Fear. What is it good for? Confidence

Over the course of February I spent some time studying confidence in more depth, and its bedfellow, fear. I thought I would share a few key takeaways with you.

Confidence is Earned

You don’t have or require confidence before you do something. You earn it after you have done the thing. The principle here is that confidence is like a “charge” you build up over time by doing more of the things that are just outside of your comfort zone.

Everything that is inside your comfort zone is easy and not challenging, so you probably don’t feel like you need the confidence to do these things. They are automatic. However, you can’t acquire the confidence to do things outside your comfort zone until you have done them for the first time. In reality, you are looking for bravery, or “necessity” as Brendon Burchard calls it.

Think of it like lifting weights at the gym. You don’t have the strength to lift the heavy weights in the beginning, but through smaller, repeated lifts you build the strength over time. Confidence is like strength. You build it over time.

Fear can Overwhelm Necessity

Fear is an important emotion. It is there to guide us. Originally it was all about avoiding being eaten, but now it has become part of everyday life and we can get to fear our own shadow. This is not healthy and high levels of fear stop us in our tracks. It undermines the bravery we need, sucks it empty of energy, and negates our necessity.

It is important to understand the two parts of the equation – fear and necessity – as the confidence (or momentum) equation looks like this:

Necessity – Fear = Bravery

If the fear is greater (or equal to) the necessity then the net bravery is zero or less. When this happens, you will not act. You are too scared. When your fear is lower than your necessity you have the bravery to act.

Confidence Scale

The key is to identify your necessity for a particular thing on a scale of 1-10 (10 being highly desirable) and your fear of doing the thing (using the same scale).

How you identify these numbers depends on your preferred style. You may meditate on each factor and intuit the numbers. You could journal each factor and work out the details of what you need and what’s causing you fear. There are some great prompts for this – more on these in another post.

Once you have your numbers, it’s time to move them up and down so you gain the bravery capacity to act. One technique here that is very popular today is EFT, also called Tapping. Alex Ortner (one of the coaches of GrowthDay) has an app for that and it helps you focus on the issue and desensitise it to adjust your scores. Tapping can also be applied to almost any area you need help with, so it’s worth checking out. There are other methods you can work with here including meditation, journaling, coaching (naturally), visualisation, and more.

A Test of Bravery

The Cost of Inaction

If you are journaling, one key question you can ask yourself is “What is the cost of inaction?

This can help dig deep into the necessity of the challenge ahead. It has been proven that it is easier to take action towards a goal if the map of the territory is mapped out. It doesn’t have to be super-detailed, and it need not be totally accurate, but if you have a map of the territory of the fear/necessity it becomes easier to act with bravery and move towards the goal.

The act of planning, journaling, reflecting and reviewing the work ahead affects your necessity and fear scores.

Might, Could, Will

Another tool to use with your journal is the Might/Could/Will fear analysis.

We often become paralysed by fear because of all of the things we think might happen. Our brains are wired to keep us safe (in our comfort zone) so can create all sorts of scenarios to scare us into staying there, when the fear might be telling us that this is the thing we need to do (more on this below). One way to help handle this is to write a list of your fears on a piece of paper (or a document) then identify them as might happen, could happen, and will happen. Be honest.

The fears in the “might happen” are usually things that are so left-field that they can usually be ignored. It’s just your amygdala (aka Monkey Brain) getting excited and creating too many scenarios. The ones in the “could happen” are worth looking at in more depth to see if they are really issues. And the “will happen” (usually a very small list) are ones you can work out your territory maps for.

This becomes a classic “risk assessment” exercise – which means you are assigning a number from 1-10 (10 being most likely) that the specific fear could happen. Instead of having ALL your fears swirling in your head and feeling like you’re in a 9 or 10 fear whirlwind, you have a list of 1s, 2s, 3s, etc which becomes a lot more manageable and lowers the overall real fear that is there.

Understanding Fear’s Message

Marie Forleo says this in her excellent book Everything is Figureoutable:

Spending too much time trying to “defeat” or “eliminate” your fear will only keep you stuck. Fear will be your companion as long as you’re alive. It doesn’t matter how much experience, success, or fame you acquire. You will always feel fear. Don’t get seduced into thinking some magical day will arrive when you no longer feel afraid and only then will you be ready to act. That’s not how it works. Action is the antidote to fear. Action metabolises it. The trick is allowing yourself to feel fear while you take action.

She then goes on to provide a simple exercise to better understand what this fear is for – is it to stop you or to tell you to move forwards.

Here’s how it works. Get in a comfortable seated or standing position. Close your eyes. Take a few deep, full breaths (at least three) and allow your mind to settle. Be present in your body. Then ask yourself the following question and pay careful attention to your instant, involuntary interior body reaction: Does saying yes to this make me feel expansive or contracted?

If you work on instinct and have a high necessity, this may be enough for you. But if your necessity is low and your fear is higher this can provide another tool to help you manage the fear element and decide based on the other analyses above) how to best proceed for you.

Wrapping Up

You will never make the fear go away, but using these tools can help you understand the fear itself, quantify it, raise your necessity for addressing it and move forward towards a more fulfilled life despite the fear.

I hope you found this useful and if you are facing a challenging issue feel free to reach out.

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