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Becoming Fearless

July 11, 2014

This is a guest post by my co-host on the RED Podcast, Laurel Staples, about breaking through the fear zone and coming out better on the other side. Laurel writes about marketing and entrepreneurship at 10×10.

This past weekend, I went out to Valley View Camp in Greenbriar, TN for a zip lining adventure. The weather was absolutely amazing for zipping through the trees and over creeks and lakes, and it would have been just a nice exhilarating day in the woods until it came time for the Quantum Leap.

The Quantum Leap is a 55 foot tree trunk (with all the branches cut off) with a small 6×8″ platform at the top.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to climb to the top, stand up on the platform and use the stick they give you to jump off the platform and ring the bell swinging from the trees. (Of course, you’re completely roped in, but I can’t say that takes the fear out of it.)

I was determined to do it, despite the fact that three out of six in my group got too freaked out to make it to the top and had to be lowered back down.

It got me thinking — if I can do this, I can do anything.

But it wasn’t easy…and that’s the tricky part about most things in life that are actually worth doing. There is “ease” within the process, but overall, they’re not usually a walk in the park.

The moment before I try anything new in my life, there’s always the fear of the unknown surrounding it. This cloud of fear can be denser at certain times than others.

When I quit my high-paying engineering job years ago to start my own business, I was literally shaking when I walked to my boss’ office to turn in my resignation. My brain was charting out one compelling argument after another to keep me in the safety zone…

  • What if my new business fails?
  • What if I can’t get another job?
  • What if I’m making a mistake?

But, as you know, fears will not only arise during big life transitions, but they’ll also crop up for situations as small as trying a new food, learning a new skill or even driving to a new destination.

I remember when I first tried Brussels sprouts that alarms were going off in my brain telling me I was treading new and fearful territory.

Or when I drove from Nashville to Denver by myself and was scared I would get lost. Who gets lost on Interstate 70 going through Kansas??

Fortunately, both of those situations turn out well, but at the time, I didn’t know what the outcome would be.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that no matter what new situation I face, fear is always there. It might have a different voice each time, but it’s just the same old fear trying to protect me from unforeseen dangers.

I’ve learned to accept that fear is no longer a road block in my life, but it’s a companion in this journey. The key is to know how to recognize it, understand it and make the leap beyond it towards the life that’s awaiting you on the other side.

When fears crop up for you-whether it’s with food, career, relationships, transitions, or anything else-use the following questions to analyze the fear and move forward.

1. Ask yourself: What’s the worst case scenario?

I like to ask this question to my clients a lot. When you’re adopting a new healthier lifestyle and trying new foods, what is the worst case scenario?

If you try kale a few times and you don’t like it, what’s the absolute worst that can happen? If you take a Zumba class and it didn’t jive with your personality, so what? If you burn the dish you’re cooking or your partner doesn’t like your new quinoa recipe, what is the long-term negative impact?

When you’re faced with a fear, ask yourself what’s the worst case scenario and think about it for approximately 30 seconds. Then, if you’re willing to take the risk (big or small), make the decision to move forward and do it. Typically, the worst case scenario doesn’t play out in real life very often anyway.

2. Ask yourself: Will moving past this fear make me a better person?

The purpose of your life is to grow, expand, learn and be happy while doing it. Fear is programmed into us to keep us safe from getting attacked by a sabertooth tiger (or other life-threatening scenario), but it’s not suppose to prevent us from fully expressing ourselves and our gifts.

When I wanted to start my own business and there was a whole database of fears being created in my mind, I had to ask myself if moving past these fears will make me a better person. And the answer was yes.

Trying new foods, starting an exercise routine, learning a new language, traveling across the world and all types of other situations are going to be riddled with fears, but in the end, they will make you a better person. And if that’s the case, you want to feel the fear, but do it anyway.

3. Ask yourself: How will I feel when I reach the other side?

When you want to do something new or challenging, start with the end in mind. For me, I try to exercise in some form every single day, but there are days when I really don’t feel like it. It’s those days when I’m so tired that I would rather do anything than even get up and walk around the block.

So I ask myself: how will I feel after I exercise? The answer is usually “better” or “great.” So I focus on the end result and how good I’ll feel as motivation to put my tennis shoes on and get out the door.

Once I get going, I always feel better. And this is the same whether I need to knock out a difficult task on my to-do list or cooking at home instead of eating out…I keep the end in mind.

When you’re faced with fears, difficulties, time limits or problems, think about how you will feel when you move past those feelings and reach the other side. Then base your decision on the end result, not on the immediate obstacles.

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