Fear has a place in our emotional life, and it shows up daily. Everything causes it: finding new work, dealing with financial uncertainty, creating something new, contemplating failure. By necessity, our minds are designed to let fear in—without it, we'd never survive.
But how do you keep fear from impeding your ability to fulfill your potential?
Conquering fear is about self-awareness, wisdom, and understanding your strengths—often in the face of adversity. You can practice and cultivate these personality traits, thank goodness, and it even gets easier over time.
These seven principles helped me develop my courage:
Acting fearlessly often means heading into uncharted territory, challenging conventional paths, or putting aside the need for safety and comfort. Where do you get the energy to do so? Usually from your authentic purpose—your personal calling in life. The Indian philosopher Patanjali said:
"When you are inspired by some great purpose, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be."
The fearless are busy creating their future. They visualize their future and invent their way into it. Nobel Laureate Dennis Gabor in his book, Inventing the Future, writes:
"The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented. It was man’s ability to invent which has made human society what it is. The mental processes of inventions are still mysterious. They are rational but not logical, that is to say, not deductive."
Understanding exactly what we want is the foundation for our success. But executing that success requires taking the next step, every day, no matter how difficult it may be. That means you don't get to sit around and wait for success.
Taking unconventional paths requires taking risks for a greater reward (financial or otherwise). It takes courage to act differently than others might. Fearless people tend not to dwell on things, but are decisive—the unknown shouldn't paralyze you.
Acting fearlessly means you have to be resilient. Because if you are, you'll develop a mental capacity that lets you adapt, with ease, when things don't go your way. Like bamboo, resilient types bend but rarely break.
You also have to let go. That ability to let go drives a constant process of change—it's what makes people flexible and adaptable.
Nelson Mandela in his teens, heard a tribal elder say, "These are our young men. They are our future. But the truth is they are second-class citizens…they will always be boys." Mandela made a decision to change South Africa upon hearing this. And his decision changed the world.
Fearless people work with what they have and turn obstacles into opportunities. They are at ease with challenges, disappointments, and rejections. Instead of setbacks, they try to see these events as gifts and find ways to utilize them to move forward.
University of California, Davis professor Dean Keith Simonton explains that creative geniuses, from Mozart to Darwin, are prolific when it comes to failure—they just don’t let their fear stop them. Failure is part of the process for these types. Creative people simply do more experiments, so they have more chances to be successful.
It takes more courage to say no than to say yes. But if you do it, you'll protect yourself from making poor decisions. This tactic can help you stay focused and prevent unnecessary complexity and wrong turns. It can also keep you from getting involved with the wrong people.
Dr. Judith Sills in Psychology Today writes:
"There's a lot of talk, and a lot to be said, for the power of Yes. Yes supports risk-taking, courage, and an open-hearted approach to life whose grace cannot be minimized. But no—a metal grate that slams shut the window between one's self and the influence of others—is rarely celebrated. It's a hidden power because it is both easily misunderstood and difficult to engage."
[Image: Flickr user Orin Zebest]