Living fearlessly is not the same thing as never being afraid.
It's good to be afraid occasionally. Fear is a great teacher. ~ Michael
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience by which you really stop to look fear in the face. . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
One of the easiest ways to overcome fears that keep you from extraordinary living is to start doing some things that scare you. The lady I quoted above encouraged others to Do one thing every day that scares you. So to help you with that, I have put together in this article some things you can do today that may be scary, but I promise you will become a more confident person when you are done.
Step out of your comfort zone
What is so comfortable about a comfort zone? It is a place we go to die. It is the death of our dreams, our hopes and eventually our life itself. The things that keep us there are all the things we are afraid of. We are afraid of being hurt, of confronting our guilt, of failure, of the unknown and sometimes death. As Shakespeare said in Julius Caesar, Cowards die many times before their death, the valiant never taste of death but once.
In my hub about the "Toddler CEO," I talked about the fearlessness of toddlers who have no comfort zones--all things are to be explored or meddled with. Somewhere along the way, we lose that fearlessness and have to relearn what I call the "Toddler Principle." The sooner you start failing, the sooner you can begin to succeed.
If you have a strong fear or phobia, you may have to approach it gradually. If you have a strong fear of heights, for example, you may want to start tackling small heights and work your way up the ladder or slope as you become more comfortable.
Sometimes, however, you might just want to take a blind leap to help you conquer this kind of fear. One writer described her fearful existence as "more dread than alive." When she intentionally went bungee jumping, it helped her overcome her fear of heights. Alternatively you might take a trip or two on a ferris wheel or roller coaster or merely drive in Tokyo or Paris to send massive amounts of adrenaline into your system.
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. ~ Dale Carnegie
Choose a Role Model
Eleanor Roosevelt chose some role models that helped her overcome her fear--her favorite uncle Teddy Roosevelt and Marie Souvestre, her boarding school teacher and mentor. By ten she had lost both parents and was timid, shy and constantly told she was homely.
While in boarding school, she vowed: “Never again would I be the rigid little person I had been before.” Although she had a fearful nature, she constantly fought it and her list of accomplishments are unrivaled in any first lady before or since.
Her uncle, Teddy Roosevelt was on the fast track for success. Graduated from Harvard, studied in Germany, fell madly in love, married and went right into politics. Then he hit a wall. His wife and his mother died on the same day. Speaking of his wife Anne, he said: "The light has gone out of my life..." Theodore had been battling asthma, extremely poor eyesight and other health issues and this hit him particularly hard. Instead of retreating into a "comfort zone," he bought a ranch in the Dakota Badlands and vigorously pursued the outdoor life to build up his stamina. He hunted big game and captured an outlaw. Later he would round up some of his cowboy friends and turn them into the famous volunteer fighting unit "the Rough Riders," which he led into battle in the Cuban War.
Minutes before giving a speech on a campaign stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was shot at close range by a maniac with a 38.. The would-be assassin’s bullet slowed down after travelling through a steel eyeglass case and the folded, fifty page speech he intended to give and stopped in his chest. Realizing that he wasn’t coughing up blood, Roosevelt figured he was well enough to go ahead and deliver his speech rather than rush to the hospital. He spoke for the next 90 minutes, opening with the words:
“Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”
Doctors deemed it too risky to remove the bullet, and Roosevelt carried it with him inside his body for the rest of his life.
As a result of his
unwillingness to let his fears and weaknesses dictate his life, Teddy
Roosevelt is known as one of the most visionary, energetic and
accomplished presidents of all time.
Confront your irrational, negative thoughts.
As we say when we are climbing or doing something high up, "don't look down" (concentrating on the consequences of failure) but keep your eye on the goal. The toddler doesn't even think about the tumbles it takes to start walking--he or she wants to get somewhere and this is just what it takes. They do not spend time in their mind going over all the reasons not to try.
We can be the same. The goal is to be a more courageous and confident person and the discomfort of confronting the fear is just part of the process. Think of the fear barrier as just wrapping paper and string keeping us from the gift of a more daring and adventurous individual.
I was reading C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters where a senior devil is mentoring his junior nephew in the goal of keeping a person from realizing his life potential. The trick was to gradually get the person used to a life without any vital experiences. To let the natural fears and anxieties firmly entrench the subject into a zone of safety and non-confrontation until one day he realizes he has not really lived life at all. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, the soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
Meaningful and significant lives do not happen by accident.
The most interesting people I know are coincidentally also risk takers. They are the ones who have something to say, causes to champion, and are able to find something worthwhile in those they meet. They have an appetite for information and ideas, new ways of doing things and the motivation to learn new skills and hobbies.
Scientists who have studied fear in animals have come up with four responses which are also common to the human animal. (1) Withdrawal, avoidance, fleeing, (2) Immobilization, freezing up, (3) Submission, appeasement and (4) Aggression.
If you find yourself experiencing any of these four responses in your life, maybe it's time to face the fact that you are letting fear have too much of an influence and decide to take action against it.
Believe me! The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously! ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Reward even small steps toward confronting your fear
Those who work with fearful animals search for ways to move them as close to the object or trigger of their fear as they can. Surprisingly, they will even give a treat to a dog who is moving away from the trigger to make them feel good about being in the general neighborhood of their fear. Little by little, they narrow that neighborhood until they are comfortable right next to the trigger.
Maybe that is where you are. That's OK. Start having positive experiences in the neighborhood of your fear and work your way in. Are you avoiding people because you are afraid to talk publicly? Start signing up to recite a poem or sing a song at an open mic night at your local coffee house. If you need to start smaller, try just speaking up at a meeting or introducing yourself to someone you are sitting by and try a little conversation.
Opportunities and danger.
Most people have heard about the Chinese word for crisis having two parts: opportunity and danger. Scientists have shown that the emotional responses for excitement is similar to those for fear. I know singers who intentionally let themselves become scared to go on stage so they can achieve more intensity in their performance. They are turning their useless fear into productive excitement.
How many of us watch horror movies and go on scary rides for the excitement it brings. We have successfully taken a potentially distressing experience and turned it into a thrill. We even do it in groups and dare each other to make it even more exciting by "no hands" on the ride or shiver in totally dark rooms when we watch Scream or Fiday the 13th.
I personally prefer other methods of turning fear into excitement. I enjoy climbing even though I experience vertigo, I enjoy riding a bike in the mountains even though I have fallen and part of me is afraid I will again. I enjoy writing songs and singing them at open mic coffee houses even though I experience a little fear each time.
Harness the emotional energy
Health experts say that excitement produces the exact same physiological responses in the body as fear. It is up to you to decide how you are going to label it and how you are going to feel. The funny thing about fear is that the more you label it as frightening, the more likely you will have the feared outcome. The more you turn it into excitement or energy, the more likely you will have a wonderful outcome.
Fear is the body's way of moving us into action. When we are in a heightened state of anxiety, adrenaline and blood sugar flows into the circulatory system, which in turn stimulates muscles and neural activity. If we begin to see that fear is also excitement, we can harness the fear to achieve our goals.
How many times has the fear of others coming to your house motivated you to clean up and decorate? How about the fear of a bad grade motivating you to study or do research and create masterful projects? I'm not saying that we should live our lives from a motivation of fear, but we can use the fear we have for positive results and find ways to eliminate the fears that merely debilitate us.
Don't let fear make you a turtle.
When turtles are afraid, they withdraw into their shell. I say embrace your fears, challenge them by making a list--not like the example on the right--but a bucket list of exciting, rmeaningful or even daunting challenges that you would like to accomplish in your lifetime. I have a gorgeous picture of a lake village in Austria as my screensaver because I want to see what I am saving my money for.
Want to scare yourself today? Go
open a bank account just for that trip you've always wanted to take or
that boat you wanted to purchase and put more in it than you think you
can afford and continue to do so until you have enough. You can even
open one for that extravagant gift you've always wanted to share with
someone--Exchanging what you cannot keep for something you cannot lose.
Challenge the fear to change
Want to scare yourself today? Wear something completely different from your usual wardrobe. Eat at a restaurant that serves food a hundred eighty degrees from your usual fare. Take a language class. Sleep out under the stars. Change your routine in every way you can. You might just find you prefer the new one.
A day merely survived is no cause for
celebration. You are not here to fritter away your precious hours when
you have the ability to accomplish so much by making a slight change in
your routine. ~ Og Mandino
Let down your guard
Ever gone for months or even years with a crush on someone, but never telling them? Have you postponed sharing an idea because you didn't want to look like a fool? Have you held off asking for a raise or a date because you are afraid they will say no?
Maybe today is the day you start asking for things. Spend the whole day asking people for something they can either do for you or tell you something you have been wondering about them.
If you're always looking for reasons not to be with someone, then you find them. But at some point you just have to let go, and give your heart what it deserves. ~ One Tree Hill
Most people avoid vulnerability because they fear they will be hurt. The tragedy is that what we really want is for others to care and that requires vulnerability. ~ Winsome
A plethora of things with which to practice courage
When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically
thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most
gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap. ~ Cynthia Heimel
- Zip line Catalina Island ( you can go from 500 feet to 60 feet at sometimes 45 mph while you experience the island)
Go skinny dipping
Get lost (go to Death Valley or the Oregon coast dunes or the Sierras and experience being totally cut off from civilization)
Rent a motor home or trailer and see the country
Perform in a Flash Mob
Drive Somewhere using a coin--heads right/tails left
Spend the day alone in contemplation
Tell your parents what you really think
Go to sky diving/hang-gliding/motorcycle driving school
Kiss in a dramatic, public venue
Go up and talk to that cute girl or guy
Sit in the front row
Read or sing at an Open Mic Night
Throw a marker or a dart at a map and go (maybe start with a state map)
Reveal some deep feelings you have for someone
Go to a party and talk to ten people
Go to a haunted house
Stand up for yourself
Make a Movie Parody Video
Post an Entry from your Private Journal
Contact your Ex
Send a Postcard to PostSecret
Eat exotic Food
Post Embarrassing Childhood Photos
Say Yes to Everything
Post Embarrassing Poetry
Play truth or dare
Ride a unicycle
Take a Life Drawing Class
Go to a mystery dinner
Be a Big Brother or Big Sister
Submit an article for publication
Reveal a secret you don't want known
Ride your bike at night
introduce yourself to someone you don't know
Go to a dance club
Keep going on something you want to quit
Say What’s Bothering you to your boss or parents or SO
Take a Different Way to Work
Ask Someone to Go on a Trip With you
Blindfold yourself for a day
Play golf with only one club
Shoot a bow
Record a Song and post it on youtube
Ask to be someones significant other
Follow the car parked in front of you
Give only honest answers all day
Have a meal on the roof
Ask someone for Help
Spend a day taking pictures of people and things you encounter
Make a story that connects your photos
Contact a family member you've been avoiding
Smile at everyone you meet and say "Hi"
Go on a speed date or enroll in an internet dating service
Email a celebrity
Drop in on someone
Give someone a micro loan
Play poker with real money
Play checkers/chess with a homeless person
Apologize to someone
Don't speak for a day
Make a speech
Start an NGO (non-governmental organization) to remedy one of society's needs
Study abroad (I don't mean a woman)
Take the first step in starting a business
Go four wheeling
Ride in a hot air balloon
Go kite surfing
Learn to use a compass and then find your way somewhere
A day merely survived is no cause for celebration. You are not here to fritter away your precious hours when you have the ability to accomplish so much by making a slight change in your routine. ~ Og Mandino
Leap of Faith
What am I afraid of?
How much time have you got?
The things that make me comfortable
Are really not a lot
I'm afraid when I win
Afraid when I lose
Fearful I won't be chosen
Afraid when it's me you choose
Afraid to try
Afraid to lose
Afraid to call you on the phone
Afraid to ask
If you really care
And terrified that you won't
What am I afraid of?
Things that go bump in the night
Things that crawl and things that sting
Things that bark and bite
Afraid of heights and deep, dark holes
Afraid of things closing in
Afraid of wide and open spaces
Afraid of germs on my skin
Afraid to try
Afraid to lose
Afraid to tell you my name
Afraid to ask
You for yours
Afraid that you're feeling the same
What am I afraid of?
Things I'm afraid to share
Afraid to die, of being sick
Of things hidden in the air
Afraid of what they think of me
Afraid they won't forgive
Afraid of storms and earthquakes
I'm almost afraid to live
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