Making Friends With Fear
'Every successful person I've met is running from something just as fast as they are running toward something. Why? Simple. Fear is a fantastic motivator. Which is why learning to treat fear as a challenge to rise toward rather than a threat to be avoided can make such a profound difference in our lives. This approach takes our most primal drive, the need for safety and security, and gets it to work for our benefit'
Steven Kotler 'The Art of Performance: A Peak Performance Primer'
There is a lot of talk out there about conquering your fear, getting rid of it, battling it, going to war with it
But how about learning to embrace it instead?
It's going to be a constant companion on your journey so doesn't it make sense to make friends with it, rather than make a foe out of it?
Fear can be a potent force in high performance, as long as you are able to harness it and not let it override you.
It isn't a threat to be avoided.
It is a natural reaction inside us as we are designed to seek safety and security.
Neurochemically excitement and fear look the same - so physiologically there is not much difference between both.
But we are quick to embrace the excitement while rejecting the fear aren't we?
We rush to the next practice to tackle our fear instead of being curious about why we feel it in the first place, and how it feels energetically in the body before we begin to label it as anything.
Is it a queasy feel in your gut, is it tightness in the throat, does your heart feel stiff?
Our bodies are scanning below our level of awareness for signs of danger and this shows up in our bodily reactions. We are story making machines, but the stories in our heads often follows a state change in our body.
That's why telling someone "Don't feel afraid" or "Be calm" doesn't impact.
The runaway train has already left the station.
The question is are you going to take charge of it or let it take you to whatever destination it decides ? It's not about stopping the train but it's about taking control of it and that happens by learning to feel inside, and regulate yourself in the moment.
Sometimes you need to pull the brake lever to slow down and sometimes you need to power up.
The key thing is you can feel psychologically safe and thrive even in the most challenging of environments. Yet many of us remain unaware of this and beat ourselves up for feeling fear in the first place and think it's a sign of some weakness inside of us when most of it happens automatically dependent on your past experiences in life.
You don't want the fear to be so bad that it cripples you from taking any action, and that is what separates those that excel and those who don't in life.
But what is at the root of that fear? Without developing that self-awareness then fear will always have you in it's grip and you will always be running away from it.
Is your anger or sadness rooted in fear?
Are you overwhelmed with fear because you are not truly passionate and motivated enough in what you are doing?
Fear even comes along for the ride with things you do feel motivated and passion for, but it is doubly difficult to manage if you aren't doing something that brings you alive in the first place
What if you learnt to lean into it gently, and welcome it.
You may begin to realise that fear isn't something to be afraid of.
Sometimes when I played football I let the fear overwhelm me. I tried everything to avoid it, to push it away rather than accepting it. Trying to control my life in order to keep it bay
'What if we lose?'
Knowing that I'd be ruminating and beating myself up over it for the next few days afterwards.
'What if the opposition striker will be on fire today?'
Instead of just controlling what was within my control and looking after my own emotional energy.
'What if the coach has a pop at me in front of everyone?'
The root of that was fear in me, but also, most probably for him too for getting so worked up - but I never considered things from that angle.
The fear of other people's opinions is a big one. Someone can say something to you that triggers the fear of 'not being enough' as a child maybe and you react to that and you tense up because of it .
We are driven on a primal level to fit into the tribe.
That is why one word of criticism can trump a thousand words of praise. We can get caught up in the amount of likes on social media and slowly start filtering ourselves to suit others.
I watch this tendency in me like a hawk, but I don't judge it.
The truth is you can't please everyone else so quit trying.
If you are going to filter yourself then at least realise that is what you are doing.
All this calls for being honest, curious and gentle about what is driving you in life.
Pulling your head out of the sand, exploring a little and seeing the bigger picture all around you.
Fear of failing is another. What about those moments where you overcame that fear? Remember our minds are designed to seek survival so we downplay those moments when we did lean into it. That's why the inner critic is usually fearful.
Remembering the times where you triumphed and didn't fail doesn't enhance our chances of survival. That's why the fear of losing hangs heavier than the excitement of winning.
Is it possible to fail in the first place?
Is it possible to let people down? Isn't that on them ultimately, not you?
Isn't everything that happens in life an opportunity to learn?
Just being alive in the first place is a win in itself in it or do you just take that for granted?
Learn to love and accept all of you, not just the bits you want everyone else to see - but the imperfections too.
If you don't love yourself, then how can you expect others to?
Are you fearful of even showing yourself some love?
Does that show up in you self-sabotaging due a fear of showing up in life?
Don't be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back now and again because we are quick enough to punch ourselves in the gut.
Most of our fear lies in the anticipation of the outcome of things that happen in life and not the events themselves. It is our resistance to things that make them potent. What you resist persists. The same goes for fear. Embrace it and it can just become another sensation to master. It can dissolve as quickly as it rose up inside of you. Learn to enjoy the fear and release it.
I would say that the fear we feel is heightened when we lead from ego - that story of us about ourselves that we develop during childhood and hold on for dear life through the rest of our lives through controlling, by wanting things to be the way we think they should be rather than how they are.
Can you use that fear to tell yourself that everything that is thrown at you in life can be a source of growth, and that you can be ok, in spite of everything around you, despite what that voice in your head may scream out at at times.
Don't hide away from it and don't beat yourself up if it trips you up now and again either.
Everybody feels fear at times.
To finish with another quote from Kotler from his book 'The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer'
'Going in the direction that scares you most amplifies attention and this translates into flow. The boost in performance the state provides then helps us push through our fears and rise to the bigger challenges. But the even larger lift comes afterward, with the discovery that our real potential lies on the other side of our greatest fears. By confronting fear we are expanding capacity, teaching ourselves to remain psychologically stable and in control even in situations that feel unstable and uncontrollable.'