as well as time. Stop and notice what’s happening. If you run from one thing to the next yet never feel like you’re progressing in areas that are really important to you, stop and take stock. Are you keeping yourself too busy as an avoiding tactic to protect yourself from something? Be honest!
Thirdly, don’t try to fight your fears. This may sound counterintuitive in your quest to stop the procrastination caused by them, but really it’s more about accepting their existence and then get on with it. This is about stepping outside your comfort zone. In our comfort zone, we protect ourselves from potential pains (our fears), however this often results in other pains such as frustrations, disappointment or feelings of failure and so on. So really, our comfort zone is nothing even close to comfortable! So accept the fears that are trying to keep you stuck there, and then allow yourself to progress anyway, whilst feeling the discomfort. Face up to the fear! Or as the late Susan Jeffreys said, feel the fear and do it anyway. If you fight the fear, it’s likely to take an even stronger hold of you. Instead, accept it and move on.
The fourth and final point is a practical one that will help you reduce the power of your fears. When you have an emotional fearful response (fight or flight mode), you will have a simultaneous physical response. Examples might be that when someone pushes you, your body tenses and you flail your arms out; when you receive an email in your inbox from the intimidating senior executive your heart rate increases and your breathing quickens, when you go to deliver the bad news to the team your shoulders hunch down and you have a frown on your face…. These are all examples of physical bodily reactions to internal, emotional responses to physical, external events. The key here is to become aware of your physical reaction and change it. Next time a ‘scary’ email lands in your inbox, stop and notice how you respond. Instead of hurrying to deal with the request/complaint, step away, deliberately slow down your breathing, relax in the shoulders and take a walk or look out through a window to gain a different perspective. Identify the situations that trigger your own ‘fight or flight’ responses, look out for them arising, change your physical response when they do to break the state and stop the panicked auto response. Then you’ll be much better equipped to deal with it effectively.
Have a fun Halloween and enjoy some treats whilst start tricking your fears!