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“First, isolate your fear. Pin it down. Determine exactly what you are afraid of. Second: take action.” -David Schwartz
I’ve been afraid most of my life.
I’ve been afraid of the dark. I still am, sometimes; I’m still freaked out when I’m alone in a dark room.
I’ve been afraid to tell people I looked at pornography all the time as a coping mechanism when I was growing up.
I’ve been afraid of possibly every single boss I’ve ever had.
My biggest fear was that if anybody I loved ever found out about the things I did, they’d abandon me in disgust.
I’ve had some victories with fear. It’s a slow process.
I’ve found there are actions I can take that directly cure fear and produce incredible confidence.
In his famous book, The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz discusses a powerful 2-step plan to conquering your fears.
Let’s apply it to your life.
1. Identify and Imagine the Worst Possible Scenario
“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”— Yoda
I need you to tell me:
What is the worst possible thing that could happen?
Describe it in detail. Lay out exactly how your life will turn to complete shit in a matter of days.
(It’s funny — most people don’t need any help with this. Many of us constantly envision the worst possible scenarios all the time!)
The difference now is, we remain in control, not our unfounded fears.
Iconic entrepreneur Tim Ferriss has a good exercise called “Fear Setting.” It involves three parts:
- Define the worst things that could happen.
- Think of ways to prevent them from happening.
- Think of ways to repair the situation.
Here’s the amazing part:
Once you identify your fears (as specifically as possible), you’ll find you have the tools to overcome whatever it is you fear.
The result of identifying all worst-case scenarios is twofold.
First, we realize how hilariously improbable the result is (we almost certainly won’t lose our house and become homeless if we send in one bad report to our boss). We can breathe a little easier, maybe even chuckle a bit.
Second, we come to terms with the possibility that, hey — maybe our worst fears will happen. But that’s OK. We’ll recover, probably pretty fast.
I was able to live for 7 months while unemployed and completely broke — something I never thought I could do. I always had enough to eat. I had a place to live (even if the men in my Bible study graciously paid my rent for a month).
Before, I would’ve thought that scenario would end in utter despair as I lay homeless on a cold street.
But I was fine. You will be, too.
Step 1: Identify your fears. Who and what do you fear? Why? What’s the worst that could happen?
“The best results in life are often held back by false constructs and untested assumptions.” -Tim Ferriss
Step 2: Then Take Action
“Hesitation only enlarges, magnifies the fear. Take action promptly. Be decisive.” -David Schwartz
Action cures fear.
This is true when you’re wide-awake at 3:37AM after thinking you heard something in the other room.
This is true when you’re dreading that call with your intimidating, merciless client.
This is true when you’re frozen in panic at the thought of clicking “publish.”
Hesitation and indecision let fear grow and take over.
Throughout my long 5-year journey through counseling, I discovered it wasn’t just “fight-or-flight.” There’s a 3rd action: freeze.
Many people don’t fight back against their fear, or even run away from it. They just freeze. They become like a stone, hesitating to move. All the while, fear pulses through their veins, growing stronger.
Tim Ferriss once wrote:
“Many a false step was made by standing still.”
After you’ve identified exactly what you think could happen, the only next step is action.
Get unstuck. Unfreeze yourself.
Take action, any action. The smallest step in any direction, the weakest spark of movement will breed energy and decisiveness.
There is action for any type of fear!
Fear of people? Remind yourself they’re just another person, just like you. They have the same insecurities, fears, and self-doubts as you.
Fear of things out of your control? Turn your attention to everything you can control: your attitude, your mindset, your choices, and your behaviors.
Fear of what other people may think? Screw them. Make sure what you’re doing is right, moral, and good, then act. (Remember what Schwartz wrote, “No one ever does anything worthwhile for which he is not criticized.”)
Confidence is Not Innate; It is Acquired
“All confidence is acquired, developed. No one is born with confidence. Those people you know who radiate confidence, who have conquered worry, have acquired their confidence, every bit of it.” -David Schwartz
The greatest salesperson in the world still gets cold feet. They still dread picking up that phone.
All confidence is acquired. No one is simply born with it. Everyone you’ve ever seen that seems to overflow with self-belief and unbreakable confidence earned it over a long time.
So must you.
In the words of Darren Hardy:
“The key to becoming world-class in your endeavors is to build your performance around world-class routines.”
If you want to have world-class confidence and completely crush your fears, you need to develop world-class behaviors to support that mindset.
Most people are afraid they’ll end up overweight, broke, and unhappy. A huge reason behind this fear: they’re already overweight, broke, and unhappy!
Most people don’t take actions to change their lifestyle, and continue to live in constant fear that “this is how life will always be.”
Confidence and a success-oriented mindset are not innate. It is developed over time, through intentional effort and choices.
If you’re scared you won’t be able to change, then I have just one piece of advice for you:
Go and change. Nothing is stopping you.
“How do you cure runner’s block? You go for a fucking run.” -Mark Manson
“Fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom — how great is that?”
Most people will continue to live in fear.
Fear prevents your relationships, talents, and behaviors to grow. Fear prevents you from becoming the next best version of yourself.
How have your fears stunted your development?
How have you allowed fear to dictate what your life looks like?
Everybody struggles with fear. It’s a natural characteristic of growing and developing.
But it doesn’t have to call the shots. The only control that fear has is the control you allow it to have.
Identify what makes you afraid.
Then, take action.