Fighting Fear with Fear

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Fear is not a topic that is not discussed openly in leadership circles, conferences, or roundtable discussions. Why? It is a topic that doesn’t bode well with the Type A, driven, charismatic, “I can conquer anything”, personalities that seem to typify the label –> Leader. The worst thing you can do is to ignore fear and pretend that it can’t significantly impact your thinking and the trajectory of your life. Personally, my mind, at moments, is  consumed with fear. Fear usually comes packaged in “what if” scenarios that play out in fictitious future scenarios. I find myself playing and replaying these scenarios over and over in my head. I start to write, develop,  pursue, dream, or launch, but the “what if” thinking will paralyze me, keeping me from leaping forward.  For example . . .writing. I love to write! But what I write is never good enough, which stops me from posting at regular increments. I write and rewrite posts until I hate what I am writing. This post is over two months in development. But today, I am going to post it whether I like it or not.

Fear is Powerful

  • Fear whispers mistruths at decibel levels that drown out the most secure components of reality.
  • Fear predicts the future with convoluted accuracy.
  • Fear isolates your hope and shatters it into unrecognizable pieces of broken dreams.
  • Fear suffocates creativity, ceasing its ability to thrive.
  • Fear is an ancient adversary, perfecting its craft millennium by millennium.
  • Fear supercharges anxiety to redline levels.
  • Fear lurks in the corner of your heart waiting for the precise moment to pounce and takeover your steps of faith.
  • Fear repeatedly says that you can’t and that you won’t achieve your dreams, passions, and goals.
  • Fear anchors forward movement in the cyclical reminder that failure is a defining reality.

The critical question isn’t focused on how to remove fear.  Fear is an unrelenting emotion, circling, and just waiting to strike. The most important question to ask is this: “When fear strikes, how do I respond?”  Nelson Mandela said it this way, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

How do I respond to fear?

The real decision isn’t about whether or not you will experience fear. It is guaranteed that fear can bombard your mind with precision and persistence. The critical decision is this: How are you going to respond when fear pounces? It is up to you to face fear and respond to fear. You can hide. You can run. You can allow fear to paralyze you. Or, you can face fear and respond with a tenacity that puts fear in its rightful place.

Three tips to respond to fear:

  1. WRITE: Get your fear out of your mind and into “black and white.”  This is a powerful step.  What do you want to accomplish? What are your dreams/passions? What is holding you back? What is fear screaming in your mind? Write it all out. When you do, you are going to suddenly realize how ludicrous your fear(s) really is. Fear thrives in the dark corners of your mind whispering “what ifs” of the unknown.
  2. SHARE: Share with a trusted friend or mentor exactly what your wrote out and what fear is saying to you. There is something powerful that happens when you shove fear into the light. It quickly doesn’t look as petrifying. Then lean into the wisdom and insights from that person(s) you trust.  They will help you with a different perspective.
  3. ACT: This is the most important step to conquer fear. You have to go after what you want to accomplish. I will never forget the moment, sitting on my mountain bike, staring at 20-30 foot drop down the edge of a mountain.  My friend had invited me to go to Moab for a 5 day mountain biking adventure. Day 1 our goal was to ride Slick Rock, an expert level single track trail.  The other two guys had quickly made the decent (safely) and were waiting for me and my friend. Two times I had circled around trying to get the courage to go. But fear was screaming in my mind, “You are going to die!”  Then my friend calmly said to me, “Get your butt back, hold on, and go.” In that precise moment I knew that this one decision would set the course for the next 5 days. I circled around one more time, and with Geoff’s words echoing in my mind, I hit the top lip of the mountain and dropped in. I screamed the entire way down, adrenaline overtaking my entire body. Not only did I not die that day, I road some of the most technical single track trails in the world. Sometimes to overcome fear, you just have to get your butt back and go.

So the next time, which might be in 2 minutes, fear interrupts your forward movement, look at it a different way. Choose to fight fear with fear.  Fear the “what if” more than “what might happen”. 

What If . . .

  • What if I never risk?
  • What if I never try?
  • What if I never pursue my dreams?
  • What if I never take a leap of faith?
  • What if I never accomplish what I was designed to do?
  • What if I let fear win?

You have one life. Now go – make the most of it. Don’t let the illusion of security keep you stuck where you are. Don’t let the fear of the unknown paralyze you from discovering “what can be”. Don’t let people’s perception of you trap you in a semi-meaningless job. Don’t allow your insecurities to suffocate the passion pounding in your heart. Today, jump and maximize this one life you have to live.

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