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Fear. A short word, for such a powerful yet controlling emotion. What really is it?

Fear is a strong emotion, caused by great worry about something dangerous, painful or unknown that is happening or might happen. Typical fears that prevent us from being successful include: inadequacy, uncertainty, change, losing control, being judged, something bad happening or being hurt. These fears will be different for everybody and happen at different times in our lives however, our most common fears are failure and rejection.

Failure can present its self at work, in common scenarios such as exams, presentations or pitches. Fearing failure can create such a psychological threat, that a person’s motivation to avoid failure exceeds their motivation to succeed. Rejection can also manifest at work with colleagues and managers, but also in your home life with friends and family and can have a huge impact on how you feel.

We all fear. That’s right, even though our fears might be very different, every single one of us fears and in response to that fear, comes a reaction. Typically, men learn to fear, fear because they associate such emotions with a dangerous lack of control over themselves and the world. Some of us might react with anger or frustration, others with sadness or regret and in some cases deep shame but, we must remember that these emotions are psychologically toxic and when they get to the core of our emotional wellbeing, they affect our ego’s, identity and crucially, our self-esteem.

As these fears continue to be present in our lives, we can choose to deal with them in two completely different ways. Priming or creating self-limiting believes. You might, at present, be unfamiliar with those terms, but I’ll do my best at explaining them so hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of what they mean. As for now, just know that most of us fall into the second, and most dominating group - creating self-limiting beliefs.

Self-limiting beliefs are assumptions or perceptions about yourself, which are ‘self-limiting’ because they are holding you back from achieving what you are capable of. As a society, we are terrified of trial and error and think that if we aren’t immediately good at something then we can’t do it, which sees us walking away from opportunities and experiences. So, why does this happen?

Example: In life we feel safe and secure in what we call our ‘comfort’ zone. This zone is what we are familiar with and the things that we do in life, with confidence, belong here.

One thing I find very easy is driving and I can confidently drive 150 miles across country to visit my family. For ease, I have pictured it in a diagram above.

Let’s just say for the purpose of this exercise I was asked to drive 150 miles across America; immediately I would plummet into the ‘panic’ zone due to fear. Fear fuels my first response – a self-limiting belief. The belief that ‘I am not capable of driving across America’ which if thought about enough, would hold me back and keep me stuck in the ‘panic’ zone.

After this, my secondary reaction would be deliberation. A backwards and forwards conversation between what I could achieve if I accept the challenge and my ‘self-limiting’ belief. Typically, this would be me dipping in and out of the ‘stretch’ and the ‘panic’ zones. I decide that the thought of driving in America would only initially be scary because, it’s an unfamiliar place and they drive on the other side of the road. I am fearing the uncertainty.

Thirdly, I perform an excise where I remind myself that 1) I can drive, 2) in the UK, I am a confident driver who is not afraid to travel across country and 3) (most importantly) I am allowed to be afraid. I decide to counteract this negativity and change this self-limiting belief into a new belief: ‘Every day I am learning and I will be capable of driving across America’. (Including ‘learning’ into a new belief is important, as it highlights the journey rather than the end goal.)

These 3 important factors walk me out of the ‘panic’ zone back into the ‘stretch’ zone. From here I can now see that driving across America will no longer panic be, but just stretch me a little out of my comfort zone. The more challenges that you accept outside of your comfort zone, the more times you experience trial and error and the more times you accept fear and act courageously, will result in expanding your comfort zone and allow self-development.

Overtime, your resilience to these challenges increases and the self-limiting beliefs surrounding this challenge, will seem like a thing of the past. Finally, your comfort zone will then expand and encompass the thing or situation you feared, prior to being courageous enough to carry out the challenge.

On the other hand, only the minority of us will fall into the group of priming, because it takes dedication, determination and focus. Priming is the word used to describe ‘priming your environment’ and is the perfect way to start your day as it can effectively bridge the gap between who/where you are now and who/where you want to be. What you do in the morning can have a long-lasting impact on the rest of your day. – e.g.:

  • Focusing on what you have rather than what you do not have

  • Focusing on what you can control rather than what you cannot

  • Ensuring that you are living in a combination of the present and the future rather than focusing on the past.

Priming every single day (changing your state of mind, through the implementation of a positive physical habit) will act as a preventative towards fear and allow you to feel courage, be excited and smile. The majority of the drive to prime every single day comes from within, but a small factor comes from who you are going to deliver your work to or who you are going to serve.

The famous Tony Robbins includes priming into his morning routine by jumping into a plunge pool of freezing water, focusing on his breathing and practising gratitude. Robbins, says that his morning ritual not only allows an incredible shift in the quality of his thoughts and emotions, but also it helps to direct his focus. ‘Where focus goes, energy flows’.

Other types of priming might include journaling, meditation, hypnotherapy, mindfulness, motivational video or inspirational quote… the list goes on. However, you must remember these two key points:

1) Don’t make the mistake of trying to take on too much and do it all, find that one thing that’s going to prime you and be a catalyst for success and excellence.

2) Don’t ever negotiate with yourself! Discipline is key.

In conclusion, I hope you have found this article both educational and inspiring and you have taken from it, what you need. I found a quote that is very fitting to this topic which goes like this…

‘Whatever you feed grows’

Go and feed your certainty, drill it into your system, discipline yourself and never negotiate. Your mind is much more powerful when you direct it. Fear is the number one obstacle you will face in life: the most difficult challenge you will ever be put to and the most important one to overcome.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a question which you can think about right now or maybe even when you are faced with a fearful situation. ‘If you don’t have fear, where is the joy of success coming from?’

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