We all know the feeling. You have just set an exciting, compelling goal for yourself. Maybe the goal is to climb Machupichu or to create a new career or to begin dating again or to finally tell that less-than-supportive friend how she has hurt you. Whatever the goal is, it is something you know that you really want deep inside. You know you want it because – even if only momentarily – your heart skips a beat or everything simply comes into alignment.
And then the fear sets in.
We all experience fear differently. It rears its head in many creative ways. Yet, one thing is true about fear across the board: If you don’t take care of the fear as it comes up, your chances of achieving those juicy goals that you set out for yourself decrease drastically. And, even if you do achieve those goals, when you have not addressed your fears, the road towards achievement is often tinged with anxiety or fatigue instead of joy and confidence.
So, what can you do when fear rears its head?
I love working on fear with the women I coach because I know that when we work with their fear and explore it, their juicy goals become much more attainable and real. Here are the first 3 of 7 steps towards action when fear comes up in your life:
1) Identify How Your Fear Expresses Itself in Your Life
Fear takes us hostage because it does not always immediately identify itself as fear. These “fear-based expressions” are often much trickier than we first realize, yet so important to identify and pay attention to them because they often cause pain and anxiety in our lives.
There are three main ways in which are fears become expressed in our lives. I call them “fear-based expressions”:
a)Body-based Expressions: These are fear-based symptoms that are expressed distinctly in our bodies. Perhaps we get a stomachache, our head begins to throb, or that old knee injury makes itself known.
b)Self-doubt and Criticism Expressions: Fear often expresses itself through self-doubt and self-criticism. We tell ourselves things like, “You could never achieve that!” or “You’re not good enough” or “Who do you think you are? You don’t deserve that.”
c)Self-sabatoge Expressions: Self-sabatoge symptoms are the obstacles that we put in our own way. We often soothe our fears by sabatoging ourselves and our goals: by becoming indecisive, by “losing” documents, by forgetting to set the alarm, by deciding to do the laundry instead of writing the cover letter, on and on. My personal favorite sabatoge technique is to overbook my schedule. Does that sound familiar?
Action Step: What are your fear-based expressions? Take a few minutes and make a list of all the body based, self-doubt based, and self-sabotage based ways fear plays out in your life.
2) Identify What’s at Risk
It is my firm belief that fear always arises as a “red-alert” that there is something for us to risk if we pursue a particular goal. For example, if you were to begin dating again, perhaps what’s at risk is getting your feelings hurt or finally letting go of your previous romantic partner. Or, if you were to pursue a new career, perhaps what’s at risk is your current salary or the connections you’ve made in your current position.
It’s important to ask the question, “What’s at risk for me if I were to pursue this goal?” because the risk IS what you are scared of.
Action Step: Journal on the following question – What’s at risk for you if you were to pursue your goal?
3) Name Your Fear and Embrace It
Now that you know what your REAL fear is (what’s at risk), it’s time to name it, feel it in your body, and embrace it. Yup, I’m serious. If fear is the big elephant in the room, and it’s not named or welcomed, then you can never really get to know it well enough to ask it to go away. Here’s a trick when it comes to naming and embracing your fear: don’t be embarrassed about it. We ALL have fears, even the most successful or the most confident of us have fears that arise. It’s part of our human nature. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get scared sometimes.
Action Step A: Name Your Fear. Simply name it in a word or two or three. “I am scared of failing” or “I am scared of losing Jim” or “I am scared of wasting time”
Action Step B: Feel the fear in your body. Take a few moments. Slow down. Close your eyes and notice where the fear lives in your body. Do you feel it in your shoulders, in your stomach? How does your fear affect you physically?
Action Step C: Embrace Your Fear. Perhaps you want to write it on a big piece of paper and hang it up on your refrigerator or your bathroom mirror. Perhaps you want to carry it around in your purse for a few days. Perhaps you want to write it in an email that you send to yourself or your best friend. However you do it, make it a point of embracing the thing that you are scared of. This simple act will take some of the emotional charge out of the fear and allow you to see it for what it really is.
Congratulations! After these first three steps, you probably know much more now about the nature of your fear and how it affects your life. These are great strides towards releasing this particular fear from your life. The next steps include Determining How Your Fear Serves You, Tracking the Fear and Choosing a Different Way, which will be discussed in my next newsletter.