A Simple Shift To Overcome Fear’s Consequences

Nobody wants fear to control them.

Despite that desire, fear’s influence is unmistakable and pervasive.

This conundrum points towards some important questions:

  • Why is fear such a powerful force in human life?
  • What can you do to overcome fear’s influence and show up at your best?

To dig into those questions, let’s start with the nature of fear, and the role it plays in human life.

Fear: Your Evolutionary Ticket to Survival

*Picture yourself as an ancient Homo Sapiens. You’re walking through a wilderness teeming with life.*

The sounds of birds and buzzing insects fill your ears.

But that’s not the only sound you hear!

A nasty “GRRRRROWL” tears through the nearby brush. Some large creature is nearby. And whatever it is, it sounds hungry!

The instant that your mind perceives this threat, it sets off a cascade of physiological shifts within your body. These changes are all focused on one goal: do whatever it takes to stay alive.

In a span of seconds, your body:

  • Enhances activity in systems that make you more likely to survive. (e.g. eyesight, muscle performance, cardiovascular system…)
  • Reduces activity in “nonessential” parts of the body. (e.g. digestive system and other organs, skin…)
  • Shifts the emphasis of blood flow in the brain

With those shifts, your body is ready for ACTION. (e.g. Clambering up into the safety of a nearby tree, waiting for the threat to pass.)

These physiological shifts are known as the “fear response.” And for thousands of years, having a better fear response made you more likely to survive.

Fear’s deep link with survival is why the fear response maintains a powerful influence over the body.

This is still helpful when you find yourself in a dangerous situation.

But oftentimes, the fear response shows up in areas of life that don’t present genuine danger. (e.g. Business, Communication, Career…)

And when that happens, fear’s power holds you back from showing up at your best.

This article is about helping you skillfully work with fear as it presents itself in those non-dangerous areas of life.

The Costs of Acting out of Fear

Fear connects you with the smallest version of yourself.

This version of you is:

  • Reactive
  • Defensive
  • Easily shaken
  • Worried about what could go wrong
  • Fleeing from future threats
  • Rooted in scarcity

Your fearful small-self is not concerned with pursuing higher goals. It pays no mind to the journey of human flourishing. All your small-self cares about is survival.

The challenge here is amplified by the fact that you can always find something to be afraid of:

  • “What if I mess up?”
  • “What if it doesn’t stop?”
  • “What if I get rejected?”
  • “What if this works?”

These two factors are why fear is such a barrier to showing up at your best each day.

Fortunately, with awareness of this challenge, you have the opportunity to create a new path forward.

Fear’s Antidote (And a Path to Flourishing)

Every time that fear surfaces in life presents an opportunity to shift directions.

This is because anything done from a place of FEAR can also be done from a place of LOVE.

This might sound like a fluffy platitude at first, but it contains an important truth. And it has specific and actionable applications.

Everything you do has an underlying motivator. The source of this motivator influences both the experience you have and the results you can create.

With fear as a motivator, you’re in a place of scarcity. You expect that something’s going to go wrong. And if that’s the case, you have to act defensively to protect yourself, and what you have.

But love comes from a place of abundance and security. If you know that you’re whole in this moment, your attention shifts to intentionally creating something positive.

Instead of letting external factors motivate you (“I have to ___” or “I should ___”) coming from love connects you with your own internal convictions.

You’re connected with an inner sense of wellbeing. And you’re focused on the wellbeing of others.

How to Shift from Fear to Love

It’s not lost on me that the word “love” can feel a little “woo-woo” or “wishy-washy.”

But before writing this idea off, give yourself permission to test it out. Treat it as an experiment in the laboratory of your life.

Shifting from fear to love is a straightforward approach:

  1. Notice when a fearful thought crosses your mind.
  2. Acknowledge that it’s there, without needing to attach a story to it. (e.g. “Ah, yep…that’s fear!”)
  3. Note its accompanying sensations in your body, without judgment. No need to do anything about them, just observe what’s there, and how they change over time. (e.g. “I feel a tightening sensation in the chest, I notice an uneasy sensation in my stomach…”)
  4. Let go of your attachment to the fearful thought by considering its usefulness.
    1. Is this feeling helping me move forward in the best way?
    2. Is there any reason to hang on to this fearful story?
  5. Identify a loving path. Connect with your heart and consider these questions. What would it look like to approach this from a place of love? If you knew you’d be OK no matter what, what would you do? How would you proceed?
  6. Proceed with mindfulness. When you see both paths with clarity it becomes an exercise in mindfulness. When the inevitable fearful thoughts arise again, note them gently, and redirect your attention to the loving path.

This approach can be done in a variety of ways. Try writing on paper, talking with a friend, recording a video of yourself, or simply noting the thoughts in your mind.

If you want some assistance with this approach, I created a free worksheet for you to use. Download it below.

[convertkit form=5161819]

The Fearful Path vs. The Loving Path (Examples in Real Life)

The simplicity of this idea makes it immediately applicable in all areas of life.

I’ve been experimenting with this approach for a while, and have seen great results. At the same time, it’s difficult work. I’m far from perfect at it. But I’m committed to working at it every day!

Below are a few examples of how the different paths show up across life. Consider for yourself the feeling, experience, and likely results created by each example.

Health/Fitness/Movement

  • Motivated by Fear: I fear sickness and death, so I need to eat well and exercise.
  • Coming From Love: I love feeling energetic and healthy. So I want to fuel my body with nutritious foods, and stay active every day.

Relationships

  • Motivated by Fear: I fear conflict and loss, so I need to be sure to act a certain way to please others.
  • Coming From Love: I love myself as I am, and love others for who they are. I want to create genuine and authentic connections, so I do my best to bring my open, honest, and true self into all relationships.

Business

  • Motivated by Fear: I fear not having enough money, and need to do whatever it takes to get this customer/sale.
  • Coming From Love: I love helping people meet their needs and achieve their goals. If this potential client is excited about the support we can offer, I want to support them! But if they’d be better served by another person/team, it’s all good.

Meditation

  • Motivated by Fear: I fear distraction and disconnection, so I need to meditate each morning.
  • Coming From Love: I love staying intentional and present in my days. I want to meditate each morning to rehearse that state. (And I like how it makes me feel more happy, calm, and clear!)

Career

  • Motivated by Fear: I fear not getting this job, so I need to act in a way that fits the mold they’re looking for.
  • Coming From Love: I want to find a great mutual fit with my authentic self and a company/team/role. After all, that’s what’s best for me and for them. So I’ll stay focused on showing up to each interaction with openness and honesty. When I don’t get an offer, it just means the fit wasn’t there!

Shift From Surviving to Thriving

Fear connects you with your smaller-self, putting you on a path to survival.

But coming from love grounds you in the foundation of what’s most important in your life. Staying connected to these high-level goals helps you act in a way that aligns with your highest self.

So…Where would you benefit from shifting from fear to love?

Make it a priority to do that today.

And if you want a boost to get started, download the free worksheet below.

[convertkit form=5161819]


Notes

  1. Thanks to Robert M. Sapolsky’s book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” for information on the body’s reactions to fear.