A Year of Living Fearlessly
Happy New Year!
Another chance to have 365 bright, shiny, new days. To let go of the past and look to the future. A chance to rewrite your life script and become the new you! Unfortunately, our old, dark, scary thoughts about what we can and can’t do find their way into our bright, shiny new days all too quickly.
What if you were about to experience each day with a new sense of fearlessness, unafraid of whatever crosses your path?
Work with me here. Imagine yourself standing up in front of a crowd and absolutely enjoying it. Imagine yourself entering into a tough conversation (your toughest conflict) and knowing that not only will you not get triggered and lose your temper, you will be able to resolve difficulties and strengthen the relationship. Imagine sleeping a full nine hours tonight because at the end of the day, instead of wrestling with worries and nightmares, you feel peaceful and assured.
Impossible, you say? Not at all.
That’s what this New Year’s blog post is all about. How to make 2023 your year to create a new life for yourself absent of anxieties that hold you back. Moving from panic to poise. Transforming your fear into fearlessness.
Ready? Let’s go.
The benefits of fear
Now, before we dive into how to move into that fearless life, let’s honor the fact that fear itself can actually be a very positive thing (in some circumstances).
In the best-selling book, The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence, author Gavin de Becker delves into the necessity of fear to provide safety. Without a healthy dose of fear, we wouldn’t run away from something that can harm us or stop from eating that plant that can kill us.
His research encourages us to trust our intuition to avoid dangerous situations and yet, he also encourages his readers not to let fear rule their lives. In his words: “True fear is a gift. Unwarranted fear is a curse.” Our “gut reactions” are powerfully motivating (and important when facing real danger) and yet, if our worries aren’t “real,” they keep us from living freely and fully.
The goal isn’t to remove all fear from ourselves. The goal is to shift our perspective on what we experience, to discern what is “real” fear versus what is imaginary. Then we are free to choose a different path – a path that may bring us great joy and success. (There’s actually a powerful book by Wayne Dyer entitled, “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.” I highly recommend it.)
Different types of fear
When we look at fear, there are basically three different types:
Rational fears – the threat is real (i.e., your child playing in a busy street). These types of fears are helpful to keep us safe so we should honor them.
Primal fears – ancestral fears that are hard-wired into our brains (spiders, rats, snakes, etc.). Our subconscious mind controls our fight or flight reflexes and so primal fears, like rational fears, are very difficult to control.
Irrational fears – don’t make a lot of sense and vary from person to person (fear of clowns, escalators or carnival food – the last one was my Mom’s). Here’s where we have the most control.
When seeking the goal of living a fearless life, it’s important to understand the differences in those situations that cause you anxiety and more importantly, to focus on what you can more easily transform…that is, our irrational fears.
How many of us are losing out on amazing adventures, experiences and relationships because of irrational fears? Fears that cause us to shrink back from speaking our truth, sharing our gifts and shirking our responsibilities?
I don’t want this to be you! I want you to live free from worry and dread.
And you can! You can do anything you set your mind to do. I believe it – and I believe in your ability. So, let’s get to it. Let’s work on overcoming what we CAN control – our irrational fears - and start living that fearless life.
The ABC’s of living fearlessly
Living fearlessly begins with how we think and ends in how we act. Ever wonder how some people see beauty and joy everywhere while others only see doom and gloom? It’s the same world, just different perspectives.
Here are my suggestions of how to move into living fearlessly this year:
Acknowledge your fears. Stop hiding them. Bring them out into the open. I’ll bet that if you were to turn to someone around you right now and admit you are afraid of something that you feel is holding you back (for example, “I can’t stand speaking to a crowd – it scares the heck out of me!”), the person you tell with look at you and say, “I’m scared of it, too!”. See, most of us walk around filled with the impression that nobody else has any insecurities at all – it’s just us. When the reality is we all struggle with irrational fears.
Simply recognizing what fills you with anxiety helps you see it more objectively. In fact, studies prove that by naming an emotion, it actually reduces the impact of that emotion in our brain. For example, saying, “I’m feeling really angry right now” reduces your anger just as saying “I’m feeling scared,” actually reduces your feelings of fear. Strange but true.
Believe in yourself. You are a valuable and worthwhile person. You have a purpose here on this gorgeous blue planet. You can do anything you set your mind to. Fears are human and they are normal. Give yourself a break when you find yourself feeling panicked. Then encourage yourself to start over and keep trying. Be kind and patient.
Celebrate the small wins. If you decide that speaking in public is a goal, you probably won’t start out by speaking to a crowd of 5,000 people. You might want to start with giving the monthly update to the department of 20 people. Great! Start small and build up and while you’re growing your confidence, celebrate all along the way.
Chris Guillebeau, author of best-selling books “The Happiness Pursuit” and “Born for This,” sums it up brilliantly in his quote: “Never despise small beginnings, and don't belittle your own accomplishments. Remember them and use them as inspiration as you go on to the next thing. When you venture outside your comfort zone, wherever the starting point may be, it's kind of a big deal.”
Develop new skills. I’ll be honest with you. You won’t be very successful just “willing” yourself to now be brilliant at public speaking, calmly negotiating through a conflict or advocating for yourself for that new promotion. We can’t repeat the same actions and thoughts and expect a new result. Your ticket to a new way of living fearlessly is in learning new skills and techniques.
Go back to school, sign up for classes at your local college, hire a coach, attend workshops or online courses, register for professional development, go to discussions or seminars, see a counselor or therapist. Do something to give yourself the opportunity to learn a new approach.
In one of my previous jobs, I was responsible for writing job aids: step-by-step instructions for how to do things like assemble parts of a machine, or how to run a computer program. Learning a new task is like a getting a job aid – it will help you discover new ways to act, to think, to live. If you already knew how to do something differently, I’ll bet you’d already be doing it. Open your mind. Learn.
Educate yourself. Irrational fears are, by nature, not rational. They are emotional. One of the most powerful ways you can overcome irrational fears is by learning more about what you are scared of.
For example, I used to be afraid of turbulence. The slightest bump on an airplane and I was in full on panic mode: gripping the arm rest, tears flowing, hyperventilating because I was convinced the wings were going to fall off and we were all going to die.
Then one flight, I happened to be seated between two Boeing engineers. We hit a rough patch and I noticed they just kept working on their laptops. When I asked them about it, one of them turned to me and said, “We know how these things are made.” They then proceeded to educate me on the engineering and testing of Boeing planes. I was never afraid of turbulence again.
Whatever makes you afraid, research it. Learn about it. Dissect it. Empower yourself with knowledge so that you more easily move the fear from the irrational side of your heart to the rational side of your brain.
Follow your dreams. In my office I have the Thoreau quotes: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” There’s nothing more empowering than making your life what you dream it can be. And with that empowerment, comes tremendous courage to move past your anxieties because nothing will hold you back. Figure out what living fearlessly means to you. See the future. See yourself living that fearless life. Then pursue it with everything you have.
Fear is a part of being human. Some fears save us, but most of our fears inhibit us. I hope you’ll take the opportunity of a fresh, shiny new year to do more of what makes you happy. To develop new skills and new perspectives that will help you to be the strong, courageous, adventurous self that I know you are. "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you have imagined.”
Happy “Fearless” New Year!
Marie Tjernlund President, NobleEdge Consulting
(P.S: There are many helpful and instructional guides and materials available to help you along the path of living fearlessly. We at NobleEdge are here to accompany you on building your skills especially in areas of presentations, public speaking, and healthy conversations. I invite you to reach out to me if we can be a part of your journey. Our website is at https://www.NobleEdgeConsulting. My email is Marie@NobleEdgeConsulting.com.)