If there is one thing that has held me back from reaching my dreams more than any other, it’s fear. Fear of failure. Fear of what others might think. Fear of not being good enough. Or even fear of the unknown (which is maybe one of the biggest for me).
Time and time again, I have found myself paralyzed and bewildered, feeling dazed and confused, wondering what my next step is. It’s an awful place to be.
The good news is there are ways to get past this terrible place. First and foremost, you have to be able to realize when fear has a grip on you. It is usually more subtle than a fight or flight feeling. Instead, it's one that you often suddenly find yourself sitting in. To use myself as an example, I know that if I end up doing mindless editing, usually it's because I don't know what my next step should be. My “tell” is that I am doing something to make me feel productive, but in reality, I'm not accomplishing anything.
IDENTIFY YOUR TELLS
Ask yourself why you're doing (or not doing) the things that fill up your day. If your actions aren't progressing you toward your goals, then chances are you've got something in the way.
I think that we've been socially conditioned to ignore our fears. We say to them, "No, thank you, Fear! No bad vibes here!" and we wave Fear away and turn our back to it. We then call this bravery or courage. Overall, this sounds all well and good, but in my experience, there is a real problem in this method.
If we give zero acknowledgment to these feelings, to fear, how could we possibly understand it? Not understanding fear doesn't mean that we don't feel it. It just makes us feel afraid without knowing or understanding the source. And then BOOM! Comparison. Paralysis. Procrastination. Grasping for control. All symptoms of unacknowledged fear.
FEAR SETTING EXERCISE
"Fear-Setting" is an analysis technique designed by Tim Ferriss that helps to clarify distorted thinking patterns caused by fear. In this three-step writing exercise, you will come to know precisely what it is that you're afraid of, why you are so scared of it, how to overcome it and (perhaps most importantly), the cost of taking no action at all.
Start here: Download our free worksheet. This worksheet will let you fill it out on your phone or computer if you have Adobe Acrobat Reader or print it and grab a pen. This exercise will take approximately 30 minutes. (You can also just grab three sheets of paper)
STEP 1: NAME YOUR FEAR
On page one, at the top, name the fear, idea, or scenario in question.
Below that, make three columns and label them, “Define,” “Prevent,” and “Repair.”
In column one, under "define," list all of your fears about the action in question. Be thorough. List all of the what-ifs, worst-case scenarios, acts of God, everything.
In column two, under "prevent," list how you might prevent or at least reduce the likelihood of these fears happening.
In column three, under "repair," list ways that you could repair the damage or get yourself back on track if the fear were to come to pass.
Now, next to each fear listed assign it an impact rating of 1-10. 1 = minimal impact and 10 = life-altering.
STEP 2: CONSIDER THE BENEFITS OF SUCCESS
On the top of page 2, write, "What might be the potential benefits of success or even partial success?"
Draw a line underneath and list everything that you would gain, learn, and experience if you succeeded even a little bit. Do this with the same tenacity that you listed your fears!
Beside each item on your list give it the same 1-10 rating. 1 = minimal impact and 10 = life-altering.
You will quickly learn just how much you stand to gain with even a partial success!
STEP 3: CONSIDER THE CONSEQUENCES OF INACTION
This is often the most impactful part of this exercise. Upon doing this page, you truly understand the cost of doing nothing and remaining in fear.
Make three columns on the page, and label them "6 months," "1 year," and "3 years."
Consider all the consequences, including emotional, financial, and physical, for each scale of time. Just as before, be detailed and thorough so that you get as close to a real projection as possible.
Now you've completed the worksheet!
At this point, realizing the cost of inaction often becomes scarier than the original fear.
Once you have all of this information, you will have gained some clarity for action! You may realize at the end of these steps that you already had everything you needed and a clear mind was the only thing missing. You may also find that you have a few more things to do before you can get rolling, but you still have more direction than before. In some cases, you find that your fears are legitimate and deserve respect.
In all outcomes, this has always brought me out of paralysis and into action. I use this technique mostly when I feel the need for it, though I believe it would be most beneficial to do on a schedule. Monthly, quarterly, or whatever suits your needs.