How to Overcome Fear

Want to become the most incredible, unstoppable version of yourself?

I’m not talking about the usual ‘self-help’ stuff. This goes beyond
being a little better with the opposite sex, or being a little more
productive.

Want to take on all new challenges, explore new frontiers, grow
and transform yourself?

Then the answer is to overcome your fear. Your fear is what is
holding you back. Your fear is what is making you less capable
and less formidable. And your fear is what is taking away from
your happiness and your fulfillment.

It’s time we destroyed fear once and for all and unlocked our full potential.

THE SAMURAI CODE

If we want to learn how to really conquer fear, then we can turn to
some examples from history. Some of the most fearless,
formidable warriors of all were the samurai. So how did they
achieve this complete lack of fear?

According to legend, there was a technique that the samurai
would practice right before battle in order to eliminate their fear.
To do this, they would vividly imagine every possible way that
they could be killed. They would imagine being impaled,
dismembered and decapitated.

Then they would focus on accepting these possibilities and
coming to terms with them. They would become okay with a
horrific and brutal death.
The samurai were actually a very morbid and fatalistic bunch. The
bushido code explained that it was an honour to die in battle and
that they should constantly keep their mind on death.
You’d think this would make them more fearful but paradoxically,
it empowered them to be the completely ruthless, fearless
warriors that they were. This makes sense: if you fear death, then
you will fear life.

If the samurai have accepted the worst thing that could happen to
them and if they have come to terms with it, then what reason
have they to be afraid?

Now imagine fighting someone who has zero fear of death: who is
willing to put themselves at risk, to launch 100% into a movement
and not be concerned for the potential outcome. They would be
devastating.

The good news is that we live in a much less dangerous time and
you probably don’t need to come to terms with your death in quite
the same way. But we can take this same notion and we can look
at ways to apply it to our own lives.

LEARNING FROM THE STOICS

Interestingly, stoic philosophers took a similar worldview when it
came to their fears. Stoics believed that the secret to happiness
was to be prepared for all the worst possible outcomes and to live
inside those possibilities. They thought that blind optimism was
one of the quickest ways to leave yourself miserable and
disappointed.

Think about it: if you constantly expect the worst and get the best,
then you are going to find yourself feeling either pleasantly
surprised or getting what you expect.
If you constantly expect the best and get the worst, you are going
to be consistently disappointed.

If you accept that negative things happen and you’ve prepared for
them, then there is no reason not to take chances and risks.
And there is a beauty in things going wrong. The saddest points
of our lives are rich with emotion because we have lost things we
cared about. The only way to avoid that is to lived a bland and
unexciting life. The moments when we have felt sacred for our
lives have been the times our biology and psychology were tested
and we had to use our wits and our courage to survive.

The stoics pointed out that the times we are most likely to curse
the heavens are the times that we are shocked. For instance, you
don’t swear when it starts to rain – this is a normal occurrence
and something we anticipate. You swear when you burn your
hand because you were surprised.
If you expect things to go wrong, they don’t catch you out.

FEAR SETTING

Tim Ferriss is the author who wrote The Four Hour Workweek.
This is a book about finding ways to make your job fit around your
lifestyle, instead of having your lifestyle fit around your work. This
means deciding what you want from life and then creating a
career that will work within that context.

Tim explains that many of us will remain stuck in jobs we hate and
living lives that we find unrewarding because we’re scared of what
will happen if we take a chance.

If we go travelling, our partners might leave us. If we take up a
new career, then we might fail and end up bankrupt and destitute.
If we look for a new job, we might get turned down by everyone.
Fear keeps us frozen and prevents us from moving forward. We
are naturally risk averse which means we’d rather cling on to what
little we have rather than go forward to win the big prizes.
To get around this, Tim borrowed the concepts from stoic
philosophers and formalized them into a process that anyone
could use to get over their crippling fears.

The process goes as so:

1. First, identify the goal or thing you would like to change.
Let’s say you want to quit your job and start your own
business.

2. Next, write down all of the things you are afraid of and all of
the things that could go wrong. First, your partner might think
you are irresponsible and they might leave you. Second,
your new business might fail and you’ll be left with debt.
Third, your house might get repossessed. Fourth, you might
end up vagrant. Fifth, your friends might laugh at you. Sixth,
it might all go to plan but you find you hate your new position
even more. You get the idea.

3. Now score each of those things on how honestly likely they
are to happen. Would your partner really leave you? It’s
unlikely unless there are problems in your marriage to begin
with, so we can give that a ‘2’. Would you end up destitute or
would you probably find another job, even if it’s a step down
from what you were doing before? Give that one a ‘3’.

4. Next: do these things really matter? Score them 1-10. If your
friends judge you… who cares?

5. Now, you’re going to go through that list again and you’re
going to write down all the ways you could cope with the
things that go wrong. These are your contingency plans and
the things that you could do to cope. For instance, if you
ended up broke you could get benefits, you could dip into
your savings, you could ask your parents for help, you could
take on a part time job. If your partner left you, you could
fulfill that dream of travelling the world.

6. Then go through the list another time. This time, write down
all the ways you can mitigate the risk so that it is less likely
to happen. Worried about getting into debt? Then write a
business model that doesn’t involve a big upfront expense
and bootstrap your way to success. Worried about leaving
your job? Then start your business in your free time first.

Now you’re going to do something else: you’re going to think
about the worst case scenario if you don’t follow through with your
plan. That might be that you end up stuck in a job you hate. That one
day you’ll be 80 years old and you’ll look back on your life and
feel that you never made anything of it. That your body and your
mind atrophied from lack of challenge or experience.
What’s worse? I know how I feel!

And focus on what we discussed on that section on stoicism: bad
things will happen. You can’t possibly avoid all bad things
happening.  Meanwhile, you are only responsible for your own emotions. You
can’t make everyone happy all of the time so don’t even try. What
you should focus on is accepting this reality and then just doing
what you need to for your own emotional and psychological
wellbeing in the meantime.

This is why Tim also has the mantra that you ‘don’t ask for
permission, ask for forgiveness’. If your partner is going to be
unhappy that you travel, that you take up a business… so be it.
You can’t live without taking chances because of someone else
your whole life or you will be filled with resentment. And you could
die tomorrow, or lose your legs in a car accident. Maybe your
partner might run off with another man/woman!

How they react to your decision is up to them. But you can’t let
that define your actions.

You can’t hold onto things just the way they are. You can’t
prevent bad things from happening. All you can do is live life to its
fullest and richest right now. That’s why you have to take those
chances.

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