I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Nelson Mandela.

At some stage in our lives, we have all been fearful. Perhaps we have struggled with a task like public speaking, maybe we have been worried about whether we will succeed at college or work, or we may have been fearful about being a good enough partner.

Whatever it is, don’t be fearful of fear! Because the first thing to know about fear and it’s good friends, worry and concern, is that they are a part of every human, for the moment at least. We all have a system within our brains which is designed to notice things to be fearful of, and then enable us to respond. This system is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism within us, and it serves a useful purpose – preventing us from being hit by a car, or eaten by the proverbial sabre-toothed tiger. A great system to have, that is until we allow this mechanism to inhibit our enjoyment of life and stop us pursuing our dreams.

Fortunately, there are many things we can do to put this system on standby, as it were. Here are eight approaches you can use to move through your fears and out to the other side, where greater enjoyment and fulfilment lies.

1. Focus on love, not fear

If you want THE ONE AND ONLY FAILSAFE solution to fear, it is to love. Love is safe. Love is caring. Love is kind. Love is the only thing that will ever do anything good in this world. Love is the ONLY THING THAT CAN EVER SAVE YOU OR INDEED THE WORLD. Deep down, we all know this. There is much darkness in this world and unfortunately, the humans within it. But thankfully, there is also even more love and light. If you focus on love for long enough, you cannot be fearful. Fortunately, because love is so powerful, others will also notice and support you. So think of the people you love and why. Think of how much you love yourself and why. And if you are so inclined, please think about the SOURCE of love. I promise you, do these three things and you will not feel any fear any more.

2. Recognise that most fears aren’t real

Realise about our fears is that while our biological system may generate them, the vast majority aren’t real or something we really need to be concerned about. American author Jack Canfield describes fear as ‘Fantasized Experiences Appearing Real’. Basically we tend to ‘awfulize’ many situations. What we need to do is stop and try to gain some perspective. Take the opportunity to really look at a situation and work out whether the fear is actually real, or more likely, imagined.

3. Focus on the positive

Central to overcoming any fear is to focus on the result you want. So if your goal it to become a great public speaker but you are currently fearful, imagine what giving a wonderful speech will do for your confidence (and your career). It’s also a good idea to imagine how great you will feel after you have succeeded. Visualisation of the end result makes the reason for overcoming your fear real and vivid.

4. Be grateful for the opportunity

Similar to focusing on the positive, when we are grateful for the opportunity that overcoming our fears present us, it shifts the focus away from fear towards the opportunity. So be grateful for the chance to help others when you give your presentation, rather than fearful that you won’t do a good job.

5. Uncover your story about the situation, and then challenge it

Often your fear is tied to a larger story that you tell yourself or others are telling you. So when you’re fearful, ask yourself, ‘what’s the larger story here?’ If, for example, you are nervous about going to an event where you will not know many people, ask ‘what is it about myself, my relationship to others, or what others are telling me, that makes me feel so fearful?’ Once you uncover the story, then you will feel much greater peace and stability. Chances are, you will be able to find plenty of evidence why you can do something and why you do not need to feel fearful about anything. Think of positive past experiences, events where you were nervous to begin with but went anyway and had a great time.  Focus on the nice things people have said about you in the past – anything to build your confidence and reduce the impact of the fear. Think about how much people love you and, if you are this way inclined, how much God loves you. If you do all of this you simply cannot go wrong.

6. Stop being a perfectionist

When we expect to do things perfectly every time, we increase our anxiety and fears. While it’s good to have high standards, once you have committed to undertaking an action, then simply do your best and let go of the outcome. This will reduce your stress levels and increase the chances that you will perform well.

7. Talk to others who have overcome a similar fear

Other people can be supportive and helpful, so if you need a bit of support, talk to someone who has faced a similar challenge to you and see how they overcame it. Often the simple act of discussing a fear with someone can help to reduce its intensity and give us some useful advice in the process.

8. Meditate

Meditation has been proven by science to have many wonderful benefits for us, one of which is to reduce the amount of gray matter in our amygdala, which is a key part of the system responsible for generating fear. The end result is that we become calmer and less fearful. Research has found that 30 minutes of meditation for eight weeks is enough to achieve this and other wonderful changes to our brain, such as increased happiness, more compassion and less anxiety/depression. Follow this link to get some free meditation recordings.

9. To succeed you must try

Finally, remember that to succeed at anything, you must try!  As Einstein said, “You never fail until you stop trying.” Most people who have succeeded at something in life have risked failure, taken a chance, worked through it, and then found the gold on the other side. The alternative is that you miss an opportunity to really thrive in life. Don’t let fear win!

I hope this helps you to move forward in life and overcome your fears!

All the best,