Goal Setting, Innovation

FEAR: Overcoming The Single Biggest Factor That Holds People Back

Two weeks ago I said yes to a morning at trapeze school. Naively as it turned out. It was absolutely terrifying! But I jumped anyway. Five times in all. And while I wouldn’t race back to do it again, I’m glad I did it. Because hanging upside down 23 feet above the net (though if felt like 1,000 feet!), I knew I was well and truly alive. To me that is what life is ultimately all about – being willing to step (in this case jump) outside our comfort, push the envelope of possibility and live in such a way that we know we are “well and truly alive”.

Many people I meet don’t feel “well and truly alive” in at least one area of their life. We human beings are really much more ‘human becomings’ than anything else… always in the process of becoming all that we really want to be – whether in our relationships, our career or business, to stay fit and eat well, to gain mastery of a skill, or to be as productive, generous or influential as we would like.

Earlier this week I asked my Facebook Courage Community what they believed is the #1 factor holding people back in work, love or life. Most replies reflected what we generally know to be true, but are often loathe to admit: that the biggest obstacle to our success and happiness is ourselves. And while it may present in different ways — laziness, procrastination, cynicism, arrogance, recklessness, apathy, despair — at its core is the primal emotion of fear. Fear of failure or looking foolish; fear of rejection and disapproval; fear of not measuring up, of being inadequate, alone or unloved.

While our fears can serve a positive role, they can also trap us in jobs, relationships, habits, and lives of quiet desperation that leave us thirsty for purpose, hungry for depth and disconnected from the unique potential that lies within us. A billion dollar industry of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs speaks for itself. Indeed, countless people live their entire lives trapped in false beliefs, shrouded under a cloud of fear so pervasive that they are not even aware they are trapped, in their own life. Fear has become the new normal.

As someone who is intimately acquainted with the life-sucking force that fear can wield, I am convinced that creating success, however you choose to define it, requires confronting our fears straight on. Fears that keep us from taking chances and making changes; from challenging the status quo; speaking up about that which weighs us down and daring to stand out in the crowd. But to quote Amelia Earhart: “Courage is the price that life extracts for granting peace.”

Neuro-scientific research into “brain plasticity” has now proven that when you choose to think new thoughts, repeatedly, and take new actions, repeatedly, those thoughts and actions gradually build new neural pathways in your brain that over time become your default. And so, with persistence, you can gradually build up your “courage muscles” and with it, your self-confidence to do things you would previously have cowered from, your ability to lead, to influence, and to produce amazing results in your life. Over time the action that you would once have cowered from no longer terrifies you and the path of courage becomes easier to take — even if not “easy”. That said, I am not going to jump off the trapeze again. Never ever ever!

With the exception of trapeze school, the best things I’ve ever done in my life have also been the scariest. Time and time again I’ve learned that often the thing we must do more than anything else is that thing that scares us more than anything else. (Oh, one other exception: marrying my husband Andrew — it was one of the best things I’ve done but not scary at all!)

Of course the fears you face are yours alone, as is what inspires you and how you define success. This isn’t about comparisons. It’s simply about being willing to challenge the stories, excuses and beliefs that may be getting in the way of your ‘success’ in whatever area of your life you feel it’s lacking. And it’s about having the courage to step right through the middle of your fears and into whatever actions are calling you forward.

Only by daring to dive deeply into life can we soar to the heights of success we aspire to. As Helen Keller said, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing.” Where could you embrace a spirit of adventure that calls you to step out of your comfort zone and step into your life more fully?

Fortune favors the bold! Where is your life waiting on you to bolden up?

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