Facing fears isn’t a simple task at all. Why is that? Often times, we think that facing fears means doing something big and daunting, like changing careers, confronting a bad relationship, or moving to another country. In my slice of reality, I find that tackling small fears on a daily basis is the better way to go.
You build gumption slowly. You increase courage gradually. You develop determination piece by piece. In the end, the sum of all your little courageous steps add up, you’ve gone further than you’ve imagined, and now you’ve got the skills to tackle the bigger challenges. And guess what? Your old problems might not look so big by then.
Without that building-up process, the wall is just too high, and you’ll just dreadfully stare at that imposing fortress. And stare. And stare. Frozen in place by fear.
So, to start the year, let’s just focus of facing five fears, but only small versions of them.
1. The Fear Of Failure (small version). You’re going to start something small and put yourself out there, such as a side business, showing your art in a cafe, or writing a blog. Make sure it’s exciting and fun, because that will give whatever you do traction.
Don’t worry about pros and cons. It might turn out great. It might not work out. It doesn’t matter. Just have fun. And by putting yourself out there, you’ve faced the fear of failure head on, you’ve gained a valuable lesson, and you’ve become stronger for it.
In taking baby steps, you reduce your risk while building what I call “courage stamina”. And later, when your risk tolerance becomes higher, you can shoot for the stars. However, for now, keep it simple – do some photography for your friends, blog about the cafes in your city, or break dance in city hall for loose change.
Give it some time, but if it really doesn’t work out, pat yourself on the back. You did it, and you know what? I think you’ll discover that failure wasn’t even failure all along. It was an opportunity to make you better, faster, stronger. You might even find a way to convert that project into something else.
2. The Fear Of Being Alone (small version). This one can be a biggie, especially at this time of the year, but let’s not make it so big. Your strength in relationships is actually based on how well you fare on your own. If you can’t be happy by yourself, then you’ll just leech neediness and dependency in the presence of others. And no one wants to be around that.
This month, start by a good walk or run alone in the woods. Be in solitude. Observe how your mind focuses on your surroundings and your beingness, your part of the whole.
Next, you’re going to do something on your own that you normal wouldn’t. Go out and watch a movie. Go for a hike. Go have dinner somewhere. Stop worrying about what other people think and be comfortable hanging out with “me, myself, and I”.
3. The Fear Of Not Being Good Enough (small version). All of us at some point or another have felt the weight of the world on our shoulders. It feels heavy. And sometimes, we collapse and don’t want to continue. And yet, all of us share this feeling. It’s our common journey.
I’ll admit to having some of these feelings over the past week. I faltered a few times over the year and didn’t meet all my goals. But the truth is, we’re too hard on ourselves. We are capable. We are worthy. This isn’t a hocus-pocus self-affirming pep talk. You have something to share with the world, and we all want to know about it.
So how do we boost our spirits? We could stop comparing and judging ourselves, but I think that’s something that takes time, patience, and practice. Instead, if we’re going to go easy, let’s start by taking the focus off of ourselves altogether. We’re going to practice compassion. We’re going to make a difference in other people’s lives.
So get out there, listen to a friend talk, open the door for 50 people, allow a few extra cars merge ahead in traffic, or help your brother-in-law put his hardwood flooring in. By helping others, we’re benefiting people while proving that the world does value our presence.
4. The Fear Of Being Vulnerable (small version).
“What happens when people open their hearts?”
“They get better.”
– Haruki Murakami
Vulnerability should not be confused with weakness. Being vulnerable, in fact, requires bravery and strength to expose our true selves, ask for help, or open our hearts to others. When we are vulnerable, we create a window to our souls, we make it easier to bridge a connection with others, we share, we work together, and in the end, we find even more strength and dare to do more.
This year, you’re going to make the world a better place with L-O-V-E. Yup. You’re going to put a whole lot of it out there, because there’s no limit on how much you can give. Remember love. Remind yourself of it constantly. Put it on a sticky note on your forehead. Get a semi-permanent tattoo. Set it as your phone’s wallpaper.
And each time you remember that 4-letter word, put it into your work, your daily tasks, your relationships, and especially yourself. Call your family members. Breathe life into what you do. Stretch and thank the world for being here.
5. The Fear Of Change (small version). A New Year won’t feel like a New Year without tossing out some old while making room for new. Our spirits look forward to something new, something different, because that gets us excited and motivated.
But often times, by the end of January, the new exercises stop, the resolutions disappear, and the tired routines set back in. Suddenly, February looks as dreary as last February, except now you’re a year older.
And so, as it seems, maybe we didn’t want something new after all. Change is too much work, and maybe undesirable after all. Going full-time on your own business could mean the loss of a steady paycheck. Moving could mean loneliness. Opening your heart could mean getting hurt. Exotic travel could mean danger or boredom.
Suddenly, when the wheels of change are happening, everything as it stands isn’t so bad. So how was it, that for the longest time, your life situation was unbearable?
If we really want change, we’re going to have to put more skin in the game. Pre-paying a gym membership isn’t going to make you visit if your motivation is low and the membership fee is chump change to you. Think about the few small things you can do to get your butt off the couch and moving on your intentions.
Could it be taking up an outdoor activity instead of going to the gym? Could it be booking time off now for an epic vacation? Could it be trying different yoga classes to find a teacher you really like? Could it be finding a group of people you can consistently workout with? Could it be telling 10 friends about your intention to backpack your way through Morocco?
Either way, you have to think outside of the box, and find those small, manageable challenges that will inject fire into your soul. And remember, as you face your fears, always keep your focus on COURAGE. Peace and love in the New Year!
“Every single one of us possesses the strength to attempt something he isn’t sure he can accomplish. It can be running a mile, or a 10K race, or 100 miles. It can be changing a career, losing 5 pounds, or telling someone you love her (or him).”
– Scott Jurek