We’re all afraid of something. Fear can be a moving target, changing as our lives and circumstances change. A small business owner might be afraid of another dip in the economy thus causing him to shut his doors, or he might be afraid that his staff won’t work if he’s not in his store, thus creating a prison for himself.

A mother might be afraid that if she goes back to workher kids will feel neglected. Or an executive might be afraid of taking a vacation since there are so many juniors nipping at her heals. Another fear I hear often from my clients: “What if I start a new business and it doesn’t work out?”

We all have fear, but it’s how we deal with fear that separates those who continue to succeed from those that continue to flounder in their fear.

It’s been said that the word fear stands for False Evidence About Reality. I’ve heard it said other ways, but this is my favorite. You see, it’s not the circumstance that is debilitating, but what we as individuals make that circumstance mean.

Processing Fears

Since we know that having fear is something we all deal with, why don’t we come up with a process for dealing with those fears and moving forward towards our goals. There are many ways of doing this, but here is a simple 3-step process that when used will help you get to the route of your fear and move past it. It’s often just getting to the route of the real reason you’re afraid that allows for growth to happen.

Step 1: What is your greatest fear?

Are you afraid of being alone? If you go back to work than your husband will leave you and your kids won’t want to be around you, therefor you’ll be all alone? Is it a fear of being judged by others? Failing? Or the common fear of what others may think of you? What is your greatest fear?

When I first did this exercise, I wrote down that my biggest fear was being judged by others. I own several businesses, but maybe they think I’m too young, or don’t know enough, or too fat, too pale, not rich enough, too rich, or maybe they think I’m too quick witted… the list goes on. It certainly wasn’t constant, but it was there. I could ignore it, or at least pretend, but the truth is that it was there.

I’ve always been a pull yourself up by your bootstraps, don’t ask for help, and don’t talk about your problems kind of guy. But, I was smart enough to realize that if there’s a problem, even a small one, you need to face it head on or it will be like a weight on your back with each step you take until that extra weight on your shoulders just becomes your new norm. I won’t settle for playing at that level and I hope you won’t either. Push yourself outside your comfort zone and grow.

Again I ask you, what’s your greatest fear right now?

Step 2: What benefit has this fear given you in the past?

This sounds like on an odd question on the surface. I mean, how can fear be beneficial if it’s not serving you? Well, if you’ve had it more than once, then you’ve used it to serve you in some way – most likely as a protection mechanism.

Here’s my example: If I don’t allow people to get close to me, then they won’t know me well enough to judge me and therefore I won’t have to deal with rejection. I can then feel included in any group I’m in as people tend to paint you in the colors they want to see. I also maintain a sense of certainty and control over my environment and myself. This has served as a crafty way to protect myself, which sounds stupid as I write this, and something I’d expect to hear from a 5 year old, but it is the truth.

What have you gotten out of living with your greatest fear?

Step 3: Why be free of this fear now?

OK, now we’re on to the good stuff. What is your reason for giving up this fear? Has it cost you more that it’s given to you? Has it cost you relationships? Intimacy? Connection with others? What has your fear cost you and why be free of this fear now?

My answer – Simple. By letting go of that fear I allowed myself to be more passionate, loving, and loved. This created a space for me to grow my business and to connect at a much deeper level with those I loved. To my surprise (slightly), many people saw through my façade – just the way I see through those around me. We really aren’t fooling anyone but ourselves. Here’s exactly what I wrote down when I first did this exercise:

“If I free myself of this fear, then I can fully love and be fully loved. This will create the space I need to grow my businesses and start my family. I have been trapped by this for far too long . I need to let go of this fear to allow me to play fully and live my life with passion.”

This is a great exercise you can use over and over. We’re all human, we all have fears, and facing them allows us to grow and become stronger. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have fear, or that you’ll completely move past what’s holding you back, but it is a step in the right direction. You’ll recognize your triggers when they kick in and you can laugh to yourself knowing that you’re really trying to protect yourself from something that really isn’t there. It’s just False Evidence About Reality that you made up. So, why not make up another false story that empowers you to replace the one that holds you back. It’s your life, you’re the author of your own story, so be the hero, not the victim!

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