Everything you want is on the other side of fear.
When you learn to overcome fear in life you become unstoppable, because there is nothing holding you back.
That’s why fearless people are so much stronger than the rest.
- Fearless people are liberated to do anything they like in life.
- Fearless people are confident enough to leave their dead-end job for a more lucrative one
- Fearless people ask out anyone they are interested in because they don’t have fear of rejection
- Fearless people live true to themselves rather than being slaves to society, because they are not afraid of being judged.
Sadly, most people do have fear in their minds. And removing fer from the mind is not easy.
Sure, we can use psychological techniques like mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy as a way to stop fearful thoughts.
But to truly remove fear from the mind, we need to go further.
Why I personally needed to lose the fear in my life
Life is better when you know how to live courageously.
I learned that from personal experience.
Every time the phone rang in the call centre where I used to work, I’d think, “Am I not worth more than this? Is this it for me, sitting here talking to investors I don’t even know?”
The disgruntled complaints I took made me grind my teeth. “Your service is terrible,” callers would say.
I’m just a call centre agent, can you please shut up? I wanted to say. But the boss was in the background so I’d bite my lip.
One time, when I was so bored I was practically yawning at the desk, a customer said, “Your company sucks.”
“That’s true,” I said.
“Excuse me? I want to talk to a manager, immediately.”
… “We’re very dissatisfied with your attitude,” the boss said. “We would fire you, but your statistics are so good. We need you here.”
So maybe you should pay me more and treat me better, is what I felt like saying, but again I bit my lip.
Within a few months I was so sick of everything that once every week I told my boss I had diarrhea so I could take the day off—no one ever questions diarrhea.
During those days off I’d stare into the mirror, look myself in the eyes and say, “You’re wasting your life. Quit that crappy job.”
But I needed the job. I had bills to pay. My girlfriend wasn’t working. And my family and friends expected me to do this 9-5 thing even if it was bullshit.
I was afraid of leaving my job.
Fear had me in its grasp, as fear does with most people. Doesn’t matter whether it’s fear of the dentist, fear of flying, fear of public speaking, or fear of losing your job… your fear grabs you by the balls and squeezes them tight.
Pardon the French. But that’s the reality, isn’t it?
Tension was in my mind. Because my mind was torn in two. Quit that job one part of me said. But people will judge me if I’m not working and I won’t be able to pay the bills, said the other part.
I needed to train myself to overcome fear so I could find my true mental strength.
I needed to learn how to live fearlessly so I could live a positive life, not a life of fear.
I asked myself some self reflection questions.
I discovered I was divided in two.
One part of me was optimistic about change. But the other part was fearful of change.
Fear and hope are two sides of the same coin. They’re two polar opposites, magnetic polls with equal force, both trying to move you in opposite directions with the same force, so that they cancel each other out and you end up going nowhere.
You can listen to fear and stay imprisoned in your own mind.
Or you can listen to hope and move forward. (read: The importance of hope in life)
What I learned about fear and the mind
When I started to overcome fear, I knew just two things about it.
- Either I would stop fear or fear would stop me.
- The reason I was so afraid of quitting my job (the reason we are afraid of anything) is because people fear change—we all do.
Your brain has been taught, through evolution, that change is a threat.
Your brain started to learn this millions of years ago when we humans were cavemen.
It’s very easy, as a caveman, to stay in your cave where there are no lions.
- Stay in your cave and you probably won’t be eaten.
- Venture out of your cave and you might get munched.
Problem is if you don’t venture out of the cave (if you don’t overcome fear), you won’t ever get food so you’ll end up starving to death (nothing good will happen).
Flash forward in time to today and nothing’s changed.
- We are still hopeful of change
- We are still fearful of change
- Hope and fear cancel each other out. So we do not change.
So how do you follow your hope and overcome fear so that you can change?
I’ve learned a little secret about that…
How I Started To Control Fear (Follow this tutorial)
When I was 27 I found a way to increase hope, decrease fear, and as a result, change my life.
What happened was: I turned fear into a game.
This was a game in which I would reward myself every time I overcame fear (I did this by taking advantage of dopamine)
1. I grabbed pen and paper. (you can use a note-taking app if you like)
2. I divided that paper in two down the middle.
There were two sides of my problem.
- One side was the fear of doing something new.
- The other side was the act of doing something new.
3. I labelled one side of the paper FEAR and the other side CHANGE.
4. I told myself that I was going to fill the page with ticks as I beat fears and did new things.
This was to be a game.
Every time I either conquered a fear or did something new, I would put a tick in the corresponding table of the paper.
- Beat a fear, put a tick in the fear box
- Do something new, put a tick in the new box.
5. I gave myself support
The little table I’d drawn on the paper in front of me, that sheet that would chronicle the times I conquered fear and the times I did something new, that wasn’t just paper and ink, that was neuroscience turned into a little game, it was a training program for my brain, a way in which I could teach my brain to overcome fear and to try new things in life.
Armed with my paper and pen, I set out into the world, determined to conquer fear. But I knew that if I was to do this thing right I had to be my own best friend.
If I’d told myself, “Just hand in your resignation note and start living your new life” I wouldn’t have done it. That would have been like going to the gym for the first time and bench-pressing 350lbs. Not going to happen.
6. I started small. (target one of the easy items on your list).
At this point I might have learnt the basic idea of how to live fearlessly, but I was still a novice. So there would be no Herculean feats. No Everest challenges. Small stuff, so my brain could build those muscles and get stronger, overcoming fear one step at a time.
It started, as it does for a lot of guys, with talking to women.
I was a shy guy.
Talking wasn’t my strong point.
My face would turn ruddy and I’d mumble when I spoke to a girl I liked. Sounds lame. Was lame. But it was my reality back then.
So I would go into the city and find women I liked. And I would just talk to them. Not using pick-up lines. Yuck. Not my style. Just chatting to them about whatever was happening, casually, you know, small talk. Talk to a girl, put a tick in the box.
I was afraid of the dentist too. Thought that son of a bitch would rip all my teeth out and charge me thousands for the privilege. So I went to the dentist. Put a tick in the box.
Do the small things. Beat the easy fears. And put a tick in the box.
7. The game became a habit
Because of the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine, your brain loves games and it also loves going on win-streaks.
Science has proven that the brain releases dopamine when we go on winning streaks (see the link above).
The more wins we have the more motivated we are to carry on.
That’s why this fear-game of mine works so damn well. Because you start off beating easy fears, and you start a win-streak. That streak motivates you to keep going. Before long you will be enjoying the act of beating fears.
Note: today I actually use Habit Bull, a habit-tracking app, to record the times I beat fear an do something new
Why This Is A Genius Strategy
My “fear game” has two components:
1) Doing new things
2) Creating a habit or streak
This is important.
Novelty is very important to the health of your brain. If you want your mind to get stronger you have to constantly do new things. That’s why novelty is one of the things on my life of 40 brain training exercises.
Novelty is incredibly important for the brain. Doing new things creates new neural connection in the brain, making you more intelligent [Scientific American].
So I did new things.
I took up Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art), I got involved with amateur dramatics, I took classical singing lessons. And all this novelty ignited my brain and sparked my neurons.
Sure enough my mind got stronger.
I began to be able to conquer bigger fears and do more radical new things.
Two years into this practice my brain was so jacked-up that when I got the opportunity to move country to Canada, I took it gladly, not fearing the unknown, just excited to be so alive. And when those 711 tires rolled of the tarmac at Heathrow and the streets of London faded into the distance, soon looking no bigger than silver worms… I knew I had conquered my fears.
I still have that pen and paper. It’s next to me now.
I still put ticks in those boxes.
I still challenge my fear and engage in novelty.
And when I look back now, I know that those 5 minutes, years ago, when I looked in the mirror and devised my game of “Tick the box”, those five minutes changed my life forever..
Overcoming Fear Using Buddhism And Meditation
Not everyone enjoys games.
Some people prefer to stop fear in more traditional ways, such as using Buddhism and meditation.
Buddhism teaches us a lot about fear.
Buddhism teaches that fear is only in the mind.
Whether you’re afraid of flying, afraid of public speaking, afraid of death or anything else, fear is entirely in your mind. And if fear is only in your mind, you can control it.
Zen warriors live fearless lives. And they get there because they do exercises to remove fear from the mind.
They start by asking one simple question. What causes fear in the first place? If fear is in your mind, how did it get there? .
How does your mind create fear?
To answer this question let’s look at an example.
An example of fear of heights
This is a classic Zen story that teaches about how fear gets into your mind.
One day, a young boy went with his father to climb a tall hill. He was awfully excited because he’d never been to such a high place before. He wondered what it would be like to look down on his home from such a height.
The boy and his father climbed the hill. Looking down from a great height, the boy felt powerful, as though he were above the world. His mind was abuzz with the sense of height. Then, all of a sudden he felt a sharp stinging sensation in his leg. It was agonising. His head was bursting with pain. The boy looked down and saw a snake. He fainted with fright and woke up in bed, safe but in pain and terrified by what had happened. He’d never been to such a height before. He’d been excited about it but it had only led to pain. Every time he thought about heights from that moment on, he felt a pain in his leg and fear in his mind.
This is an example of how fears are created.
Logically, the boy needn’t be afraid of heights because it was the snake that bit him. He should be afraid of snakes. But then, the mind most often is not logical. Through association the boy has acquired a fear of heights. But importantly, the fear is only in his mind.
What does this teach us about fear?
- Your fear is illogical.
- Your fear is based on an association (for instance, if you’re afraid of spiders
- Your mind sometimes applies fear to the wrong thing (the boy attached fear to heights rather than spiders)
Here’s an example from my own life…
When I was sixteen I asked a girl out. I was very shy. It was the first time I had ever done it. She, however, said no. Which was fine. At that point I was actually just happy that I had found the guts to ask someone out. But she then went and told her friends. And because she was so popular, the entire year found out. Including bullies. And they decided to humiliate me for it in school assembly.
I was then afraid to ask anyone out, in case everyone found out and ended up ridiculing me for it. My mind associated asking someone out with being humiliated in front of a lot of people. You can see how that mindset came about. But it was nevertheless illogical. The odds on the situation happening again are very low. But nevertheless, a fear was produced in me that day and it took a lot of meditation to overcome that fear.
So how do you overcome fear.
Meditation To Stop Fear
My favorite meditation for fear is the following:
1) Close your eyes and begin to meditate
2) Think about your fear. Bring an image of your fear to mind gently.
3) Thinking of your fear will bring up associations. For instance, in the story we looked at above the fear of heights is associate with snakes and pain. Be mindful of these associations.
4) By now you will be seeing your primary fear and the associations. Gently move these mental images apart so you are able to see that they are distinct pictures. For instance, for the boy in the story he has three pictures: one of height, one of the snake, one of the pain. See those pictures are individual things that are not connected.
5) Bring the fear image (in our example this is height) to mind and meditate on it. Recognise the image and idea of “Height” as its own entity. It is not connected to anything else (snakes and pain) it is just an image of height.
6) Focus on the fear. Feel the sensation of fear. And label it “fear”.
7) Remind yourself that the sensation of fear is just a sensation and it does not mean anything.
8) Continue to meditate on the fear while labelling the feelings you experience.
9) Soon you will be able to meditate on the thing you are afraid of without feeling fear. You will have overcome your fear.
By meditating in this fashion you disassociate the primary idea (height) from the negatives that produce the fear (snakes and pain).
You are untangling the fear.
Mantras for fear
Mantras are spiritual words or phrases with special benefits. (similar to affirmations).
There are many mantras that train the mind. And they include mantras for fear.
Here are the best mantras to try:
Non-Religious Mantras for Fear
Recite each of these mantras 10 times to start to train your mind to stop fear:
- “I liberate my mind from fear and negativity.”
- “I do not listen to fear in my mind.”
- “I am fearless and immovable.”
- “I embrace hope, love and optimism.”
- “I am an optimistic and hopeful person.”
Have you recited each of those ten times?
Those affirmations are a great way to start to end fear.
Let’s go further.
There are many sacred mantras that are said to completely stop fear.
Of these, the most powerful is the following:
The mantra for fear:
om shoun shokvinashibhyam Namaha
(This is a Hundu mantra)
How to use this mantra:
- Sit in lotus position on the floor in a dark room
- Close your eyes
- Take up mala
- Recite this mantra 108 times.
This is a powerful sacred mantra to stop fear.
Mudra For Fear
Mudras are hand gestures used in Hinduism, Yoga, and Buddhism.
Mudras have spiritual properties that create beneficial states of body, mind and spirit.
The correct mudra for fear is the Abhaya Mudra.
This is the mudra Buddha made when a bull came charging at him one day while he was meditating.
The Buddha was not afraid even though his life was in danger. He calmly raised his hand into Abhaya mudra gesture, and the bull stopped its charge.
Try combining the Abhaya mudra while meditating on one of the fear mantras. This will completely remove fear from the mind.
Overcoming Fear of failure
Billions of people suffer from fear of failure.
Are you one of them?
Answer these questions to see if you have fear of failure
- I’m afraid to fail.
- I play it too safe.
- I’m afraid of choking before a group.
- I worry about making mistakes.
- I’m afraid of disapproval.
- I worry about looking incompetent.
- I dread I won’t do well enough.
- I lack confidence in my abilities.
- I feel anxious when uncertain.
- Others will evaluate me negatively.
Test from Bill Knaus on Psychology Today
If you answered yes to any one question, you’ve found a weak spot in your psyche that you can work on.
Answered YES to Play It Safe? Conquer that. Beat that. Find ways to not play it safe.
Think others will judge you negatively? Yeah. Tons of people suffer that fear. Don’t take it. Don’t let that be your downfall. Smash that fear to smitherines. Do something, TODAY, that you think people might judge you negatively for. Overcome that fear. You’ll grow stronger.
For every question you answers Yes to, do something that defies that fear.
Change your perspective on failure
Most things in life are a matter of perspective. And fear of failure is definitely one of those things.
Change your perspective on failure and you will no longer have fear of failure.
Failure isn’t failure.
Failure is lesser success.
- You ran a mile in 5 minutes but you wanted to do it in four and a half. That’s not failure. That’s success to a slighter less degree than you anticipated.
- You wanted to write a bestseller. But your book only sold a hundred copies and most of those were to friends and family. That’s not failure .That’s success to a lesser degree than you anticipated.
- You wanted to get a first class honours degree. You got second with honours. That’s not failure. That’s success to a lesser degree than you anticipated.
Stop saying you’re failing.
Why lie to yourself?
You’re not failing.
You are never failing.
You’re succeeding, but at a slightly slower rate than you would want.
You’ll stop fearing failure when you stop demanding so much of yourself
Fear of failure isn’t about result. It’s about prediction
99% of the time, the end result of something is not the failure. You wanted your start-up company to make a million this year but you made 50k. The failure there isn’t the 50k. The failure is your wrong prediction.
And this is the vital point: Your fear of failure stems from your predictions, and it’s your predictions that are wrong in the first place.
- Why does it hurt to get second when you wanted first? Because you wanted first.
- Why does it mess you up to make $50,000 a year when you wanted $100,000? Because you wanted $100,000.
- Why does it sting when your blog gets 80,000 hits a month and you wanted 200,000? Because you wanted 200,000.
It’s the prediction that stings. It’s the fact that you told yourself you were going to do something, and then you didn’t quite meet your own expectations.
You can see how to overcome fear of failure now, right?
Your fear is based on the idea of not meeting your own expectations. OR of not meeting someone else’s expectations.
So how so you overcome fear of failure?
Stop being so damned obsessed over results.
Results are not what matters in life. What matters is the journey.
So your start-up made $20,000 less than you expected. How much did you learn along the way? How much fun did you have? How much did you grow?
When you say to yourself “I want $50,000 from this thing this year” you’re placing your entire stock in one arbitrary figure.
Life’s deeper than that.
Life’s not about results. It’s about the journey.
To overcome fear of failure, redefine what it is to “fail” and stop being so goddamn obsessed with results.
Fear Of Rejection
Some people are so afraid of rejection that they suffer major panic attacks at the mere idea of asking someone out.
And the majority of us have some form of fear of rejection.
What are you afraid of?
- Getting rejected by a hot girl or a cute guy?
- Are you afraid of being rejected for a job application?
- Got fear of being rejected by your friends?
Rejections are one of the things people fear most. But we don’t have to take that fear. There are tons of great ways how to overcome the fear of rejection.
5 Ways How to Overcome Fear of Rejection
1. Change the way you feel about being rejected
If you have a fear of rejection you’re looking at rejection the wrong way.
Newsflash: it’s time you changed your attitude. (Read: 7 enlightened attitudes that make life easy).
For instance, let’s say you’re afraid of being rejected for a job. Chill. Do not look at this rejection like a boss saying, for instance, “You are totally unfit to work anywhere and are in fact humanity’s biggest failure”. Okay. So I enhanced that for dramatic effect. But don’t look at rejection like a fatal thing.
If you fear being rejected by the opposite sex, by a hot girl or a cute guy, chill. They’re not saying, “You’re a terrible person who is so ugly your face is basically a form of social terrorism”. No. It just means that maybe you’re not quite the right one for them, for that one individual person, that’s all. Next girl might say yes.
Being too dramatic about it well ruin you.
Rejection from one person is not a rejection from the rest, yet nevertheless, when we are the ones being rejected ourselves, this is how it feels.
Simple: stop the crazy-thinking. Learn to stop negative thoughts
2. Change your beliefs
Think of being rejected.
Go ahead and actually imagine that you are being rejected right now.
Observe the presumptions that you make about rejection.
For example, does a rejection from a member of the opposite sex mean you are ugly? That you have a bad personality? That no one likes you?
When you think of being rejected you think something else as well. You think it says something about you.
Write down your thoughts.
If you think “He / she rejected me because I’m overweight”, write that down.
Now go through each entry on your list and logically challenge your thoughts about it.
These thoughts of yours stem from your beliefs. For instance, you might believe that overweight people don’t have attractive girlfriends and boyfriends (even though there are plenty who do).
These thoughts stem from your beliefs. And the best way to change those thoughts is to change your beliefs.
When you change your thoughts about rejection you will change the way you feel about it. You will stop fear of rejection.
3. On a Good Day, Intentionally Get Rejected
This is one of the best ways how to get rejected.
The idea is to wait until you have a fantastic day, a day when something happens to you that is so great you couldn’t possibly feel bad.
For example, if you’ve just gotten your exam results and you aced them. At such a time a rejection isn’t going to mean a big deal to you because the negative that is the rejection is completely eclipsed by the positive that is the exam results. Take advantage of this. Go up to that super-hot woman and ask her out, cause heck, if she rejects you now then sod her, you just aced your exams, who cares?!
One time I was in London when I was accepted for an acting role that I really wanted. Nothing could kill my happiness. I knew that. So I thought screw it. I went up to a smoking hot girl. The type of girl a country guy like me would seriously struggle to get. I asked her out. She said “No.” I said “Thank you” and smiled. I was actually genuinely happy because I had overcome y fear of rejection.
You know what happened next?
The girl was amazed. She said “Wait. Screw it. Let’s go grab a coffee”. Weird and wonderful, like all the best things in life.
Intentionally get rejected when you know you wont care. Then you will teach your brain that rejection is no big deal.
4. Vividly imagine the Moment after being Rejected’
People who fear rejection tend to think that rejection is the end of… everything.
These people are fatalistic.
The way how to overcome fear of rejection is to stop being so fatalistic all the time. And the way to do that is to realise that life goes on.
Here’s how (it’s easy):
- Bring to mind the event of which you are afraid of (for example, asking someone out),
- Think about being rejected (actually imagine the other person turning you down)
- Imagine a positive event occurring immediately after the rejection (for instance, you are absolutely thrilled because you have overcome a fear).
- Now imagine the worst situation that could happen after being rejected
- Now logically observe what would happen in that circumstance (you will find that it is not such a big deal after all)
By imagining this three stage process over and over again, you will learn to recognise that life goes on after the rejection, and this will dramatically reduce your fear of being rejected.
5. Focus on the Benefits
Here’s a fun way of stopping fear: think about the benefits.
Simply drill into your head the positives of doing the thing of which you are afraid (for example, imagine being accepted for the job). Every time you think of this positive, match it with a positive thing that would happen after you have been rejected.
- Imagine you get the job
- but also imagine that you got rejected
- but because of being rejected you found a better job
This will create a win / win situation in your mind. And because it’s a win / win you will have nothing to be afraid of.
There are so many different ways to stop fear.
There are psychological techniques, spiritual techniques, mantras and affirmations.
Given how important it is to stop fear, it is worth trying all these techniques.
Different strategies will work for different people.
Let me know how you get on with these.
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