Updated: Nov 17, 2018
What Happens When Fear Takes Over
Fear can be paralyzing- that’s the “freeze” component of the stress response. When you freeze, you are not doing the things that could help you reach that goal you want so badly. Perhaps you don’t want to feel broken-hearted again. You don’t want to fail again or be disappointed. Often times, when these types of things happen, we attribute the outcome to something being wrong with us. So we hesitate, go back and forth in our minds, maybe even avoid doing that thing that is really important to us- because of fear.
But in doing so, what do you miss out on?
What Happens When You Can Push Past the Fear
Feeling fear is uncomfortable, even painful at times. BUT, the magic happens OUTSIDE of the comfort zone. Perhaps you don’t get the outcome you want- maybe that experience gives you a lesson that will help you be stronger or make better decisions for the next time. Anybody who has had success (and I’m thinking Amazon, Facebook, etc), has encountered obstacles and failures along the way. Mark Zuckerberg comes to mind, with all the recent “scandals” and hits the company has taken. Zuckerberg, and the company, uses these lessons to strengthen areas of weaknesses, address the issues of concerns that people have brought up, and attempt to make the company better. It would probably be easier for the company to just fold and close up shop, but they have moved forward because it’s important to them to share Facebook with the world.
Another thing that can happen is that you might actually find that you reach your goal the first time around. You might learn that perhaps, you did have the knowledge and/or skills to make it happen, and gain even more confidence in yourself. That maybe, just maybe, doing what’s important to you isn’t so scary after all.
It’s like riding a roller coaster- you know that the ride is fun, and yet there is something kind of scary about that huge drop that makes your stomach churn. And the ride has ups, downs, twists, and turns…all the while going at like 100 MPH (I probably exaggerate a little). But in the end, it was so much fun and you want to go again. Our journey towards reaching our goals is just like riding a roller coaster.
Three Steps to Overcoming Fear and Reach Your Goals
Step 1: Acceptance
There’s a phrase (not sure who first said it) that goes, “If you don’t want it, you’ve got it.” Think about it- if I tell you to not think about the pink elephant, what are you going to think about? Pretty sure you’re going to think about the pink elephant, while trying not to think about it.
Acceptance of the fear doesn’t mean that you like it or want it. Rather, you’re letting go of the struggle with fear, making space for it, allowing fear to be present. Notice what thoughts come up that are related to the fear. See if you can sit with that feeling, the sensations, thoughts, and urges that show up with the fear.
Step 2: Adopt a Growth Mindset
Fear is directly related to our mindset- the beliefs we hold about ourselves, our abilities, personalities, and intelligence. There are two types of mindset that have been identified through the research of Stanford professor Carol Dweck: fixed mindset and growth mindset.
People with fixed mindsets believe their personal characteristics are innate and cannot be altered. As such, they do not take the time to improve or develop new skills or knowledge. A person with a fixed mindset is much more likely to avoid engaging in activities that they don’t believe they can succeed in- even if it’s something they really want to do. They are also much more likely to give up sooner on something that may be challenging or complex, especially if they think they don’t have the knowledge or skills to get it done.
With a growth mindset, however, people do believe that characteristics and personal qualities can change with effort and persistence. Even when a task gets difficult, or when they have encountered failure, people with a growth mindset will keep going. Maybe they take classes to gain the needed knowledge, ask for help or support, or practice a skill over and over until it becomes muscle memory.
Adopting a growth mindset can help you think differently about the fear that shows up. Instead of letting fear dictate your choices, let fear be that signal that it’s intended to be Believe failure doesn’t define who you are, but provides you lessons on what to do differently the next time. Believe that with persistence, dedication, and repetition, you can and will achieve that goal.
Step 3: Commit
Acceptance and working on your mindset is important, but it means nothing if you don’t COMMIT to doing what you need to do to get past those fears. Commitment is not a promise, or an attempt to be perfect or get things right the first time around. Commitment is to the action, the effort, the behavior you need to take, it’s not committing to the outcome or consequence. Commitment means you are willing to accept and make space for the fear that shows up.
Overcome fear by accepting it (i.e., don’t avoid feeling fear), see fear as a tool for growth, and commit to doing the things that are important to you.