Let’s face it, there will always be things we fear in life. Some of us fear the obvious “biggies” like heights, spiders, fires, or flying. However, many of us develop fears around things that shouldn’t hinder us but often do. Do you fear rejection? Taking risks? Failure? Success?
All of us have the tendency to form “comfort zones” around ourselves: boundaries between what makes us feel comfortable and uncomfortable. Comfort zones are not always bad. Sometimes they can prevent us from doing something stupid or reckless. Most often, however, our comfort zones are built on a belief that may or may not be true. If you’ve experienced a particularly painful rejection in the past, you might create a comfort zone that will prevent you from “sticking your neck out there” and being rejected again. In this case, the comfort zone itself isn’t the problem. The underlying belief that you will be rejected again is the problem.
Just because you’ve been rejected in the past does not mean you will be rejected again in the future. That particular comfort zone will cause you to act in ways that are counterproductive to your own success in life. You will dread meeting new people, getting involved in relationships, or even applying for new jobs. Deep inside, part of you will be expecting to be rejected again, and you will do whatever you can to limit the possibility of that happening. Pain isn’t fun to experience, and it’s amazing how our minds will avoid it at all costs!
Maybe you’re not even aware of most of your comfort zones. Take a look at your life as it is right now. Are you making as much money as you’d like? Are you happy with your job? Do you love meeting new people and getting to know them? Are you able to set new goals for yourself and achieve them? If you answered yes to these questions, you probably aren’t being hindered in any way by your comfort zones. If you answered no to any of these questions, you might have some issues to work through.
Here is a simple way to discover if your fears are holding you back: make a list of the worst possible things you can imagine happening. What are your deepest fears? What aspects of your life don’t you enjoy? And why? If you don’t enjoy meeting new people, ask yourself why that is. What is the worst thing you can imagine happening regarding meeting someone new? Be honest with yourself. You don’t have to show this list to anyone.
Once you know what you are truly afraid of, ask yourself what the consequences would be if your worst fear were to be realized. And could you live with those consequences? Using the rejection example again, what would be the consequences of being rejected again? Would you be able to live with that? I think you’ll be surprised at how small most of the consequences are, and how easily we could live with them if we had to.
Fear has a way of making itself much bigger in our minds than it is in reality! We work ourselves into a sweat, terrified of the “what ifs” — when in fact, the outcome would be no big deal really. As with most other things, we’d simply pick ourselves up and continue on our way.
Once you know what your fears are, and you understand and accept the consequences, immediately do the thing you fear most. Yes, that’s right, I’m encouraging you to step out of your comfort zones! Refuse to let fear control you. Tell your fear, “Thanks for trying to protect me, but I’m going to do it anyway.” And then just do it. Then do it again. And again. The first few times you step out of your comfort zones, you WILL be uncomfortable. Expect that and accept it. Fear won’t vanish overnight. But it will go away after your mind understands that the fear is groundless.
Now, just because you conquer your fears and expand your comfort zones doesn’t mean you should become reckless either. There is a big difference between blindly leaping into the unknown, and taking a calculated risk. Before acting, take a few minutes to think about the action you want to take, consider the consequences, and ask if you’re willing to accept them. If you are, go for it. If you’re not, that’s all right! Don’t feel like you have to push yourself beyond what you’d be willing to accept. You can put the issue on the back burner for a while and reconsider it later.
The point is to stop letting fear make your decisions and start making them yourself. It will take some time to get used to this new way of thinking, but before long you’ll automatically begin questioning your fear and stop letting it control you. Once that happens, there is no telling the levels of success and happiness you can reach!