Learn How to Challenge Your Fears So You Can Fully Live

Challenge your fears so you can live to your potential

Are you worrying about a bunch of different fears right now?

Are you always figuring out which worry to manage next?

Do you tend to start your questions with the two words “What if…?”

If this sounds like you, stick around for a bit because I have some encouraging words for you.

I know how many people are consumed and overwhelmed by the number and weight of the fears in their minds.  Not too long ago, I was one of those people myself.

I used to:

  • not know that I was anxious at all because I was always anxious
  • go to bed every night stressing out
  • wake every morning stressing out
  • fear other people’s disapproval
  • fear causing others trouble
  • fear not performing adequately
  • not make decisions by myself for fear of picking the wrong option
  • not socialize a lot because I was too swamped with work and exhausted from worry

Being shrouded in fear had some good aspects, including…

Nope.  I change my mind.

Being shrouded in fear really was not good for me at all.

Starting as a patient in psychotherapy at the start of my graduate school training was the turning point in my relationship with my fears.  With the support of my therapist, I:

  • learned how to identify individual feelings (instead of experiencing them as one globby mess or denying them entirely)
  • learned how to speak about my ideas and needs directly
  • became more confident academically and socially
  • developed stronger and healthier relationships
  • became comfortable living in the present moment
  • became comfortable with myself

When I accepted who I was, I became less inclined to gravitate towards my anxiety and fear for comfort.  I began to tackle my procrastination full on and to engage more fully in the matters of my own life.

That’s most of my story.  Let’s see what you can do to change your own relationship to fear.

6 Reasons Why Fear Should Not Be the Dominant Force in Your Life

  1. If you let yourself be guided by your fears, you will always be headed towards your least-preferred outcome.  You think you are prepping yourself to avoid being disappointed, but in the meantime, you are actively excluding the possibility you might be overjoyed by success.  
  2. We miss out on the benefits of our relationships.  When we predict that people in our current lives are going to hurt us like we were hurt in the past by other people, we end up interacting with those new people only part way.  New people in your life want to interact with the fully present you, not the former version of you.  Open yourself up to create new, mutually beneficial relationships.  Try trust instead of fear.
  3. When we lead with our fears, we forget we are capable of handling whatever happens.  All the progress we’ve made in learning how to cope, using our resources and intuition, and relying on our support network goes out the window when we lead with our fears.
  4. We miss out on the richness of new experiences.  New interactions are dulled or not even seen when we are busy focusing on our anxieties.  The next time you have a new experience, make sure you engage with a clear mind and heart, so you can get the most out of the experience, without the distortion fear brings.
  5. We don’t want to become accustomed to living in fear.  Fear always wants to take more of your well-being if you let it.  Most of us will always have a little bit of fear, but we can make sure we live in conjunction with our fears instead of behind or under them.  Use your power to direct your actions, to follow through, to communicate clearly, and to get things done.
  6. We cause trouble for ourselves.  Fear is confusing to us.  We distort situations, project our fears onto other people, and end up in conflicts that would be unnecessary if there were clear communication and a trusting atmosphere.  Let’s avoid relying on our fears for guidance, and trust ourselves and those around us instead.

How to Lead with Hope Instead of Fear

Life is a constant interplay of up and down.  We try to prevent ourselves from being hurt by the down moments by anticipating them.  We end up hurting ourselves by putting our fears front and center all of the time.  Fear ends up blocking our clear view.

[Tweet “We sacrifice so much when we assume our fears are well-founded.”]

In order to change this fear-based approach, we need to rely on a little faith and hope we will be able to handle whatever comes our way.  Let experience guide you rather than the constant stream of fears that runs through your mind.

If that sounds scary to you, realize you will be more prepared to face the future when you have all of your faculties in place, in the present moment, unencumbered by fear and distraction.  Showing up, without fear, will enable you to reap the benefits of your own natural resilience.  You can do this.  You can do this without getting exhausted, stressed, or disconnected from yourself.

Avoid living with the feeling of being in fear and enable yourself to be the unique, creative, grounded, and attractive person you are.  Fully yourself and open to the fullness of life.

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How to Cope with Your Fear of Change

Avoid getting caught in a cycle of fear and take effective action instead.Fear has a way of taking our spirits down.

When we fear our own actions, we cannot generate enough energy to think, to guess, or to push our thoughts forward.

When we fear others’ judgments, we cannot turn papers in, we cannot decide what might be best to say, we start thinking towards the average thought rather than towards the extraordinary.

When we fear change, we become even more anxious since we know our current situation of being locked in fear is not good for us.  We start feeling pressure in our chest, hopelessness in our hearts and minds.

What you need to know about FEAR:

Fear is a transient emotion.

Fear is not an accurate reflection of your reality if you are procrastinating.  If you are procrastinating, you are cut off from the present moment and the way things are flowing around you.

Fear tends to take up a lot of your psychological real estate.  This is something I learned from a supervisor way back when.  When we let fear go unchallenged, fear grows.  Fear starts to invade healthy areas of our functioning and brain space.  When this goes on for a long time, we become overly aware of our fear and we end up feeling like we don’t have much room or ability to get things done. 

Fear breaks our bonds with other people.  When we fear things, we inevitably become removed from important people in our lives.  We stop trusting that we’re okay or sufficient or fun enough.  Then we start to worry that others will reject or punish us for being somewhat less than what we are capable of being.

Fear makes us feel unsure of ourselves.  Instead of just taking care of things right away, we listen to our fears and then we decided all sorts of safety plans must be put into place.  We must look perfect, get the right gift, say the right thing, arrive looking calm and happy, exude the right vibe.  #welcometostresscity

Fear makes us feel unsafe around other people.

Fear makes us super fussy about unimportant and unnecessary things.

Fear makes us forget that we are all the same.

The answer to living entangled in fear is to get support and allow yourself to function as you were meant to — in flow, without excessive fear.

You may believe you no longer know how to live without the framework of fear.  I would say, your fear has taught you that.  You are the only person who can release yourself from the fear-based state you are in.  People may encourage you or inspire you, but only you can make that decision to make your next moment a turning point.  Once you have made that turn, you will feel more yourself.  You will feel your authority has returned.  You will see how open the road is ahead of you.

If you are alone and afraid of changing now, write down some goals you have been thinking about and some people you can connect with.  Then take an action in the direction away from your fear so you can feel yourself again.

You may continue to resist change because you have been in the habit of doing so for quite some time.  Talk yourself through the resistance.  It will be worth the effort.  Resistance just keeps you looping back to the same dead-end place anyway.  Try something new.  Do anything that breaks the chain that burdens you.  You will be just fine without your fear, I promise. 

If you are looking for a tool to help you make this type of change away from fear, I recommend you download The Jumpstart worksheet.  The Jumpstart will help you gain some traction against your Procrastination.

Click here to receive your free JUMPSTART PDF planner sheet to help you get on your way today!

Strategies for Coping with Fear are Everywhere

You’ve got a friend

I was stuck in a rut, not able to get much of anything done, for a month and a half at least, and I finally reached out and asked a friend for help. 

After a wonderful breakfast and a long chat and planning session with her, I felt free and light.

And then, I had the most productive day I’ve had all year.

All the things that came out of the conversation ended up on a list, and I attacked that list.

It was as if all of my locked up, can’t-do-anything feelings had vanished, and my pent up energy and frustrated productivity impulses took over.  It was like I was in turbo drive.

Sometimes it’s important to remember:

  1. friends are always good in a time of need
  2. we will have times of need
  3. it is not important to be constantly productive
  4. it is important to be patient with yourself when you cannot be productive
  5. we are always changing, even when we feel like we are not exactly blooming beautifully

The kicker is that my friend ended up having a really productive day too.  When we step outside of ourselves, we end up really seeing ourselves.

Connect to a Facebook Group

A fear-fighting resource we have are the many Facebook Group communities available. 

You can join a few, hang out in them for a while, and see which ones are most compelling or useful for you.

See if there are people in the group that you share interests or concerns with and see if you can connect with them. 

I invite you to join the Procrastination Coach Facebook Group.  It’s a kind, engaged group of people.  I’m in there frequently, posting and sharing new material and providing feedback and support to members. 

Consult with a professional

Sometimes we can be trapped in misery for way too long. 

I had the opportunity to enter therapy during college, but I did not end up starting it.  I could have used the support back then, but I didn’t know how I would be helped or changed by the experience. 

All things happen for a reason.  Just a few years later, I entered therapy as part of my first year of my psychology doctoral training.

That therapy experience was life-changing for me.

What might therapy feel like for you?

Whether it be a dean, advisor, mentor, coach, or therapist, talking with a trained professional will likely help you:

  • feel understood
  • feel supported
  • feel less at loose ends
  • feel more clear in your thinking
  • feel more clear in your heart
  • feel more confident in your actions
  • take action on the steps you have been needing and wanting to take for yourself
  • process thoughts and feelings that have been difficult for you to process on your own
  • open up to other people, not just your therapist

Write it all down

I’m a huge fan of writing things down. 

Writing things down helps me to:

  • sort out my thoughts
  • create more thoughts from those initial thoughts
  • see which thoughts I should pay the closest attention to
  • take action
  • avoid forgetting small and large details
  • plan out my schedule and upcoming events or projects
  • avoid using my brain as storage space for my To Do list

Writing things down makes things more real.  We are less likely to neglect things if we write them down.  We are less likely to assume they will go away magically if we write them down. 

Use this technique and get back to your handwriting roots — they are your earliest ones, after all.  Those roots reach way back to when you didn’t feel stressed out about getting things done.

Create something

  • doodle
  • dance
  • compose
  • create a mind map your priorities (try MindNode to do this)
  • start a walk with two friends
  • brainstorm with people related and not related to your work
  • view your situation in a brand new way — expand your view

Get the training and information you need

We can hold back from moving forward because we:

  • don’t want to spend the money
  • don’t have the time
  • feel we can’t fit anything else in our calendar
  • feel we the training experience might not be what we are hoping for

But getting information can spark our:

  • creativity
  • drive
  • direction
  • purpose
  • strategy
  • community

And who wouldn’t want that?

Fear tends to keep us from reaching towards our potential.  That is exactly why we should be mindful of when we start to hold ourselves back.  Use the resources available to you.  Find some new ones if you feel like you could use some more.  Avoid getting bogged down in feeling guilt, shame, and other energy-blocking emotions.  Remind yourself how creative, powerful, and free your mind and spirit truly are. 

Embrace the changes you are facing.  They will be more interesting and informative than your fear.

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Name Your Fears

Virginia WoolfIn my work as a psychologist, I listen to patients and the fears they harbor.  Since I tend to work with Procrastinators, the fears I hear about most frequently go like this:

  • fear of making mistakes: we worry about doing something the wrong way
  • fear of being awkward: we worry someone else will see that we are not exactly “normal”
  • fear of disappointment: we worry if we move forward with our plans, they will not pan out as we’d like
  • fear of letting someone down: we worry even our best performance will be unsatisfactory to those we are trying to please or to impress
  • fear of rejection: we worry we will not be accepted for who we are
  • fear of being called out: we worry our worst flaws will finally be seen by someone

The list above shows how vulnerable we each can feel, even over mundane matters.  It also shows how important being accepted and being treated kindly matter to us.

The great, unfortunate, irony for Procrastinators is we end up treating ourselves more harshly and viciously than anyone else would.  We do this in the name of self-protection. We try to protect ourselves from re-experiencing hurts we went through or witnessed when we were younger.  We do this by being vigilant and perfectionistic.  We do this by warning ourselves to be careful where we step.  When we use a self-protection mindset as a method of coping with life, our lives tend to get clouded with a general feeling of worry.  When we do this over many years, we end up forgetting our original fears and wind up developing a generalized fear of taking any action.

The benefit of naming your fears, to yourself or to someone else, is a return to the present moment and to life outside the cloud of worry.  When I help patients to name their fears, I also help them to understand their immense capacity to take care of themselves and to handle whatever may happen once they take action.  Most patients tend to find these ideas much more comforting and realistic than the fears they had been carrying around.

Perhaps the real benefit of facing your long-held fears is to replace that feeling of worry that resides in your chest with a feeling of calm self-acceptance.  When we develop and nurture that feeling, it becomes much easier to sidestep worry.  It becomes much easier to be ourselves, no matter what action is required of us.  And that feeling of calm self-acceptance is possible for each of us.

Do you see a bit of yourself in the list of fears?  Can you challenge yourself today to test and break down your specific fear?  Please feel free to share your thoughts on this humongous topic by posting a comment here.

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Consider Yourself In

USE UP (6)

This morning I felt inspired to write about considering yourself in.  Part of the inspiration came from the Lao Tzu quote above.  When you take the meaning of the quote in, it’s breath-taking.

We are master creators of myths, dramas, illusions, pictures, nightmares, catastrophes, and magical events.  In our minds.  If only those creative skills would magically turn into income, or a hobby, or a passion, or a masterpiece.  In real life.  If only.

If only we could take our Procrastination-riddled minds and imagine for a few moments that the mere fact that we are Procrastinating means we are already in.  We are experiencing the adrenaline stirring and resisting the creative impulse, but the fact of the matter is we are already in.

Procrastinators are prone to making a few mistakes with regard to their fear of getting things started or getting things done:

  • they believe they are not a part of things
  • they believe they are not ready for things
  • they believe they will feel run over when things begin
  • they believe they will be incompetent when things really get going
  • they believe they will not be able to adjust to the change they initiate

Of course, these fears are only illusions.  You are an adaptable being.  You are a creative being.  You are in a community of people.  And you are already in.  I feel the need to add here that in my 20 years of coaching Procrastinators, not once was the issue the client’s lack of ability or competence.  Not once.  (#repeatmyselfThursday)  That fact really drives my work to help Procrastinators move forward with their lives.  I know deep in my heart the only problem we’re facing is the illusion.  That’s a great feeling.

Today, consider yourself in.  Make yourself aware of the illusion you’ve been tweaking, put it aside for awhile, and consider what is before you — your opportunity to breathe, to act, to create, to move ahead in the real-life drama of today.

What illusion are you currently masterminding?  Please share.  Also, remember to join me on Twitter @ChristineLiPhD for more insights on the battle against Procrastination.

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