Take Control Over Fear and Get What You Want
Becoming fearless is something that we all dream about, but guess what? Fears get in the way.
Is becoming fearless really a good thing?
Even the thought of being fearless is Scary! After all, if I were to become fearless, I might lose control over fear or myself and do something stupid. Right? I might do that thing I really want, but I am afraid it might lead to disaster or something worse.
This is a great example of letting fear become our go-to means of self-control.
What if you could take charge of your self-control by decision, rather than defaulting to fear? What would your life be like then?
Sometimes we may not feel afraid, but we put off making that necessary phone call or taking that intimidating next step. It’s not obvious that you feel afraid — there’s no palpitating heart or stomach in your throat feel. And yet… underneath, fear is seductively driving us to take an easy way out — avoiding what we need to do for our success.
Get Clarity on Your Fear
Before deciding to activate self-control, it’s important to get clarity. Are your intended actions in alignment with your values and objectives?
Sometimes when I’m resisting something I’m “supposed” to do, my resistance is my psyche’s way of telling me that perhaps it is not the best course of action. Perhaps there are things I need to think about or do beforehand. Maybe the timing isn’t right. It could be that it’s something I’m best off NOT doing after all. Or it could be fear rearing its ugly head. If I’m willing to act in spite of my fear, then fear is demoted from becoming the determining factor and it’s easier to discern the best course of action.
If your intended action arouses fear, it’s best to examine that fear and disarm it first. Look into the details of that fear. What is the worst that can happen? What can you do to mitigate that? If the worst happens, will it matter in six years or six months? Sometimes it will matter in the long run, but in a positive way.
Asking For What You Want
When I was raising money for The Afghan Women’s Project, my worst fear came true during my first public pitch for money. My prepared speech was going so poorly that an audience member said, “Relax, this is a very accepting group. We want to hear what you have to say.” Of course, that made it worse as I put myself in their shoes of having to listen to this pitiful, painful plea for funds. But I stayed onstage and finished the speech. I even was invited to stay for lunch with them afterwards. It was only when I finished, that did I run to the safety of my car and the drive home.
I survived that humiliation, analyzed how to do better next time, and moved forward. This incident showed me that I really was courageous. I knew that with my efforts focused in a different direction, I could rise to any opportunity that presented itself next. I was left with more confidence in myself to do difficult and scary things, though perhaps not in my speaking ability. The experience also provided teaching points that I would use later in my career, like right now.
Sometimes, your imagined worst results can be blessings in disguise. Losing that job you didn’t really like but were afraid to quit can force you into finding something more satisfying. Having that difficult conversation can clear the air for a new beginning. Not getting the funding you were going after might cause a creative workaround that is better in the long run.
Take Control Over Fear
Once you’re clear and you have dampened your fears. What are some ways to get control over fear and your actions?
Some of us seem to be blessed with strong willpower, but that’s not a very accurate way to describe it. Some of us have cultivated strong willpower. You can cultivate it, too. Like courage, willpower is a muscle that responds to exercise. All you need to do is put yourself in situations where you can practice. Then keep practicing.
A few helpful ways to cultivate it:
- Make your commitment small. Decide to work on that report for only 15 minutes. Make yourself write only 100 words of your novel. At the end of that time you may find yourself over the getting-started hump.
- Use consequences to reinforce your actions. Sometimes positive reinforcement works best. Such as: If I finish this task by 6:00 PM, then I get to go out with my friends. Other times, negative reinforcement works better. If I don’t finish this by 6:00PM, then I won’t get to go out with my friends. Don’t be afraid to try both.
- When you’re trying to avoid something, distract yourself. People trying to stop smoking often chew gum and find something to do with their hands. Consider healthy distractions.
- When you exercise your willpower successfully, bask in how good it feels to have succeeded. Not only should you reward yourself, but celebrate that you did what you said you would do. The next time you’re struggling with willpower, remember how good you felt.
2. Control Your Environment
One thing that can reinforce your decision to do what you intend is to create an environment to support it. This can mean letting people around you know that you don’t want to be interrupted. It may also be cleaning the surface of your work area so you can easily focus, gathering your tools, and making sure that water is available. This includes taking care of yourself by getting enough sleep, nourishment and hydration.
3. Hold Yourself Accountable
Accountability is a great way to keep yourself on track with your goals. I do this in two ways. The first is to follow the example of Benjamin Franklin and keep a log of all of my personal goals. Especially important are the little goals that I’m likely to neglect, such as taking vitamins or doing personal development activities. The second way I utilize accountability is with my accountability partner.
This has become my strongest motivator for things that would fall by the wayside without it, such as exercise and cleaning my email inbox. We’ve made a game of it. We each chose three areas that we need accountability in. They aren’t the same things, but they each have the same level of difficulty. We check in on Sunday nights and give ourselves a point for achieving each one. At the end of a month we tally our scores and the loser buys the winner a coffee. Not wanting my partner to win has gotten my butt to the gym more than once when I otherwise wouldn’t have made that extra effort.
It’s yet another way to take control over fear, but in this case it’s a fear of losing a accountability competition.
4. Choose Actions You Want To Do
Find a way to make it fun. Challenge yourself to do it in a different way. Do it as if you’re teaching someone else how to do it or filming a commercial for TV. Reframe your task so that it isn’t just boring work, but a game.
You have the ability to control your fear and get what you want. Use your willpower, your environment, accountability, and making it fun.
These are just a few of the strategies in Lesson 15, Motivate Yourself, in my online course, Transform Your Procrastination.
If you find yourself procrastinating out of conscious or unconscious fear, then you will learn and practice ways to disarm it in Lesson 8, Got Fear? Don’t Let it Get in your Way.
When you’re ready to take control over your fear and procrastination and to go after your dreams (rather than just fantasize over them), take the first step. Transform Your Procrastination could be the right step for you. See what makes it so effective >>
Are You Ready To
Transform Your Procrastination?