How to overcome fear and live with passion
Human behaviour appears to be involved and multilayered, but in reality, it comes down to two simple elements. All human motivation is essentially a binary process, meaning that we are moved to either do something or avoid doing something by a single switch in our head being in one position or the other.
All decisions, actions, and deeds are made as a result of us either avoiding fear or pursuing pleasure, and that is pretty much it. The reason for everything we do comes down to this simple premise.
We can spend hours debating the issue (as I have done many times before) but trust me on this one, even the generous actions of a parent for their child are still motivated by the emotions of fear and pleasure.
Building unshakable self-confidence
In the case of self-esteem and confidence, the fear that prevents us from performing as we could is 99.9% misplaced. Of course, sometimes the anxiety we feel most definitely has a place and I am not suggesting you ignore that little voice in your head that suggests you can’t safely jump from one tall building to another.
The fear you feel just before you do your first parachute jump is a process of the human mind operating precisely as it should. Making you feel afraid in these moments is a form of self-preservation. It is the brain’s way of saying, ‘hey if you continue doing what you are doing, there is an excellent chance you will die, and you will most likely take me along with you!’
But the fear that suggests that you are not attractive enough to talk to the hot guy or girl is a misfire of this process. This is when you need to start understanding how to overcome fear and embrace it.
Fear is an illusion
The gut-twisting anxiety you experience as you step up to make a presentation to the whole office is this life-saving feature of the human mind misunderstanding the situation and trying to force you to exit an environment it has incorrectly judged to be dangerous.
Confidence, or rather the lack of it, is a simple throwback to our earlier times as hunter-gatherers. Putting it another way, we are witnessing and experiencing the time lag of evolution trying to catch up with and adapt to what modern life involves.
The life of a human being in the western world today has changed so dramatically over the last few hundred years that it is almost incomparable to what our forefathers had to endure. Today we get upset and feel like we have had a bad day if we can’t find a parking space in the lot or spill our latte on our favourite t-shirt.
Nothing to worry about
Compared to the life-threatening events that happened on a daily basis to the generations that went before us, our problems are embarrassingly trivial. As relatively recently as the 1800s, the average life expectancy of a human male living in the United Kingdom was 39 years.
With disease, unsafe working conditions and vigilantly justice commonplace, someone at my tender age of 44 would be considered an old man. Perhaps my children have been correct all along when they insist I am incapable of appreciating their musical taste because I am so frail.
Bearing in mind that evolution is a painfully slow process that takes hundreds of thousands of years to make even the smallest adaptations to the design of our species, you can see why it is struggling to keep up with our rapidly changing modern lifestyles. While Apple may bring out a new model of its products every year, Mother Nature does not!
Back when we were at constant risk of being attacked by not only wild animals but also our fellow uncivilized man, the human mind developed systems to try and keep us alive despite the inherent danger around us. Perhaps the most famous of these is what we call the ‘flight or fight’ response.
Fight or flight?
When our fight or flight response is activated, sequences of nerve cells fire and potent chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol are released into our bloodstream. If you want to see how dramatic these chemicals are, get food poisoning and watch what happens.
I can tell you from recent experience that your body uses these neurochemicals to make you dance like you are nothing more than a puppet on a string. When the body detects you have ingested something dangerous, like rotten food or too much alcohol, it needs to force you to evacuate the offending material, and it doesn’t want to waste time debating this with you.
Vast amounts of chemicals are released by the central nervous system that makes you feel incredibly ill, almost to the point where you feel like you are going to die.
The next thing you know you are holding onto the toilet bowl as your life depended on it, screaming projectile vomit into the water. As a reward for doing as you were told, the body now releases mind-bending amounts of dopamine, which has the effect of making you feel instantly better—almost high.
I don’t advise you to experience food poisoning to verify this for yourself, just trust me.
You should trust me on this
My apologies, a rather unpleasant tangent sidetracked me there for a moment, though it was a good example. Now, getting back to how the mind instigates the flight or fight response and how to overcome fear. These patterns of neuro reactions and chemical releases force our body to undergo a series of very dramatic changes.
Our respiratory rate increases. Blood is shunted away from our digestive tract and directed into our muscles and limbs, which require extra energy and fuel for running, fighting or maybe even both.
- Our pupils dilate
- Our awareness intensifies
- Our sight sharpens
- Our impulses quicken
- Our perception of pain diminishes.
- Our immune system mobilizes.
- We become prepared physically and psychologically for fight or flight.
- We scan and search our environment, looking for the enemy or threat.
When our fight or flight system is activated, we tend to perceive everything in our environment as a possible threat to our survival. By its very nature, the fight or flight system bypasses our rational mind—where our better thought out beliefs exist, and instead, it moves us into “attack” mode.
This state of alertness causes us to perceive almost everything in our world as a possible threat to our survival. As such, we tend to see everyone and everything as a potential enemy. Like airport security during a terrorist threat, we are on the lookout for every possible danger.
False evidence appearing real
We may overreact to the slightest comment. Our fear is exaggerated. Our thinking is distorted. We see everything through the filter of possible danger. We narrow our focus to those things that can harm us. Fear becomes the lens through which we see the world.
Our fight or flight response is designed to protect us from the proverbial sabre tooth tigers that once lurked in the woods and fields around us, threatening our physical survival.
On those occasions when our actual physical survival is threatened, there is no more significant response to have on our side. When activated, the fight or flight response causes a surge of adrenaline and other stress hormones to pump through our body.
How to overcome fear the easy way
This surge is the inexplicable force responsible for mothers lifting cars off their trapped children, and for firefighters heroically running into blazing buildings to save endangered victims. The rush of adrenaline infuses us with heroism and courage at times when we are called upon to protect and defend the lives and values we cherish.
While this protective routine still has a valid place in our lives, it does not need to be activated nearly as frequently as it is, and certainly not in situations that lack true danger, such as making a PowerPoint presentation at work!
But I think that ‘flight or fight’ is an incorrect moniker for this automatic response to stress. There is a missing F in that much-quoted saying.
When it comes to learning how to overcome fear, the more common reaction in situations deemed to be high risk is not to fight or flee, but rather to freeze.
Fight, Flight or FREEZE
I am sure at times you have felt that ‘deer in the headlights’ sensation, where you know what is expected of you but somehow just can’t bring yourself to move.
There are no mistakes in nature and obviously removing your conscious ability to run, is a feature designed by evolution.
If a giant brown bear enters your immediate environment and your subconscious programming decides that the best chance you have to remain alive is to play dead, then the last thing it wants is your pesky (and weak) conscious mind to have a say on the decision. So it locks you down, and despite how much you want to move, you find that it is virtually impossible.
When you freeze before making a speech or feel like your tongue has been paralyzed the very moment the beautiful woman starts to talk to you, this is merely the mind misreading the situation as dangerous and firing off one of your self-preservation routines.
Of course, the big question is, how do you stop doing this?
How to overcome fear
Success, as with everything else in life, is not about the final destination. It is all about the journey.
What I have discovered in life is that pretty much anything worth having is just slightly outside your comfort zone. Whether it’s launching your own business, winning the league in your chosen sport, getting the career you have dreamed of or ending up with the man or woman who makes you feel like you just won the lottery every moment you are with them.
None of these things are inside your comfort zone, they all require you to stretch and grow before you can reach them. As most people know, the walls of your comfort zone are made of a solid material called fear. To smash through these barriers, you have to stare fear straight in the eyes and charge ahead regardless.
Unleash your full potential
At my UNLEASHED: LIVE events I tell people that they need to make friends with fear. I show them how to overcome fear, and see it not as a warning or an obstacle, but instead as an indicator of an opening window of opportunity.
I have learned that when I am afraid to do something, the universe is telling me clearly and precisely what I have to do next. Fear is a powerful sign to me that an opportunity to learn, develop and grow has arrived.
Ready to live fearlessly?
Fear is behind every negative behaviour and act. Fear is also the primary element that keeps us trapped in a mediocre life. Putting up with average relationships, average income and experiences are all the result of failing to act when fear gets in the way.
If you are ready to learn how to overcome fear for good why not join me for a life-transforming day at Unleashed: Live. Click here to reserve your place on my next free ‘full potential’ webinar.