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10 Guaranteed Ways to Turn Fear into Fire

The fire lives within you, these tools will help bring it out

Earlier this week we discussed the 8 reasons why fear is good for you. This thought process goes against the conventional wisdom that we should avoid fear, instead saying it is wise to move toward fear. To seek it out wherever and whenever we can. The problem though is that once it presents itself, many of us become paralyzed by it. For many, it has the tendency to become a disempowering state as opposed to an empowering driver toward our life purpose. Unfortunately, this trend has given fear a bad name. Now that we have established why this common attitude toward fear is mistaken, here are 10 actionable ways to turn fear into fire so we can actually reap the benefits of it. Each one of these 10 methods will work better or worse, depending on the situation, but all of these methods work:

(This post is long, but this is one of the most valuable posts you will find, so read it all and soak it in, I promise you, it will change your life)

1. Reframe it
Reframing is a powerful tool for shifting the meaning we associate to anything. It is the foundational basis for many of the methods you will find below. Reframing is simply shifting the elicited response we have to an external factor, such as an event, thing or situation. By changing the meaning of that external factor we have the power to change the emotion that it elicits in us. It is nothing more than changing what we focus on about an event. So if your first business fails, instead of looking at it as a failure, you can look at it as a learning opportunity and a chance for growth. The ability to reframe your perspective on anything in life will define whether or not you succeed or fail. It will determine how you deal with life’s challenges and obstacles. Within the context of fear, reframing allows you to shift the meaning you associate to the fear inducing event or thing to something else such as excitement. If you are afraid of public speaking, simply reframe that fear into the excitement of inspiring hundreds with your message. Change the meaning you associate to speaking in your mind. You can even associate it to a time when you felt fear, conquered it and enjoyed it. Maybe you went skydiving and were terrified but did it anyway and loved it. Put yourself in that state when you challenged your fear and came out on top. Then go into your speech with that confidence. That is how I approach many of the challenges I face in my business and in my life. I connect it to when I was most confident, either in the Marines or in the outdoors and I begin to feel unstoppable. Some of the following 9 methods are others ways in which to shift the meaning you associate to situations and reframe your fear.

2. Transform the image in your mind
What is fear? Fear is nothing but a False Evidence Appearing Real. F.E.A.R. When we feel fear, it is usually because we are creating a false reality or image/movie in our heads about the cause of the fear. For example, when people are afraid of flying, more often than not, they have an image in their head of a horrific plane crashing and burning with people dying everywhere, or something to that effect. The first step to transforming this image is to interrupt the state of fear. This can be as simple as thinking of something silly or something that makes you laugh. Ask yourself something completely unrelated to the cause of the fear, so in the case flying. You could ask yourself would I like to eat fondue right now? Suddenly, your mind is now thinking about fondue. (I thought of this because I have been craving fondue for years now) There are hundreds of ways of interrupting the pattern. Google pattern interrupts and you will see some of them. The next step, now that you are out of the state of fear is to visualize a new end result. So, instead of the plane crashing and burning, visualize yourself walking of the plane and reuniting with your family and friends at your destination. That’s it, the image in your head has now changed and the fear is gone. During a recent scuba diving trip, I encountered a student terrified of diving without her mask on. The image in her head was that she couldn’t breathe without her mask. Although untrue (the regulator would still be in her mouth and there was plenty of air in her tank) this image appeared very real in her head. Simply by changing the image in her head, she was now able to dive without her mask and focus on the air coming in through her regulator and enjoy the dive. Simple, but effective.

3. Ask yourself “what’s the worse that could happen?”
Be careful when you use this one. As we just discussed, fear is nothing more than False Evidence Appearing Real. Sometimes that false evidence that appears real, although false, could have a horrific reality associate to it. In the plane scenario, the worse that could happen would be you would die. So in that scenario, don’t use this technique. But, this works great for smaller things in life that do not involve a life or death scenario. For example, let’s say you are terrified of walking up to a beautiful member of the opposite sex and striking up a conversation. Ask yourself, what’s the worse that could happened if you do? They turn away and want nothing to do with you. So what? You didn’t have that person in your life before and you don’t have them in your life now. Nothing has changed. Yet, that fear paralyzes us because we tend to make a perceived outcome appear horrible in our minds. By stepping back and asking “what’s the worse that could happen?” we start to see that even the worse outcome isn’t really that bad, so we might as well act on our fear.

4. Wonder what could happen
In line with asking yourself what’s the worse that could happen, start to wonder what could happen. Turn fear into curiosity. James Stephens, the Irish poet and novelist, said “curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” Curiosity is a very powerful state to be in. Look at children. They are curious about everything around them as they discover what the world is about. They seem to have no fear. That state of wonder is a powerful antidote to paralytic fear. Curiosity promotes a state of enthusiasm. It will transform fear into excitement. In the above scenario of walking up to a member of the opposite sex, instead of filling your head with fear, start wondering what all could happen if you do approach that person. Could that person be your soulmate? Could that person be the person you were destined to be with? Or maybe he or she will slap you in the face. Whatever the outcome, by being curious about it, you start to get excited about what the outcome will be. Positive or negative, it still gets you to wonder. You will then find yourself acting upon the fear turned curiosity just to put that wonder to rest and get an answer as to the outcome of the action.

5. Normalize It
Everyone feels fear. The problem is that those who experience it and become paralyzed by it, even if only once, tend to beat themselves up about it. This only makes the fear worse. During the previously mentioned scuba diving incident, the student not only felt the fear of diving without a mask on, she then felt embarrassed about being afraid and proceeded to beat herself up about being afraid which only made the fear worse. One disempowering state will not remove another. Disempowering states go hand in hand with each other. Normalize your fear by realizing everyone is afraid of something and you are not weak, cowardly, pathetic, or whatever word you use to beat yourself up. Feeling afraid is nothing to be embarrassed about. To normalize your fears, talk to other people about their fears. You will find that it is entirely human. The more people you talk to, you will start to get more comfortable with your fear and you may even find someone with some specific methods for how they manage their fears. This will help reduce the degree to which you let your fears affect you. A fellow blogger has written a great post about this method as well, check it out here.

6. Write down the long-term pain vs. pleasure dynamic of your fear
Write down a list of all the long-term pain that you will experience if you let this fear defeat you. Then write down a list of all the pleasure you will get if you face this fear head on and push past it. For example, say you are afraid of quitting your job and starting your own business, what is the long term pain if you don’t act on this now? What would your life look like 5, 10, 15 years from now? Would you be happy with your life? Then ask yourself the pleasure of starting your business. How great would your life look life if you were in control of your destiny and living life on your terms? What would that mean about you? Ask yourself questions like these and write down the answers. This will usually get you to confront your fears instead of being paralyzed by them. For an in-depth list of pain inducing and pleasure associating questions, download the explorer’s pack and get on your way to moving past fear into your dream life.

7. The NLP phobia cure
This is one of my favorites and is extremely effective. As we said in method number 2, a fear is usually an image that we plant in our mind. In this method we are going to alter that image. Begin by placing yourself in a state of fear. See what you are afraid of. Usually this projection is in color and very vivid. It can also be very fast moving. If you are afraid of spiders, you may see a big spider running very fast toward you. Once you become conscious of the representation, shrink the movie down and start playing it in black and white. Play it until you see the last image in the movie. In your mind, put this black and white movie on a movie screen and see yourself as an audience member watching this movie. Then step out of your body and imagine yourself in the projection booth so that you are now watching yourself watching the final frame in the movie. Now as fast as possible, run the movie backwards from this final image to the start of the movie. The whole movie will be running backwards and in black and white. When you start the backward movie again, do not run the movie forward from the first image to get to the final frame, simply skip to the final frame and run it backward again. Keep doing this several times running the movie from the final image to the first image backwards and in black and white. You will be shocked at how powerful this method is at eliminating phobias. Go ahead, give it a try.

8. F*@k it
This is a classic, but this only works for short-term kinds of fears that cannot be undone once acted upon. So this will not be the best method if you are looking to start your own business because as soon as you hit a roadblock, your fears will come flooding back and overwhelm you. For some fears that once acted upon there is no turning back, this can be a great method. For example, during my 7th time skydiving, even though I had jumped out of that same plane 6 times, I found myself terrified to make the jump. It had been months since my last dive. Perhaps that is why I felt gripped by fear. That’s when the f*@k it method worked great. The door of the plane opened. My fear escalated, I said f*@k it and I leapt. I landed and rushed back into the plane for my 8th dive. That one was a breeze. By pushing past that fear the one time and strengthening that overcoming fear muscle, I no longer felt that fear when I dove again. Sometimes you just have to shut your mind off and take a leap.

9. Break the process down into smaller chunks
For many of your fears, it’s best not to try and conquer them all at one go. At times, it may actually make the fear worse to abide by the sink or swim method. If you are afraid of public speaking, don’t go out and speak in front of a crowd of 1000 people on your first go. Or if you are afraid of the water, going out into the middle of the ocean and jumping right in would not be the best way to overcome your fear. As with the process of goal setting, break down the process of challenging your fears into smaller steps. Create milestones to work toward to overcome your fear and then write down the actions you can take to reach those milestones. Most importantly, take those actions. For public speaking, you can start with speaking in front of your friends and family. Then move to a small toastmasters group in your area. Then to a bigger audience and so on and so forth until you have made that muscle so strong you can now handle anything that comes your way with regards to your fear. While following this process, you can use some of the other methods in this list as well to face your fear while moving toward each milestone.

10. Embrace the oneness of everything on Earth
This is a tough one for many of us. To achieve this truly enlightened state may take years of mental, physical and spiritual devotion. As human beings we tend to compare ourselves with others around us. Ask yourself, while doing so, have you ever come out exactly the same? Either you deem yourself superior or worse. This does nothing for us. Judgement promotes a separation. A removal of us from the rest of the world. If we were to remove judgement, embrace love and foster connection, we would then start to see that we are all in fact connected to one another. Ancient Hindu Scriptures say “Who sees all beings in his own self, and his own self in all beings, loses all fear.” If life and death or our “self” and other “selves” are all united, what is to fear? Why fear public speaking if in fact you are speaking only to yourself? By connecting with all that is around us, you will start to remove the possibility of fear. This final method of turning fear into fire is by far the most advanced, but it is possible. In later posts, I will go into stories of people who have achieved such a state. To begin this journey, you can start by eliminating judgement. Whenever you notice yourself judging other people or things, consciously switch your focus onto something you appreciate and love about those people or things. As Victor Frankl said, “the salvation of man is through love and in love.” Start by finding things to love everywhere you go and in everything you do. Along with this, start meditating. Spend some time away from all distraction and alone with your self. Through this process you will start to see that your “self” is a part of all that is. Achieve that state and nothing will stop you!

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Fearvana inspires us to look beyond our own agonizing experiences
and find the positive side of our lives. ~ The Dalai Lama