From Fear to All-Clear in 5 Steps

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Struggling with the fear of the unknown? Can’t determine whether it’s panic, procrastination or just plain pathetic? Either way, the unknown can represent many things. For some, it’s not being sure of what we will encounter or the loss of control. For others, it’s the lack of confidence in our abilities and resources when confronted with the unknown.

The unknown is not what to be afraid of, it’s only when the unknown becomes known that one can decide whether to be afraid or not.

Markus Peterson

Fear is nothing more than a mental obstacle, but it can be difficult to pin down. It can curb your ability to perform to the fullest in various aspects of your life. Every time you encounter an unfamiliar situation, the fear can manifest itself or prevent you from taking opportunities in life. So, if you’re tempted to run away from this fear or stick your head in the sand, what can you do to tackle this fear and stretch your comfort zone if you want to experience life to the fullest:

1. Understand your fear

First and foremost, you need to understand the cause of the fear. Remember, fear is a natural human instinct. Almost each and every one of us fears something or other. The fear of the unknown stems from certain things, situations or memories in life. Ask yourself, what do you fear the most and what kind of situation do you frequently avoid in your routine life? Once you are able to figure out the root cause of the fear, you will find it easier to face it.

 2. Take Small Steps

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step            

Lao Tzu

Rather than looking at the giant task ahead of you, break it down into small steps that can be accomplished in an hour, a day or even a month, and focus your attention on that. Small steps will help you to prioritize, and they will help you feel you’ve accomplished something. Feelings of accomplishment help you build confidence in our abilities. If you have a fear of public speaking, start small and address a small group that involves your friends or colleagues. If you fear trying new foods, just have a bite rather than ordering a whole dish. Either way, remember, we all started out with baby steps!

3. Prepare and Practice

I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work! 

Thomas Edison

Tackling fear is rarely all or nothing, its more about understanding the entirety of your task or challenge and breaking it down into manageable chunks. Determine which ones you can do and which elements you might need to prepare for, learn about or simply take that first step before scaling it up. A World Series cliff diver wouldn’t attempt a 50m dive in the first instance, they would work their way up starting from ground level to build their skill and confidence gaining height over YEARS of practice before progressing to such a life threatening dive! Remember, no one is ever born a skilled expert, you become a skilled expert.

4. Build on your experiences

Anytime you try something new, you learn different things about yourself. This means you need to pay attention to your gut reaction when confronted with the unexpected. Keep challenging and stretching yourself – however small – in different ways and you’ll start to see patterns emerging in the way you respond. New experiences are great learning opportunities if you frame them in a positive way. The more you understand your patterns of behaviour, the better you can exploit your strengths, avoid mistakes and expand your comfort zone.

5. See the funny side

Have no fear of perfection, you will never reach it!         

Salvador Dali

Try humour to dissolve any remaining fear. Ease your mind by ridiculing the situation or fear you have by watching a funny film, laughing with your friends or conjuring up a ridiculous image. Remind yourself it’s not the end of the world if you can’t face it today and not to take life or yourself so seriously – time once lost cannot be recreated. While being scared of something is a human instinct, you don’t have to spend all day long worrying about the unknown fear. Our mind tends to think about the worst case scenarios, but the worst rarely happens, if at all!

Remember, we’ve all experienced the fear of the unknown, it’s how we handle it that matters. So if you want to pursue your ideas, dreams and aspirations, use these steps to overcome your fears and face them with a sense of curiosity and adventure.

Good luck! Please share your comments or success stories in overcoming your greatest fears.

Matt Guiver (MAC, IDI®QA) is a coach, trainer and speaker and founder of Jumpstone International: A consultancy based service offering innovative, interactive and intercultural coaching and retreats (St. Gilgen, Austria). He helps clients discover clarity and perspective in their international business and personal development dilemmas.

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