I am sure you have seen or played the game of chicken before. If by chance you haven't the game is typically played by two people in order to determine who is tougher. Usually, well as it's depicted in the movies, two guys in fast cars face off and drive towards each other at high speeds until one of them "chickens out" and swerves at the last second narrowly avoiding a deadly crash. The winner of the game is the one who did not flinch.
In the past few days I've had several conversations with people on the topic of choices and fears. It is unfortunate but the fact is that fear is a common part of our human existence but the more I live and try to stretch myself, the more I believe that fear is NOT supposed to be a part of our daily lives. Especially the type of fear that stops our growth, advancement and effectiveness.
Contrary to some schools of thought I too have had to deal with fear. Some, if not all, of my past fears held me back from opportunities that were potentially life changing. Once I realised how much fear influenced me and prevented me from achievement, I began to take action.
I have witnessed "Life" challenge me to numerous games of "chicken" over my years and the results have been varied from lack lustre to absolutely amazing. So given some time to reflect on what worked and what didn't I have chosen to adopt a practice of playing 'chicken' with irrational fear. What I mean by this is that if I find that there is an irrational fear in my life, I'll attempt to identify it, then isolate it and finally I chose to run towards it at high speed until the fear flinches....NOT me.
What are you afraid of?...What is it costing you now?...What has it costs you in the past?
The term opportunity cost is usually used in economics to describe the value of the next best alternative forgone as the result of making a decision. In other words, what are you missing out on by making one decision as opposed to another?
As a 18 year veteran of the finance world, I have used this term a lot in describing the missed investment opportunities for people, when the stock market played chicken with them…but it gets better.
Like me, similarly most people have regrets in their life of some kind. But the question is, How many of those regrets are a direct result of some kind of fear? Some of those fears go back to when they were babies. Here are some common regrets people have;
- Missed an opportunity to have a great relationship because of a fear of rejection.
- Never went after your dream job or career because of a fear of failure/fear of success.
- Lost a good relationship because of a fear of commitment.
- Missed a business opportunity due to a fear of risk.
- Did not act on an opportunity purchase something that you really wanted because of the fear of making a decision.
- Allowed yourself to be mistreated because of the fear of conflict.
I have a friend who has a son that is about 1 ½ years old. They told me recently that their son is beginning to develop an imagination. They explained that in the past, their son used to roam around the house freely without any hesitation. Now, the son is beginning to be afraid of the dark. He's come to the conclusion that since he cannot see what is in a room, there must be something in there that may harm him. He has already decided that there is the Boogeyman in the room.
Similarly the way adults approach many of life's situations. Since we don't know what is ahead of us, fear of the unknown, we allow ourselves to imagine that whatever is in there is potentially harmful. Sometimes when fear holds us back, it is the subconscious trying to keep us safe and away from harm.
The Boogeyman is a figment of our imagination but seems so real when we can't see him. For example, some people are afraid of what other people think about them. This stems from not knowing what people are saying or thinking. The thoughts of the other people are like the dark rooms and since they read minds, they can create a 'Boogeyman'.
"I wonder if they are talking about me."
"What would they think of me if I did…"
"If I try and I fail, I'll look like an idiot."
"What will happen to me if I.."
Thoughts like these get a person nowhere fast. The" Boogeyman in the dark room" ties into the fear of the unknown which I talk more about at the end of this post.
Start Your Day with 'An Act of Courage'
At times I am sure you have heard or even said that that getting out of bed takes courage. And of course this is true, but if you really want to beat fear you will need to do something a bit more challenging...something that will stretch your talents. Your fight with fear begins the second you wake up. Starting your day with an act of courage can set the tone for your entire day.
One way to start your day with an act of courage is to take a cold shower, sounds silly, but try it. It takes courage to sit in icy cold water first thing in the morning. The cold shower forces you to be in an uncomfortable situation voluntarily. You will then begin to breakdown mental walls and see obstacles in your life as challenges to overcome…wow it can be this simple, well to start with anyway.
Everything in you will tell you to move out of the way of the water or to turn the nozzle and let the warm water relieve you. But if you are able to stay under the water and complete your shower, you will have learned how to battle uncomfortable situations. It is important to have a warm room to walk into once your shower is done.
Of course there are "normal" rational fears that keep us safe in life's circumstances but most of our everyday fears are irrational and extremely debilitating. The problem is that many of the irrational fears have been with us for so long that we've made room for them in our lives. They've gotten explained and justified away so much that we don't even realize that they are fears.
One day while I was running in the park, I saw a Maggie (or magpie) flying at high speed with a tinier, less threatening, bird in high pursuit. The maggie, which is usually the predator (those of you that have been swooped know what I mean), was flying as if its life were in danger. The maggie is a powerful, skilled and dangerous predator compared to it's pursuer (I think it was a finch or sparrow). There are few things this mighty bird should be afraid of. So why was it being chased by this harmless bird?
I found out that when their nest and offspring are in danger, these smaller birds will fight off the more powerful opponent. Sometimes, they will chase the larger birds long distances until they pose no danger to the nest. This is the same reaction we should have with the fears in our lives.
In dealing with our fears, we need to take the maggie fighting approach. The truth is fear, especially irrational fear, is the enemy. Those types of fears are intruders and should be handled as such. They need to be realized, isolated, and wrestled with until they flee. And just like the intruder maggie, chased away until it no longer presents a threat in your life.
"You miss 100% of shot you don't take" - Wayne Gretzsky
Become a Storm Chaser
The next and final step to making your fears flinch is to seek uncomfortable situations. Seeking uncomfortable situations is a bold and courageous move that will test your resolve. During a previous peak in my personal development many years ago, I realized how much fear was holding me back. It's become glaringly more obvious over the last few months, so after much debate with myself, I realized that I had to seek uncomfortable situations.
In America (and I am sure there are some in Australia) there are association and groups that go by the term "Storm Chasers". They are those seemingly insane individuals who get a thrill from chasing after tornados. Although tornados are dangerous and unpredictable, storm chasers will often drive towards a tornado with no hesitation. Looking for uncomfortable situations is the same as storm chasing.
In the context of playing chicken with your fear, it is not only important to make the first move and seek out uncomfortable situations. Your ability to conquer uncomfortable situations is directly related to your ability to succeed in all areas of your life. A daily dose of discomfort is a good way to make sure that you are building the part of yourself that can stare fear in the face and not flinch.
Here are some comfortable situations that you may want to seek and conquer. I've broken them down by categories and examples so that you can choose which would best fit.
1. Social Fears
Social fears generally stem from a fear of what others will think of you. The other part is that some people do not have much experience in dealing with other people now or when they were growing up so they never really had the opportunity to improve their social skills.
Examples of some Social fears include: Fear of rejection, fear of loneliness, fear of intimacy and others.
Greet 10 new people. Be sure that you greet them first do not let them greet you or it doesn't count. Do this at least 4 days the first week or until you feel comfortable.
Make a statement to 7 new people. Compliment, asking simple question, or saying something funny will count.
Start a conversation with a stranger that last between 4-5 minutes.
Start a conversation with 5 new people that last at least 4-5 minutes.
Find a person that you are extremely attracted to and hold a 10 minute conversation. The person must be someone who've never conversed with before.
Make two friends in a week. After meeting and conversing, make a friend out of someone new. These must be actual connections with an exchange of phone numbers and plans to talk again soon. Not just a Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Linkedin etc connection this doesn't count.
Give a speech to a group of strangers. There are several places to do this. You can join Toastmasters where you can give a speech. Or maybe you can write a short and simple poem and go to a poetry reading and present it there.
Break into a group of people and become a part of that group. Go to a public place like a coffee shop or where people hang out in groups. Sit close by and join in on the conversation. Then, work your way so that you become a part of the conversation.
Get numbers from 3 people you are attracted to. Most people are nervous around people who they are attracted to. Approach 3 strangers and engage in a short talk and then attempt to get their number. If you are in a relationship, you can toss the numbers but the approach and asking will get you out of you comfort zone.
"I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work "- Thomas Edison
Inadequacy fears deal with the fear of not being good enough. They are usually hidden because we rationalise them away. They are easy to hide because if a person has the fear that they are not going to be good enough, they will just stay away from the thing that they feel they can't do.
Part of the issue of this is that the fear of success and the fear of failure fall into the same category. A big part of the fear of failure is the feeling of not being good enough. One of the big parts of the fear of success is getting what you want, but having the feeling of that not being enough.
Inadequacy fears include: fear of failure, fear of success.
[Failure] Fail small then stop. Choose something that you would like to do that may be difficult. You can play a brain game, or any challenge that you may fail. If you succeed try something more difficult. Once you are beaten, be sure to acknowledge your part in not being able to succeed.
[Success] Succeed small. Set a small goal that you have not done before. Succeed at the goal and monitor how you feel afterwards. Be specific when setting the goal and then achieve the goal exactly the way you set it. For example, if you set a goal to run two miles, then make sure you run the entire two miles without stopping. No walk/running.
[Failure] Fail big. Choose something that you have been putting off because it is too hard. Think about the worse possible outcome if you attempted that thing and you failed. Then, think about what you could do to recover from that failure. After that, begin to attempt that thing but this time, persist. The idea is to experience the failure and not let it affect your will and determination to achieve that goal.
You will also begin to understand that the failures provide good learning experiences. When we've failed so many times, we begin to think of alternate ways of succeeding that we would have never found without multiple attempts.
[Success] Succeed big. There is probably one thing in particular that you are afraid of experiencing success. There is also probably something that you have not been willing to do that would help you succeed. Take the huge step towards that goal. Here is the challenge that was introduced to me through a Brian Tracy book.
Write the goal that you would like to succeed in. Then make a list of 20 things that you could be doing to achieve that goal. Do not stop until you've got 20 things. Then, do item #20 on the list. The last item on your list is probably the one that will get you the most results and is most likely the one that you are putting off because of fear.
"There is no security on this earth. Only opportunity." - Douglas MacArthur
3. Risk Taking Fears/ Fear of Loss
These two fears are so closely related that I put them in the same category. The reason people are afraid of taking risk is in part to what they fear they might lose. The fear of loss is also tied to dependency to a person or thing.
Risk/Loss fears include:
losing something important ,fear of the unknown
(Risk)Write down ten situations that you may face where you do not know what the outcome may be. For example, asking out someone you like but are not sure if the feeling is mutual. Then go down list and run the best case scenario and worst case scenario in your mind.
This challenge is more difficult if the fear you have is a strong phobia. Just the thought of the unknown is scary for more people because they tend to think of the potential negative outcomes. This challenge is good for focusing on the positive outcomes so that taking the risk is not as frightening.
(Loss) Give away an article of clothing, one of your favorite DVDs, or CDs. You must have worn the item of clothing or used the DVD or CD recently. Do not replace the item for at least 30 days.
(Risk) Buy a troubled stock. Open an online broking account. Then go to the ASX website and look at the stocks that seem to be in trouble. Then choose a stock that has a chance (small chance) of bouncing back. The size of your investment will depend on how much you are willing to lose. There is also an off chance that you will make a profit. This would also benefit you in the challenge because you will experience the positive results of risk taking.
(Loss)Give it up. Give an extra 10-15% of your next paycheck to a charity that you haven't already given to. Personally for me, this did two things. First it helped me loosen any dependency I may have had to having a certain amount of money in the bank. This also helped me realise how much is gained by others if I am willing to lose a little. I began to feel as though what I thought I was losing wasn't really lost.
Try and remind yourself that YOU are the BOSS of your fears. I hope that in reading these challenges you will use them to identify, control, and defeat the fear that is holding you back.
Sources and Resources