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Dealing with fear and adopting a growth mindset

Updated: Jun 19

We’ve all felt it. We typically dread it. We usually have no idea how to manage it. What is it? It is the four-letter word; FEAR. Fear is a primal, universal and instinctual emotional state.

As much as we do not like feeling it, fear is part of the human experience and must be navigated wisely. Fear is by nature a control-freak and will try to rule us. So what are we to do with it? First we must understand it’s good function in order to dismantle its dysfunction. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful or bad that is happening or might happen.”

Believe it or not, fear actually has a helpful purpose-when it isn’t in charge. Fear motivates us to take precautions and actions against destructive or harmful things. For example, anyone who has had the experience of being tossed like a rag doll in an ocean current learns to not turn their backs to the ocean. Another example of fear benefitting us is the use of vehicle seat-belts. Fear of being severely injured or killed in an auto accident is a good motivator to buckle up no matter how uncomfortable it might feel. Another common example is seeing your declining bank account balance after a recent shopping spree. Healthy fear would say something like “warning, don’t continue to spend money. You need to pay your bills”. This internal caution is valued and heeded by the wise person, and a new path of financial choices is started. Budget time! In these examples, fear informed the choices without controlling them.

Fear becomes a problem when it grows beyond its rightful boundaries and becomes tyrannical. Fear then no longer serves us, but we start serving the fear. It’s backwards and we orient our lives around it. We become enslaved to whatever is necessary to avoid whatever it is that we fear. When this happens, fear becomes:

1) excessive 2) unfounded 3) overgeneralized and 4) undefined. A clear example of this is the condition of agoraphobia- an anxiety disorder involving intense and debilitating fear of any place or situation where escape might be difficult. Those with this disorder usually avoid traveling in cars, buses, airplanes, going into stores and even leaving their homes. In this example, it is easy to see how the basic necessities of life, meaning and connection are hindered or halted. Fear has completely taken over, choking out so many opportunities and experiences. That is fear-gone-rogue and most of us experience it to varying degrees, in one way or another. Fear will reduce our quality of life, relationships and stop us from achieving our goals.

I am no stranger to the struggle with fear. I was once driven by it and didn’t even know it. Manifesting as perfectionism, was a deeply rooted fear of disappointing others and, ultimately, fear they would reject me. It was such a “normal” part of my life that I had no conscious awareness of it. It was through my RSM journey that I was able to discover the origin of this pattern and began my journey toward freedom from it. God’s delivering power was essential for break through as well.

So how can we practically overcome the clutches of fear in our everyday lives? The first step begins with truly choosing to commit to changing the patterns of thoughts and behaviors that feed the fear. The next step is to become aware of what you are afraid of. Take a quiet moment to ask yourself what you are actually afraid of. Observe what thoughts and feelings come up from a place of acceptance instead of judgment. This actually will give you some space between yourself and the fear. That space brings the ability to see a larger picture. Fear shrinks our world and limits our ability to see options. On the other hand, expanding our awareness of multiple options tends to shrink our fear. A mindset of fear views a situation and focuses on what could go wrong. But a mindset that is free from fear perceives an array of possibilities. Practice expanding your perception of the options you have. Next, identify the facts around the issue. What is actually true about the thing that is feared. Compare the facts against the fear and set your focus upon the facts whenever worry tries to steal your attention.

This is when we switch into problem-solving mode. Motivational speaker Tony Robins says to “Identify your problems, but give your power and energy to solutions.” This can actually be fun as you brainstorm various solutions to the challenge you are facing. For example, if you are in an extra busy season and continually anxious about getting everything done, you might actually be very tired and need more rest. Go to bed half an hour earlier and see if you are more energized and refreshed for your busy days. Also identifying your priorities can help you eliminate or limit the things that are unnecessary--which will then give you more time. Identify is there anyone you can delegate certain tasks to and release it to their care.

As a life coach I see so many people who are terrified of failure. This is a very common fear and it truly steals one’s joy, dreams, goals and potential. A simple yet powerful tip in dealing with this fear is to adopt a mindset that values growth as opposed to perfection or achievement. This can bring so much freedom as “mistakes” or “failures” are perceived as valuable teachers and catalysts for new growth and opportunities. We actually learn so much from the journey towards our goals than we could ever learn if the arrival at the destination was instant. We can gain so much experience and life wisdom from the things we would judge as setbacks.

Finally, as you choose to take control over your fear, realize and accept that it will not be easy and there will be setbacks. Fear-controlled thinking is a stubborn pattern to change. Resistance will come up because it has been a well-worn pathway in your mind and it will take intention, effort and perseverance to forge a new path. That’s ok. You will overcome it, one bit at a time. The choice to change this pattern will be worth it all. Freedom from fear makes life so much more enjoyable and fulfilling. If you are ready to commit to this endeavor, I would love to help you along the way. Contact me by scheduling a free consultation today.

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