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I recently shared the stage with comedian, actor, writer, and marine veteran Rob Riggle. Rob is a good friend of mine. In fact, we’ve fished, golfed and vacationed together for years now. But walking onto that stage with him to have a casual conversation in front of 30,000 people was a different experience altogether. It was a little nerve-wracking, to say the least.
Now that it’s over, I look back and wonder why I was so fearful.
Fear is all at once commonplace and strange. I’ve seen how it affects anyone and everyone in different ways, but I’ve been very interested in how it can stymie and limit so many talent-filled entrepreneurs — and what they can do about it.
Fear’s powerful effects
Fear keeps far too many of us from realizing our full potential. It disallows us to make the kind of money we should and pushes us away from leaning into our passions or seeking investment to fuel our enterprises. Ultimately, it stops us from taking risks that could lead to our ultimate success.
But why? Why do our body, mind, and neurological system respond in such a way that limits action and ultimately holds us back? I wanted to answer these questions and, quite possibly, give the reader some actionable items to help overcome fear the correct way in order to find more success and fulfillment in life.
I spoke with a good friend Tracy Litt, a life coach whose approach combines neuroscience, consciousness, and practical spirituality to deliver next-level results and unprecedented success with those she works with. Her brand, The Litt Factor, has helped thousands of women and entrepreneurs multiply their revenue, realize their potential, and overcome their fear in practical, ever-improving ways.
Here are three key things she taught me about fear.
Why we feel fear
Why do we feel fear in the first place? Fear is a deeply-embedded biological response. Neurons fire, letting us know we’re in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation, putting us into a sympathetic nervous state in order to protect us.
Here’s an important distinction: fear is not danger. Although they may feel the same, there is a massive difference between a shark fin coming towards us in the water and wanting to speak up in a board meeting. Even though they may feel the same, one is not life-threatening. Tracy says that recognizing the difference, along with understanding why fear is present, is the first step in overcoming it:
“Fear only comes on the scene when you’re expanding. Something is deemed a threat to your system. When you’re an entrepreneur that could be anything because everything is scary and expansive in nature. Every single thing you do (whatever it is) is completely unlike anything you’ve ever done before. So your body lets you know that you’re uncomfortable in a nervous-system-based way. However, if we identify that what we’re experiencing is not dangerous or life-threatening, we can begin to thank our fear and find appreciation that we are in yet another situation to find growth.”
At the end of this part of the conversation, Tracy said, “The goal is to learn to love your fear, appreciate it for what it is and what it means we’re about to do.”
We’ve been taught to combat fear incorrectly
Ok, great. You know where your fear comes from, but guess what? It’s still present in your day-to-day life. Are slogans going to help? “Feel the fear and take the leap!” Right? No way! “Square your shoulders and be the man!” Fat chance. This masculine approach to powering through fear is not only unhealthy but 100% ineffective.
We need to learn how to approach fear correctly and realize that how we’ve been taught about fear is incorrect. Tracy teaches:
“Societal messaging preaches an over-addiction to willpower and motivation, which is a well that runs dry really quickly. It’s not sustainable or suitable for how your mind functions. You’re not working with your human/spiritual self when you’re trying to power through fear.”
“When your fear response is ignited, it shifts you into a sympathetic nervous system state (fawning, flight, fight, or freeze) because we’re wired to protect ourselves. This is your stress state. So, instead of trying to power through it, we need to bring about safety by activating our Vagus nerve (deep, slow breathing), taking us to a parasympathetic state or our calm state. Your pre-frontal cortex comes back online. Now, we can make our new conscious choice.”
Sounds complicated, right? It might be easier than you think.
Here’s how to overcome fear correctly
Now, here’s the most important part. In Tracy’s words: “Information without application is useless, but information with application is transformation.” So, let’s help you transform your fear into power and give you some wonderful tips that will enlarge your ability to expand and succeed.
First: Notice it. That’s the prerequisite for doing any other work internally. Allow yourself to non-judgmentally understand what fear is keeping you from doing. Why is your power being abdicated to fear? Notice the moments it keeps you from acting.
Second: Create safety. Safety, safety, safety. Our fear response combats “unsafe” situations by employing self-doubt and other negative neurological responses. So, we need to give our system the safety it craves. What does it look like? It looks like breathing on purpose. We should start to breathe in a deeper, slower cadence. 4-4-4-4 breathing (count in a cadence in, count in the same cadence out). We start to place our neurological feet back on safe ground, allowing our conscious mind to take over and make powerful decisions. Once we master this process, we can create safety on demand.
Third: Get to know and learn how to communicate with your higher self. This isn’t woo-woo or weird. Your higher self can be described as who you want to be five years from now. This is the better version of you. Who is that person? How would they respond in situations your present self feels fearful? The better you can understand who that person is and how they act, the easier it is to envision yourself acting similarly in the present. Then, you can more quickly step out of fear and into conscious, confident decision-making.
These tips are not only powerful but self-sustaining. The better you get at mastering each of them, the higher your threshold for overcoming fear. Tracy says that with this method, she’s watched thousands of women not only reach their potential but see that their previous potential was only a part of what they could actually achieve.