I’m a runner and have been for a few years now. The funny thing about running is how much it has taught me about life that I never truly considered before. Take fear for instance. Before running, I took fear for granted and never really worked through any ways to handle or conquer fear. It was just there. I either pushed past it, or I didn’t. There were no definite strategies.
As I started running longer distances, fear became a steady companion, telling me constantly that there was no way on God’s green earth that I could run 12, 15 or 20 miles. That’s just insane! That’s when I intentionally started developing coping strategies for fear and realized that these strategies apply to every fearful time in your life; not just running. Now, I use them on every long run and any other time fear creeps into my mind.
Here are five strategies I use to overcome fear.
1. Make a gratitude list - If you know the fear-inducing situation in advance, make a list of why you are grateful for the opportunity the event presents. Maybe it’s a public speaking engagement where you will speak about your new book or new product. Are you grateful for the opportunity to share your ideas with more people or meet some new people? Are you increasing your brand awareness? Are you getting a trip to a new city? When fear creeps in, rattle off your gratitude list in your head.
If you’re thrown into a fearful circumstance without the chance to plan ahead, make your gratitude list on the spot. List anything that you are thankful for such as your family, friends, clean air and good food. Keep listing things until you feel yourself relax.
2. Positive affirmations - In the running world these are called “mantras,” but they work just as well in any other fear-invoking situation. When you feel yourself becoming fearful of a situation, repeat positive phrases to yourself (or out loud) such as “I am strong” or “I can do this.” Keep saying these affirmations over and over to yourself while also working to breathe deeply. It may take a few minutes, but the positive words will help you push past your fears.
3. Set a Goal or Objective - To use the public speaking example again, before you get to the event, know at least one goal or objective you are hoping to achieve. If fear creeps in, remind yourself of that goal. Having something tangible to focus on will keep you from being overcome by fear.
You can use the same tactic when a fear-inducing situation is sprung on you. Take a deep breath, and think of an objective you could achieve in this situation. Maybe you’re at a party and someone you hoped to avoid just walked through the door. Set an objective to say hello politely and then to move on to talk to others. Knowing what you want to accomplish in a difficult situation can help you have a plan of action.
4. Chunk It Out - We are often fearful when something seems too big for us to handle, like a 15-mile run or a big project at work. We can quickly become overwhelmed. One of the best ways to deal with this type of fear is to break up the project or situation into smaller pieces. Instead of looking at the project as having to build an online community of 100,000 followers, break it down into smaller, short-term goals like 5,000, then 10,000, then 25,000 followers. The smaller chunks can help you to process the goal instead of becoming overwhelmed.
5. Enlist a friend to help - Having someone to help you, whether in the trenches or from afar, is one of the best ways to overcome fear. Knowing that there is someone who believes in you and will help can make your fears lessen quickly. Take a friend with you for your 15-mile run, plant a friend in the front row of your speaking engagement, or have your spouse stay with you at a cocktail party with his/her co-workers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’ll be surprised at how many people want you to succeed!
Give some or all of these strategies a try, and find what works for you. Fear is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can warn us of danger or make us prepare well for an event. So, embrace your fears, and with these strategies, push past them and onto your dreams.
Do you have any other strategies that help you overcome fear?