Do you know what is the main reason that stops people from taking action? Fear! What do you think is the number one fear that most people have when it comes to taking action? It is the Fear of Failure! We think that if we fail, we will be rejected, we will be judged, we will be laughed at, we will be hurt, we will not be loved, we will be lonely. And, because of this fear we don’t take action. This fear keeps us in our comfort zone and stunts our growth on multiple dimensions.
We have all grown up in a culture of comparison, permission and validation. We have all grown up into believing that we need to fit-in. Fitting-in is the norm that prevails on this land. So, we simply put our heads down and follow the herd. We’re all swimming in this massive ocean of human beliefs, modalities, rules, ideas, and practices. Robin Sharma says, “The only place you will reach if you follow the crowd is the exit!” Yet, we keep running the same old programming of fear, doubts, worry and procrastination all throughout our lives.
Biologically, fear is real and is a natural part of our neural system. It is what keeps us alive in situations where there is a perceived physical threat. Ever heard of the fight-flight-freeze survival response? It is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat to our survival. Just imagine, I put you in a cage with an untamed lion, now that’s a real threat to your life. The physiological changes in you will either put you in a fight mode where you would stand and fight the lion (slightly dramatic, but still possible), or put you in a flight mode, where you will turn your back and scamper off trying to get out of the cage, or in a third response, just stand frozen as the fear engulfs you completely. This is real fear! But, how often do we come face to face with real life-threatening situations? Most fear that we deal with almost on a daily basis is False Evidence Appearing Real, which essentially means that all fears that we generally have are false and irrational, and are created only because of our negative self-talk and limiting beliefs – the tiny little voice that goes on in our head – “What if I fail?” “I can’t do it.” “I am not smart enough.” “I am not good enough.” “I don’t have the confidence.” “Why me?”
Fear vs Excitement
Research in neuroscience has shown that motivation and excitement resides in the exact same part of our brain from where fear is generated. How does that help – one would ask. Remember, our brains can only focus on one thing at a time, just one thing! So, whenever an irrational fear shows up, the idea is to first recognize it as false and irrational. And then reframe it into excitement of something. Channel your fear of whatever it is into an excitement of what is in store. In one of my recent talks, an audience member stood up and asked me that’s not always possible. “I can give you an example where you have done it yourself,” I candidly responded, “Go back to your childhood days when your dad or mom got you your first bicycle. Were you excited to ride and show off your new toy (no matter what time of the day or night it was)? Or, were you sitting on your backside thinking ‘What if I fall down?’ ‘What if I get hurt?’ ‘What if I cannot reach the pedal?’ ‘What if my friends laugh at me?’” He nodded saying that he was excited about riding it. The whole point is when as a kid you could unconsciously reframe your fears into an excitement, what is stopping you now? “Preoccupation is the enemy of all achievement.” Steve Chandler says this in his book Reinventing Yourself. As we grow up, we keep getting preoccupied with a fixed mindset and an assumed personality. Awareness is the first step towards change.
Shift Your Self-Talk
Self-talk is the tiny little voice that goes on in your head all the time. 90% of our human population has negative self-talk – the mental chatter around “Why me?” “I’m not worth it.” “I must be perfect.” “I’ll never be any different.” “I am hopeless.” “Why is this happening to me?” “I know I suck at this.” “I am an idiot.” The two words “I am” are unarguably the two most important words you can have in your vocabulary to reframe your fears. They can make you and they can very well break you. Like I usually say, your self-talk can empower you or can expire you. And, we often use them in the negative sense, don’t we?
We’ve all heard about affirmations. Using them sounds like a great idea, but how do you actually create an affirmation and use it to your advantage to reframe your fears? It might seem silly to repeat statements that you view as essentially untrue, but give it a try for a month and measure the results for yourself. Affirmations are a simple method to tame your self-talk. They are essentially positive suggestions created around your negative beliefs. “I like myself. I believe in myself. I am enough. I am unstoppable. I am meant for the extraordinary. I am confident enough,” are some of the affirmations I keep repeating to myself. Incorporate them in your daily routine – when you are in the shower, when you are travelling, just before going to bed or right after waking up. Repeat your affirmations with conviction while allowing your feelings to fully associate with each affirmation.
Affirmations is what helped me perform at TEDx earlier this year. When the opportunity for speaking at TEDx came through, I wasn’t ready for it at all. As a matter of fact, this opportunity did not come to me directly. I was contacted for referring someone I had mentioned in my second book, Make It Happen, for speaking at TEDx. That referral did not materialize, but I got my way in. All sorts of fears and limiting beliefs started colliding with each other inside my head as soon as they said Yes! The tiny little voice in my head was suddenly amplified and I was feeling this knot in my stomach, knowing that I was not good enough or capable enough for this talk. “What am I going to talk about?” “What if I fail?” “What if I forget my speech?” “What if they laugh at me?” This is when my affirmations helped me and I could get through this opportunity successfully.
Being creatures of habit, it is not always easy for us to shift our self-talk from negative to positive overnight. Time and again, we find ourselves in the same old space because of our hardwired beliefs. The next time you catch yourself saying something like “I can’t get in shape,” or “I am not good enough” append the word “yet” at the end. I learnt this technique from Jim Kwik, who is a world expert in speed-reading, memory improvement, brain performance, and accelerated learning. What this does is that it gives your brain a perspective of possibility and immediately shifts your self-talk.
Do you have any irrational fears show up for you? What have you done to reframe them? Would like to hear about your stories in the comments below.