Think of something you really want. Now, consider what's holding you back. Maybe you want to buy the gorgeous Victorian house that just went on the market (but you're afraid you'll lose your job and be unable to pay the mortgage). Or you want to end your unhappy marriage of fifteen years (but you're afraid of being lonely). Or your youngest is off to college and you'd like to enter the job market (but you're afraid no one will hire a "housewife" who's rapidly approaching fifty). Sure, you know other people who've bought their dream house or left unfulfilling marriages or changed careers, but their situation was different. Right?
Absolutely wrong! Though the details of people's lives vary, we are all the same under the skin. Anyone who has ever made a change or taken a chance has felt fear. It's an innate part of being human. Think of someone who has achieved a goal that you want to achieve. The only fundamental difference between you and that person is that he or she refused to let fear hold him or her back. That person understood that the fear itself is irrelevant. Once you realize this truth, your life will change forever.
But practically speaking, how do you push through the fears that have held you back? In an anxious age marked by war, economic uncertainty, and the threat of terrorism, the skills to push through your fears are perhaps more necessary than ever. Here are some of my guidelines:
- Accept that fear will never go away. Anytime you step out into the unknown, you are going to feel fear. Maybe it's not what you'd like to hear, but it's true. If you wait for the fear to go away before you try something new, you will never do it. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it. Accomplishment brings self-esteem, not the other way around. The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and do it. The "doing it" comes before the feeling better. And here's the best news of all: pushing through the fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.
- Learn to hold fear from a position of power, not a position of pain. Fear isn't the problem. Everyone feels fear. The real issue has nothing to do with fear itself, but rather, how we hold the fear. For some, the fear is totally irrelevant. For others, it creates a state of paralysis. The former hold their fear from a position of power (choice, energy, and action), and the latter hold it from a position of pain (helplessness, depression, and paralysis). You can move yourself away from the pain position and to the power position. Two suggestions:
Replace "pain" words with "power" words. Don't say I can't. Say I won't . . . Don't say I should. Say I could . . . Don't say I hope. Say I know. (Doesn't "I know I'll get a job" sound much better than "I hope I'll get a job"?) Your sense of self will change with a more powerful vocabulary, and so will your presence in the world.
Every day, take a risk that expands your comfort zone. Call someone you are intimidated to call, buy a pair of shoes that costs more than you would ever have bought in the past, ask for a $7,000 raise instead of a $5,000 one. Even if it doesn't work out the way you want it to, at least you've tried. You didn't sit back . . . powerless.
- Remember the three miracle words: I'll handle it. At the bottom of every one of your fears is that you won't be able to handle what life brings you. But if you knew that you could handle anything that came your way, you'd have nothing to fear. Tell yourself I'll handle it a hundred times a day. Write it on a note and tape it to your mirror. Imprint it on your subconscious. It will free you from the need to constantly agonize over the "what ifs" and the need to control the behavior of everyone around you.
- Bring back Pollyanna. We've all heard the putdown "Don't be such a Pollyanna!" My question is, why not? The fabled Pollyanna never denied her pain. She simply tried to find "something to be glad about" in anything negative that came into her life. She was the quintessential positive thinker. It's fashionable to malign "Pollyannas" as unrealistic and naïve. But is negativity realistic? No! Keep in mind that over 90 percent of what we worry about never happens. That means our negative worries have only a small chance of being correct. Mathematically, isn't it more realistic to be positive?
- Use affirmations to become more positive. Affirmations-I notice all the beauty in my life or I am spreading love into this world or I am finding the perfect job for me-are very powerful tools. Repeat them daily. They create the energy that makes it all happen perfectly. Here's the truly amazing part: you don't have to believe them for them to work. The subconscious mind takes us in the right direction even though the "chatterbox" (that little voice that heralds doom, gloom, lack, and losing) is still working. Other suggestions: surround yourself with inspirational books and tapes. Put positive quotes around your room: "Ships in harbor are safe, but that's not what ships are built for" (John Shedd) or "The best way out is always through" (Helen Keller).
- All decisions are no-lose decisions. Let go of outcomes. When you a make a decision, throw away the picture of what you think the outcome should be. Do your best and let it go. What happens will happen, and no matter what the outcome, the experience will help you grow. If you choose Path A, you will learn one set of lessons. If you choose Path B, you will learn a different set of lessons. If you take Path A, you get to taste the strawberries. If you take Path B, you get to taste the blueberries. If you hate both strawberries and blueberries, you can find another path.
- Embrace the concept of the "Grid of Life." Make your life so rich that the absence of one part of it doesn't wipe you out. If you focus your emotional life on just one thing-for example, your relationship-you are taking a big risk. Relationships break up and you will find yourself with an empty life. Instead, fill your life with many wonderful aspects of living that include contribution to the world around you, hobbies, leisure, family, personal growth, work, friends, and yes, your relationship. Remember to give 100 percent to all areas of your life, knowing that you count. In this way, even if your relationship disappears, your days will still be filled with a multitude of experiences that bring you joy and satisfaction. You will no longer have to fear losing that "one thing." Your neediness will disappear.
- Every day, focus on your "Higher Self." To move yourself from pain to power relative to fear, it is necessary to move yourself from the Lower Self (the weakest part of who you are) to the Higher Self (the strongest part of who you are). There are many tools to help you do this-for example, affirmations, inspirational tapes, meditation, and so many other tools that are available. It is from this higher place, above the petty, that you create value wherever you go and in whatever you do. When living in the arena of the Higher Self, all aspects of your life are nourished. The positive, loving energy that flows from a heightened spirituality will spill over into every area of your life. It will dissolve what Roberto Assagioli has so aptly called "Divine Homesickness," that feeling of emptiness or intense loneliness that so many people live with every day. And you will feel a sense of peace.
The whole point of seeking to connect with your Higher Self is, in the words of George Bernard Shaw, to move toward "being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making me happy." Your goal is to move into true adult status, where we have so much to give this world.
Commit yourself to pushing through the fear and becoming more than you are at the present moment. The you that could be is absolutely colossal. You don't need to change what you are doing-simply commit to learning how to bring to whatever you do in life the loving and powerful energy of your Higher Self.
As you live this way, moment by moment, day by day, in perfect time, you will find yourself moving closer and closer to Home. The paradox is that when you stay close to Home, you can go anywhere and do anything without fear. The Divine Homesickness disappears as you find the place where we are all connected as loving human beings. Whatever it takes you to get there, feel the fear and do it anyway.
About Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.:
Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., is a best-selling author and celebrated speaker. Sales of her works are well into the millions, reaching more than one hundred countries and translated into thirty-six languages. Susan's seventeen books include Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, End the Struggle and Dance with Life, Embracing Uncertainty, Opening Our Hearts to Men, Life Is Huge!, The Little Book of Confidence, and The Little Book of Peace of Mind, as well as a Fear-less series of affirmation books and tapes. In the fall of 2004, The Times of the U.K. named Susan "the Queen of Self-Help"-ranking her alongside such influential leaders as Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.
About the CD:
The Art of Fearbusting: How to Be Powerful in the Face of Our Fears (Jeffers Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-9745776-2-6, $14.00) is available now at www.susanjeffers.com and www.jefferspress.com. It will be available at bookstores nationwide and online booksellers in May 2005. This inspirational and humorous talk marked the beginning of Susan's rise to world-wide fame. The time was 1987, just after the publication of her hugely successful book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.
For more information, please visit www.susanjeffers.com and www.jefferspress.com