Conquering Fear

I was recently asked to be a guest on the radio show of one of my mentors and friends, world-renowned physician, Dr. Leonard Coldwell. He’s had a hard life and I respect him less so for what he has accomplished professionally and more so for what he has overcome personally. On the show, he asked me to share some of the success principles by which I live and teach my own clients.  While many elements factor into achievement and success, I was compelled to highlight the idea that most of us fail by way of never trying in the first place. We let fear rule our lives.

I was able to conquer fear in my own life when I learned to differentiate between actual fear and self-doubt. While it would be simple to tell someone that the path to success is to feel fear but proceed anyway, this is not my message.

Fear is a gift and it is often fear that keeps us safe and in some cases, alive. Fear is NOT to be ignored and I would never advise that you do so. Listening to fear is how I’ve lived in New York City for over 20 years without incident. If you are walking in Central Park in the dark and sense that you’re being trailed by a gang of teenagers, I would not only advise that you heed your fear, but also that you run swiftly.

The kind of “fear” that blunts progress and hampers success is really self-doubt and lack of self-confidence. We “fear” making fools of ourselves or failing in front of others. The problem is that if you fear failure, you won’t have many opportunities to succeed. You will live inside the comfortable confines of your life and never challenge yourself to do anything unless success is all but guaranteed. There’s a saying, “You can’t hit the ball if you’re not on the field swinging the bat.” These are simple but very true words.

What has helped me immensely is to learn to embrace failure and see it as a learning experience rather than a waste of time or something about which I should feel embarrassed. While failing in front of others is not fun, to fail is to be human and by the same token, it’s something we all have in common.

If I wrote a book entitled, My Failures and My Successes, the book would be filled with pages and pages of failures and only a short chapter outlining my successes. This is because each failure taught me lessons I had to learn to eventually succeed. Very few of us are excellent at what we do from the beginning. We jump in and learn as we go.

If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to try–whether it’s competing in a triathlon, running for local office, going back to school, transforming your body, trying your hand at public speaking–whatever it may be–never, I say NEVER, let fear–or self-doubt, I should say–hold you back. The absolute worst thing that could happen is that you fail miserably–but so what? Who among us has never failed miserably? You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep moving forward.

Remind yourself that, in these circumstances, fear is really only lack of self-confidence and the fear is a defense mechanism we employ in an attempt to save ourselves embarrassment and shame in the event that we do fail. When I am really scared to do something, I know that it’s exactly the thing I need to do to grow. We feel fear when we move out of our comfort zone, but it’s only outside of our comfort zone that we grow. I would hate to come to the end of my life and have a list of things that I wish I had done. I would much rather have a list of failed attempts and the rich experiences that come from living fully.

Decide that in 2014 you’re going to conquer fear and do at least one thing that, until now, has been too frightening or overwhelming to tackle. Whether you succeed or fail, when you face something you fear you’ll feel more powerful for having tried. Feeling powerful builds self-confidence, and when you’re more confident you’ll be more inclined to try things that stretch you beyond your self-imposed limitations.

Be a NO-LIMITS person and get on with your life!

Shine on, Tara Marie