How to Become Fear(Less)Oct 01, 2022
While fear is an important evolutionary mechanism that can help protect you in some situations, it can also hold you back from living fully and reaching your highest potential. Therefore, while you shouldn’t seek to eliminate fear entirely, finding ways to reduce the types of fear that may be having a negative impact on your life can help you unlock possibilities and feel greater happiness.
As a biologist and stress expert, Dr. Rebecca Heiss – our guest in Episode 111 of The MINDSet Game® podcast – has an in-depth understanding of fear in both its helpful and harmful forms. She is also the author of the newly acclaimed book, Instinct: Rewire Your Brain with Science-Backed Solutions to Increase Productivity and Achieve Success, the founder and CEO of the 360-review mobile application icueity™, and a highly sought-after professional speaker. In this episode, Rebecca delves into the positive and negative sides of fear and offers strategies for how to become fear(less).
What does it mean to be fear(less)?
Rebecca explains that she places (less) in parentheses because the goal is not to avoid fear completely, but rather to sort through your fears in order to separate those that may be beneficial from those that are holding you back. Our ancient ancestors lived in dangerous environments where their lives were constantly at risk, so humans developed neuropathways to keep us on alert to potential threats. In the modern era, these neuropathways often perceive threats as more significant than they really are, which can cause us to have fears of things like failure or rejection that can be debilitating at times.
How can you become fear(less)?
Rebecca suggests the “ABCs” of lessening fear – a simple process that can help you edit the powerful stories in your brain that may be fueling your fears:
A – awareness and asking questions. Become aware of the stories you’re telling yourself, and ask what the worst-case scenario is surrounding your fear. Typically, the thing you are fearing is not an existential threat.
B – breath. While you’ve probably heard about the importance of pausing to take a breath when you’re feeling stressed, Rebecca guides us through a specific type of breath called a physiological sigh, which helps return you to a calmer state and signals to your brain that you’re not actually in danger.
C – curiosity. Rebecca explains that curiosity and fear cannot coexist in your brain, so to get out of a fear state, simply name the thing you are afraid of and engage your curiosity.
How can you alleviate fears about things that may happen in the future?
Rebecca explains that fears of the future are driven by the stories we tell ourselves, and we often waste time and energy feeling anxious rather than focusing on accomplishing our goals. In addition to the ABC method, she suggests journaling about your fears and anxieties. This creates a record of what you feared at different points in life, which you can then look back on and often realize that those worst fears never came to fruition.
The gifts of fear
Rebecca says that while fear can be harmful, it can also offer unique gifts. For example, if you’re feeling afraid, it may indicate that you are on the brink of something exciting or that you’re involved with something you care about deeply. If you find yourself hesitating to pursue something because you’re worried about the outcome, ask yourself instead, “What is the cost of inaction?” Rebecca says that in situations like these, the only fear worth paying attention to is the fear of regretting something you didn’t do.
Why it’s important for leaders to work on overcoming their fears
While it may not be possible to help others become fear(less) – the onus is on each individual to work on revising their own stories – fear and other emotional states can spread easily among groups of people, because humans are a social species. Therefore, it’s particularly important for those who lead others to overcome their own fears and strive to radiate positive energy. Since leaders are influential in setting the tone for their teams, a leader who is fearful or unhappy is likely to trigger those same emotions in others.
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