What are you afraid of? It’s a topic that most of us try to avoid at all costs because admitting to being fearful shows our vulnerability. And especially if you are an American male, admitting that sometimes you’re fearful is a sign of weakness. Ugh… We can’t do that!
So it was with great interest that I listened to the audio book, Mastering Fear: A Navy SEAL’s Guide by Brandon Webb. If a Navy SEAL can admit to experiencing fear from time to time, then I can too!
Controlling the Inner Dialogue
In his book Mr. Webb begins with this premise: “Mastering fear is not about becoming physically stronger, or tougher, or more stoic. It’s about learning how to identify and change the conversation in your head. That ability to self-monitor and redirect your interior dialogue is what takes you from a victim mentality to a proactive mindset.”
Mastering fear is all about controlling the inner dialogue and using it to your advantage. We are not to deny our fear. Instead become aware of it and redirect it. Focus on positive action steps you can take instead of having a victim mentality. The goal is not to eliminate the fear. It is something to embrace. Harnessing fear can change the course of your destiny.
The Five Step Process to Mastering Fear
That sounds well and good, but how do you go about doing that? The author explains that there are five legs to the journey from being fearful to using fear to accomplish our goals.
Step 1 – Decision
Mastering fear starts with a decision. The reason why so many of us fail to achieve what we set out to do is that we never really make a conscious decision to do the task at hand. We hold back. We are subconsciously afraid of failure so it’s easier not to fully commit and fail because of that, than to commit fully and see what might actually happen. But once you make a decision, follow through and act on it. Don’t second guess yourself.
Step 2 – Rehearsal
The next step is all about planning and preparing with the intent of stretching your comfort zone. Effective rehearsal does not eliminate fear but it gives you the tools to fall back on in that moment of maximum stress. Practice creates competence, which breeds confidence.
Let’s say you have a fear of public speaking (most of us do). Master your speech first in your mind. If your internal dialogue begins to turn negative, catch yourself and stop it! Practice under relaxed conditions until you have your speech down perfectly. Then push your limits by refining it and gradually ramping up the difficulty. Push the limits. When you start losing accuracy, scale back within your expanded comfort zone.
Step 3 – Letting Go
Once you’ve prepared as much as possible, there comes a point when you have to let go of whatever security blanket you’ve been holding on to that keeps you from moving forward.
Don’t get stuck in endless preparation. Practice and rehearsal can take you only so far. Don’t let it become an excuse for failing to take action. Tune out the negative self-talk. Understand that every great gain comes about only through taking risk.
Step 4 – Jumping Off
You can’t reason or talk your way into this step. And you can’t wait for the fear to go away, or until you’re 100 percent ready, because neither is going to happen. When the moment comes, it comes, and at that point it’s about action, period. Preparation is logical, rational, and methodical. Jumping off is visceral.
Resolve that the next time you find yourself in that hesitant gap between decision and action, you will cut the moment short and simply act. Once you’re as decided as you’re going to be, refuse to allow yourself the luxury of gratuitous hesitation. Just jump.
Step 5 – Know What Matters
Mastering fear starts with a decision, but it is knowing what matters that tells you which decision to make and leads you to make it in the first place. There has to be something important, that makes the risk worth it. If you don’t know what matters, fear will hold you back. If you’re crystal clear on what matters, fear will propel you forward.
The best quote from the book is, “Everything you really want is on the other side of fear.” Think about that quote. It’s true isn’t it? When you master your fear, instead of running away from it, life has purpose. You can live a life full of regrets for not acting when you know you should, or you can take the plunge and see what happens. You won’t always get what you want but if you never try your chances of getting it drop to near zero. As the author say, “Embrace fear. Make it your ally. Trust it. Master it.”
Those are my thoughts. I welcome yours. What are you afraid of? How do you overcome fear?
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