Fear is a paralyzing beast that lives in all of us. It spends every hour of every day working to keep us locked inside the soul-sucking cage we call our comfort box. Dramatic? Maybe. Just don’t dismiss the impact fear can have on your life and how fear can stop you from doing the amazing things you’re capable of.
But how can we conquer this fear? How can we be comfortable in an environment where we expose ourselves to fear? We get there by believing our true job is to expose ourselves to fear. We get there by believing that you’ll only be good at your job once you’re comfortable enough to not only dance with fear, but move beyond fear. Here, in the world where we are comfortable with fear, is where innovation, creativity, and infectious positive energy live.
Over time, I’ve identified a few tangible ways to get more comfortable overcoming fear. You’re guaranteed to feel awkward as you try these activities, but that’s a sign of personal growth. And I promise that over time these activities will become more comfortable. And as I like to say: with discomfort comes growth.
Ask for a Discount on Your Coffee.
Next time you head to Starbucks (or better yet, Urban Bean), ask the barista for a discount. Don’t worry about what the barista thinks. Don’t worry about what the person behind you in line thinks. Just concentrate on getting that discount and after doing this a few times, you might find yourself comfortable doing something that used you used to spur fear.
Sell a stranger a $5 bill…for $1.
You want to talk about a low risk environment? Unless you can’t stomach losing $4, there’s absolutely no risk in approaching a stranger (sorry – posting this offer on Facebook doesn’t cut it) and trying to convince them to stop, take a $1 bill out of their wallet, and trade you the $1 for the $5. Even when you’re adding value for others, it can feel awkward…but the sooner you get comfortable dancing with fear, the better you’ll be. I promise it’s worth the $4 investment.
Go to Lunch with a Challenging Relative.
If you don’t have a challenging family member, I have absolutely nothing to offer you. If, however, by some crazy twist of fate, you have someone in your family that’s tough to deal with, call them up and find a time to get lunch? Forget the excuse that it’s an hour drive or that you’re a vegetarian and he’s a carnivore. Make it happen. Sleigh the beast of fear by engaging over lunch. Who know – your relationship might even improve as a result…but I don’t pretend to know how to master family dynamics. That’s Dr. Phil’s house.
The Good Guy Discount.
The next time you go shopping, ask for a good guy discount. Walk into Nordstrom, pick out that amazing blender you’ve always dreamed of, and then ask for a 10% discount. Why should you get it for less? Well, you’re a good guy, right? Just say that…and let the clerk know that they are also a good guy. It worked for the producers of This American Life. Well, sort of.
Engage at a Soup Kitchen.
There’s a reason I used the word engage rather than volunteer. What’s that? The biggest value in spending time at a soup kitchen comes not from preparing or serving food, but from engaging with the guests at the table. So, go ahead and volunteer – but be sure to sit with the guests for an hour. Spending most of your time asking questions about their story and really listening. When you’re done spend an hour to write for an hour about whatever comes to mind. No matter the circumstances, dealing with a new group of people can be uncomfortable. But remind yourself that the more you put yourself in these situations – the less fear you’ll fear the next time.
See a Shrink.
Having lived in lots of cities, I’ve noticed that people in smaller cities tend to be more skeptical of psychologists and psychiatrists than their big city counterparts. Maybe it’s the density and stress in big cities – I really don’t know. What I do know is that humans are generally afraid to express their inner thoughts and fears to themselves and ever more fearful of exploring these thoughts and emotions with someone else. Get past your fear and explore what makes you tick.
Ask a Cabbie About His Business.
Next time you’re in a cab, dig into the driver’s business model. Ask about the business, how often he works, why he works, which hotel bellhops are crooked, and his goals for the next six months. Ask lots of questions and get comfortable engaging with different people you don’t know.
Write and Share. Every Day.
Explore your thoughts everyday with fingers & keyboard or paper and pen. Then share them. Everyday. If you’re worried about making a mistake, just remember that you’ll never make a mistake if you don’t do anything. If you’re worried about personal growth and conquering fear – start publishing, even if it’s just posting a paragraph on your Facebook feed everyday. As Seth Godin explains, the second best thing to zero is something better than bad. So don’t worry about being bad, worry about not dancing with your fear.
There’s countless ways to stretch yourself and the key is to get in a pattern of recognizing fear, dancing with fear, and ultimately conquering fear.
The ball is in your court – will you dance with the emotion that’s been controlling your life or will you sit down and let fear dictate how you live your life?
I see a lot of dancing in your future.