“Do one thing that scares you every day”.
- Eleanor Roosevelt –
The quote above is laminated to Tim Ferris’s desk at home. Tim is the author of “The Four Hour Work Week” and is one of my heroes. I try to take that advice myself and am having more and more success with it every day. If you take that quote as a religious instruction, the way that Tim does, you will find yourself confronting one of lifes most powerful motivators daily: FEAR
Let me start off by saying that I am not one of these guys that thinks fear is the enemy. Fear is not the enemy. Fear serves a powerful evolutionary function. Without it I doubt our species would have survived this long. The problem is not fear itself, as Eleanor’s husband once noted, but rather our reaction to fear.
We learn in high school biology about the fight or flight reflex: that when we are confronted with something that scares us, we are programmed by nature to kill it or flee from it. In todays world where there is much more emphasis placed on safety and comfort than ever before, I would say that most peoples reaction to fear is to flee.
When you begin to think about fear and how it plays out in your life, it is really staggering how much we can be defined by it. We do not ask out the really hot girl or good looking gent because of the fear of rejection. We do not invest our money places that an make us rich because we are afraid of losing it. We do not share our great idea with the boss at work because of fear that he will dismiss it.
The thing is that in every case success is made by those that not only conquer their fear, but actually experience the object of their fear from time to time, but still have the tenacity to move on. Every pick up artist has gotten shot down, only the lonely never get rejected because they never ask. Every rich person I have ever met has lost money on a deal, only the poor never loose money because they never take the risk. Every executive I have ever met has found their place because they overcame their fear and put forth the idea.
When I was younger I was, to be honest, a bit of a pussy. I was scared to fight because I was afraid of getting hit. Eventually, due to circumstances beyond my control, I got hit and hit again until I realized that it wasn’t the end of the world. I gained from it, the courage to fight. When I was younger I was scared of heights, but I wanted to work on the rides as Six Flags. I went to the jetty at Pt Pleasant beach and climbed the tower there over and over again, until it was no big deal. Eventually I climbed it without the ladder, just the scaffolding. Finally, I spent the night up there to get used to the height.
That is one way of dealing with fear, confront it directly and just get used to it. There are other methods.
If you have ever read the book Dune (or saw the movie I suppose) you will probably remember the scene where Paul has to control his fear by repeating a litany:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
Though taken from a work of fiction, this type of meditation is extremely useful. It takes the fear out of the emotional realm and moves it into the analytical. This shift from right to left brain makes it easier to overcome than simple confrontation. By naming it, and declairing a path for it, you gain control.
Breath is another key that operates on the same principle. It is an automatic function that can be taken over easily by the conscious mind. When you are afraid or stressed your breath gets shallow and rapid. By simply willing the breath to slow down to normal, you feedback upon the emotion. If you have any yogis training you can slow down to deeper levels using the vase breath and so on. The topic of breath is of votak importance, and will get its own post here as soon as I have the time.
If you meditate at all, you should be able to dismiss fear as easily as any other distraction. Simply aknowlege it and put it aside. It arises from nothing, and dissipates into nothing like any other conditioned thought.