Has this ever happened to you? You have a goal—an amazing goal—but fear of taking that leap catches you in the chest and you just can’t? If that sounds familiar, great! Not only are you in good company, but you’re likely on the right track.
How to take action even when you’re scared
We hear so much about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Here are some tips to make that happen:
Don’t fight your fear it, define it
For example, if you ask ten people who are afraid of public speaking what it is that they are afraid of, you are likely to get different answers. One might be afraid of the audience laughing at her. Another might be afraid he will forget what to say. Still another might feel as if she’s not qualified. Yet all of these people can say that they are afraid of public speaking.
A speaking coach would approach these situations in very different ways. Fear is a valid and healthy emotion. Telling yourself not to be scared won’t work. Get specific about your fear to manage it efficiently.
Decide if it’s worth it
Likely the answer is yes, but get clear on your Why. Your big reason why. The most effective way to find your why is to play the click-down exercise. Ask yourself, “Why do I want _____?” Then take that answer and ask yourself why you want that.
It usually takes about five rounds through the question, but keep going until you feel something big. Until you feel chills, tears, or breathless from the insight. That’s when you know you’ve found your Why.
Then, when it’s time to take action, keep your focus on your Why. While you’re getting ready to take action that scares you, keeping a picture of your Why will help center you and will channel your power just where it needs to be.
One step at a time
Many fears come from being overwhelmed. If someone asked you to drive from New York to L.A., it might seem like a big task! Very few would simply start driving West. More likely, you’d head over to your favorite map app and get the route. From there, you’d likely plan your stops. Then you’d pack your bags, fill the tank with gas, and get going.
The same is true for any action task. Breaking it down into steps will alleviate much of the feeling of being overwhelmed. Mind-Mapping apps are tremendously helpful for this, but old fashioned pen-and-paper also work well. The key is to get the plan out of your thoughts and in front of you.
Adrenaline is an acquired taste
If your huge goal scares you so much that you couldn’t even imagine doing it, try facing fears in other parts of your life. As you become familiar with the discomfort of facing fear, it will be easier to move through it and take action.
Become aware of your personal story. Are you known for being steady and predictable? How is that keeping you locked in your current fears? Redefine yourself as an action-taker. This simple shift in self-perception is powerful and will shorten the emotional distance between desire and action.
Develop awareness of your blocks
We all have our go-to defense mechanisms to shield us from fearful situations. Becoming aware of yours will help you re-write your personal story.
Common ones are: I’m too busy, I’m not qualified, I don’t really need it, I’m too old, or I need more information. Evaluate these messages you’re sending to yourself and discard the ones that aren’t serving you.
Check in with your body
This is especially true if you are face to face in a scary situation where you must take action. Deep breathing here can help. Not only will it calm you but it will invigorate your body in case the action you need to take has a physical component.
Also, become aware of any parts of your body that hold stress and anxiety. Very often people hold this sort of stress in their shoulders, chest, even the hips and back! Try to acknowledge the tension and let it go. If that’s not possible, then you might ask for help from a certified massage therapist or try some targeted yoga moves.
Journal your way to your goals
Before you skim this part….have you ever wondered why journaling is so effective?
Journaling slows down your thoughts. This is effective for reducing fear because it enables you to see the steps in between you and your goal rather than it being perceived as a huge leap.
Writing your goals activates a part of the brain called the reticular activating system which will then help you discover opportunities in the blur of your day, and bring them to the forefront of your attention so that you can act on them.
Recognize action when you do it. No step is too small to celebrate.
Visualize your plan. From beginning to end, step by step, to the successful conclusion. This visualization takes practice, but it is a useful tool that is often used by top athletes. Don’t forget to include all of your senses.
What does it smell like? Do you feel hot or cold? If you start to feel tense, take a calming breath to refresh yourself before starting again. You can use this approach several times a day, any time you have some free mental time.
Remember, you are stronger than you think, and way braver too.