How would you like to learn about overcoming your deepest fears, silencing the inner voice of anxiety that keeps chattering away? Do you need to possess rock-solid courage and boldness? Maybe, but I would recommend an alternate way.
When we experience fear, we are actually responding to images in our minds, we aren’t responding to reality. We all do that. And those images are never true reflections of reality – they are only ever abstractions that are projected. Those images are profoundly shaped by our beliefs, value systems and past experiences.
There are no two people on this planet that share exactly the same set of beliefs, values and experiences. We all have diverse sets, and that’s why no two people ever respond to the same event or thing exactly the same way.
One person dives into the deep blue sea like it’s his second home, while the other wouldn’t dare get near the water, let alone entertain the thoughts of swimming with the whales. Same activity, but two different responses. One person finds a particular work task stressful, while the other relishes the challenge and are totally absorbed in it. Same task, but two different responses.
We only (ever) respond to the thought images in our minds about an event or thing. We don’t respond to reality, at least not directly.
We Create Our Own ‘Reality’
Imagine an artist sketching a drawing of the beautiful natural scenery of a famous hill. The scene has all the best parts of nature in it: the hill, trees, flowers, a flowing river and the clear blue sky. While he’s sketching, a group of tourists cycle by into the “picture”. But that doesn’t stop him from exercising his creative license to deliberately leave the group of people out of the picture, as he sees that they shouldn’t be part of the image he’s capturing on his drawing.
We all do that with the images in our mind – all the time. We add things to our images that never happen, and we leave things out, simply because they are inconsistent with our beliefs or don’t fit into what we think is important. That is the world that we create and experience (simultaneously), not reality.We don't experience reality directly, we experience our thought images in the moment. Click To Tweet
The Emotion Called ‘Fear’
Our emotions are the results of the thought images we hold. Fear is an interesting emotion – it is the emotion that is not associated with the past or present, but the future. You can only be fearful of something that has yet to have happened, and not something that has already happened or is happening now.
Let me illustrate this point with an example.
Let’s imagine you have a fear of heights (you may not have). You are persuaded to hike up a tall hill with friends and soon reach the edge of a cliff. You’re suddenly gripped with a sense of fear, and it’s the fear of falling, not the fear of heights anymore. You accidentally slip and fall, and now, you’re not afraid of falling anymore, but you’re afraid of crashing on the ground below. And when you landed on the ground, you’re no longer afraid of crashing, now you’re fearful of whether your injury is fatal.
The example above is trivial, but the concept is not.
You see, you can only predict what’s going to happen next but you’re not certain. And because you’re not certain, you make up the images, or stories. You feel those thoughts and this emotion is called fear, which is future-based, not something that has already happened.
Similarly in the corporate world, when you’re reluctant to make that big sales call or hold that crucial meeting, to take that step that can move you toward your goals, you’re responding to fear, especially the fear of failure. And the failure is the imagination of an outcome you conjure up which hasn’t taken place yet.
Get Out Of The Future
The simple yet profound remedy for overcoming fear is by getting out of the future – because you’re not in it yet.
Don’t waste your present physical and emotional energy by expending them on what hasn’t happen – screaming, jumping hysterically, complaining etc. And don’t let your inaction be dictated by fear, but on the focus of what needs to be done in the moment.
Realize that fear is based on the thought images you create. Realize that you possess the power to create.
And realize that you possess the power to choose what to focus on – choose your actions in the present. So, live in the present. Your real future is created by how you respond and what you do in the present.
Enjoy The Ride
During summer 1997, I worked in Cedar Point, one of the biggest roller-coaster parks in the world. As an employee, I get to take unlimited rides on some of the best roller-coasters in the world.
Some of the rides in Cedar Point were pretty scary. I’ve to admit that I felt my tummy rumbling while queuing up for some of the biggest rides. What’s amazing was this: when I was actually on those rides, my fear dissolved – and was turned into thrills. Every single time! Boy it was great fun. I experienced that process (fear to awesome thrills) a few times until I realized there was no reason to be ‘tricked’ by fear anymore but to simply enjoy the ride.
Now, don’t get me wrong – danger is real. It’s not that there’s no risk or danger involved, but here’s the thing: I don’t have to make those images up every time I take those rides. And if somehow the images are still there, I don’t have to believe them anymore.
I apply those lessons into my business and life, and when I understood that my fears are based on images I conjure, it was like a turning on of a switch in me. A major ‘Aha’ moment. When the light is switched on, those fearful shadows disappear. It wasn’t about the shadows, it was about how light works.
I’m not the bravest person you’ll meet, but I can say I now understand where fear comes from. And I’m immensely curious to question and challenge them until they dissolve completely. All that is left is the clarity to take important steps towards where I want to go, and the freedom to enjoy the ride.
So, don’t let fear get in the way of your success and happiness. You overcome fear by getting out of the future (in your mind), and stay in the present.
I sincerely wish you an amazing and enjoyable ride in your journey.