The Big Idea
Courageous and fearless are not the same thing.
Questions I Answer
- How can I be more fearless?
- What steps can I take to not be so afraid?
- How can I be more confident?
- How can I get rid of my fears?
Actions to Take
- Make the decision that you are the one in control of your fears. Define your fears to minimize negative outcomes and get back on track.
Key Topics in the Show
The difference between survival fear and perception fear
What you need to know about being fearless vs. having courage
Why fear can be healthy for you and how to use it to your advantage
5 steps for managing fear in any situation
Welcome to season nine of Productivity Paradox with Tanya Dalton, a podcast focused on using productivity, not just to do more, but to achieve what’s most important to you. Join Tanya has she kicks off the New Year with a special season titled, New Year True You.
And now here’s your host Tanya Dalton.
Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, and this is episode 115, Finding the Courage to Go After What You Really Want. So today, we’re going to talk about courage and how to pursue something you’re really passionate about. I’m going to talk about two different kinds of fears that we tend to have, how you can assess those fears, and then manage them in order to reach your goals. I’m also going to get into the subtle nuances between being fearless and having courage. They may seem like they’re the same, but really, they’re not.
But before we dive into today’s show, I want to give a quick shout-out to today’s sponsor. Gusto offers HR support as well as easy-to-run payroll services for small businesses around the country, including mine. A little later on in today’s episode, I’ll be sharing how you can get three months free, so be sure to stay tuned to get those details in a little bit.
Okay, so first thing’s first. You can’t talk about overcoming fear unless you define it in the first place. So, what is fear? Well, fear is actually an essential part of life. It’s usually a very helpful signal that tells us when to run away from a dangerous animal or flee from a threatening situation. But in today’s world, fear isn’t always about physical danger. Sometimes it can be internal, and it can be a little mental. It can be in our heads.
So basically, I like to think that there are two categories of fear, survival fears and perception fears. So, let’s break down each of those. Survival fears are things that are more physical in nature, and they have a more serious outcome, like fear of death,
or fear of losing loved ones, or fear of falling from a high place, like a mountain and being seriously injured, a fear of losing your job and being unable to pay for rent or to buy food. These are reasonable things to be afraid of, and generally, there’s a worst case scenario associated with the situation that tends to be a little more physically substantial.
Perception fears, on the other hand, are generally fears that aren’t as bad as we’re making them out to be. I like to say fear in this case stands for false evidence appearing real. The outcomes aren’t usually as detrimental or physically harmful in
nature. So, some examples of this type of fear would be fear of missing out, otherwise known as FOMO, fear of embarrassment, fear of being emotionally hurt.
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Sometimes, we can mistake our perception fears for physical ones. For example, we might fear losing our job and think of that as a dire situation, but the reality is you’re probably not going to be out on the streets the day after you get laid off, scrounging for food in order to survive. Is it scary to lose your job? Absolutely. And you have every right to have fears about that sort of thing, but there are ways to get out of that situation. It’s not really a life or death thing. So, maybe the fear of losing your job is more about the embarrassment of losing that job rather than the fear of not being able to eat. You see, it’s all about perspective when we look at our fears. It’s still a very valid fear, but it’s not nearly as catastrophic as starving or being on the streets homeless.
Or let’s say maybe you think that if you have to go up on stage and give a presentation to a room full of strangers you are absolutely 100% going to die. But, I’m pretty sure no one has ever died from getting up and speaking to a room full of people. So, that’s another fear of perception. It’s really the fear of not doing well, or the fear of fumbling over your words, or appearing nervous more than it is the fear of death by public speaking. I looked it up, and there’s no such thing as death by public speaking, I promise. So, it’s all in how we look at our fears.
So here’s the question, is fear good or is it bad? That’s a really good question because the answer is really not so simple. It’s not so cut and dry. Sometimes fear can be negative and can stop you in your tracks and keep you from being productive or making progress. And then again, sometimes it can be positive and really push you forward. Again, sometimes it’s about how we look at things.
So, let’s talk through a few different scenarios. For many people, fear of failure can lead to analysis paralysis, and you can’t make a decision in order to move forward and to make progress, so you find yourself sort of feeling stuck, not sure what to do or what direction to head in. So, that’s not good. That’s a fear that’s not moving you in a favorable direction. In fact, that fear is moving you in no direction whatsoever. Or maybe that fear of missing out is causing you to spend way too much time perusing social media instead of dedicating time to writing that novel you’ve always dreamed of working on. That fear of missing out, it’s pulling you towards an unproductive path of sitting on the couch.
Maybe fear of learning something new is stopping you from launching a new business you’ve always wanted to start because you’re afraid you won’t know how to deal with certain aspects of running a business. Maybe it pushes you outside of your
comfort zone. That fear is leaving you at the starting blocks before you even start the race. So, not a good fear either.
But on the other hand, fear isn’t always bad. It doesn’t always pull us into a negative place or cause us to feel like we’re in quicksand. Sometimes it’s a little bit of fear that can push us to do just the opposite. Fear can be a positive thing that jumpstarts us or pushes us forward.
Just a few episodes ago, we talked briefly about how fear can sometimes motivate us instead of stopping us dead in our tracks, for example, fear of the alternative, like fear of not taking action on something or not making an impact on something you would hope to influence. Sometimes, the fear of not accomplishing
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something can actually be an amazing motivator to get you off your tail and get you going. Fear of not accomplishing that goal of writing a novel, that might be what you need to sway you to sit down, make a plan, and take action. Or maybe fear of letting a friend down can push you to get up off that couch and get to the gym to meet her every morning so you can work on those health and wellness goals you’ve set for yourself. That’s a great fear because that fear is nudging you to forge ahead. That’s a good thing with our accountability partners, right?
Sometimes, quite honestly, we need a little bit of fear to slow us down just enough so we don’t make those hasty or rash decisions that we’ll regret later on. In some cases, a little bit of healthy fear can actually cause us to pause and think things through a little bit more. And maybe that extra consideration can be beneficial before we proceed. The key here is that you just don’t want to have too much fear where it completely immobilizes you or makes you feel like you can’t move. Instead, let’s make fear work for us. Sometimes a little stomach-wrenching fear can be beneficial by motivating you to prepare.
So, let me give you a quick example. Let’s go back to our public speaking scenario. Let’s say you are terrified of public speaking, but you agree to deliver a work presentation to a group of colleagues. Chances are the fear you have of looking bad or
appearing nervous might actually push you to practice and prepare properly. If you don’t want to seem jittery and unprepared, maybe you’ll rehearse a little bit more until you feel calm and comfortable, or maybe it inspires you to watch some inspirational coaching videos to enhance your presentation skills. In the end, that fear might elevate you to a better place, and that is when we can use fear to our own benefit. Without fear, you don’t get that exhilaration of confronting a frightening situation or the confidence that results from overcoming it. A little healthy fear is actually desirable when it’s used productively. As long as fear is not in the driver’s seat and in control, it can be a really valuable part of your journey.
As Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It’s interesting to think of fearing fear, but it’s true. When you give it too much power, when you give fear the control, it can be debilitating. It can cause us to freeze
in place and not make any progress or can influence us to play it a little too safe at the expense of our dreams. So, think of fear like Goldilocks. You don’t want too much or too little. You need to be just right. Just a little bit of fear can be really good for us. Too much can stymie us.
So now that we’ve talked about some different forms of fear, how can you overcome fear? We’re going to talk about that in just a minute. But first, I want to give a quick word for today’s podcast sponsor, Gusto. Gusto is a great tool for small business owners that helps with payroll, benefits, and all your HR needs. It’s easy because you sign up, store, and organize employee documents all online. And, Gusto automatically files and pays all state, local, and federal payroll taxes. So, that is one less thing to think about, or should I say stress about. They provide expert HR support that’s just a phone call away to help you answer any questions you might have. I know because I am a Gusto user myself. Gusto has very generously offered our podcast listeners three months free once you set up and run your first payroll. Simply go to gusto.com/paradox to take advantage of this great tool.
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Okay, let’s get back to talking about fear. How can you manage fear and not let it be in the driver’s seat? How do you control it instead of letting it control you? Well, the key here to conquering fear is that it’s really up to you, especially when it comes to those perception fears. You have to make the decision that you are the one in control. You have to decide to not let it stop you from doing something that you’re passionate about.
One strategy for overcoming fear is to use a misdirection method. Basically, that means occupying your mind with something else instead of letting that fear consume and overwhelm your thoughts. Let your mind focus on something trivial or far away from the perceived fear so that you’re redirecting your energies away from your anxieties that are causing that fear.
Now, let me give you a quick example, because let’s say you have a fear of flying. If you know you can be overcome by these fears, find something to distract you and to pass the time while you’re on the flight that steers your attention away from the situation that’s causing you this anxiety. So, some suggestions that I’ve read to help divert attention away from the fear of flying is to watch a movie or listen to an audio book that fills up the flight time with a story that temporarily distract you away from reality.
I’ve also heard of the suggestion of wearing something uncomfortable. Now, that seems crazy, right? But think about it. Your focus on that flight is going to be on that itchy sweater or those pants that are just one size too small instead of the flight
itself. Or even think about doing something like drinking some chamomile tea, listening to some calming music, putting on an eye mask. All of these techniques are ways to redirect your energies away from the fear itself. So really, we’re wanting to occupy our mind with other thoughts. It’s really as simple as what a magician does, a little sleight of hand in your mind.
So, another thing to consider when you’re facing your fears head on is that you must first be mindful of it. Being aware of your fear and then assessing the situation, that’s really the first step in figuring out a plan to work around it or to use that fear to motivate you. I have a free worksheet for you to use, and you can download that at inkwellpress.com/podcast if you go under episode 115. This worksheet is based off of Tim Ferriss’ five steps to managing fear. You can use that worksheet to help you deconstruct your fears and then figure out a game plan. So, let me just walk you really quickly through those five steps.
So, the first step is to define the risk. At the top of the worksheet, you write down the risk that you’re thinking about. Pretty easy, right? Step two, define the worst case scenarios. So below that section where you write down the risk, there are three columns. In the first column, you write down all of the worst case scenarios that could happen if that risk that listed at the top of the page happens. Now, I want you to be as specific as you can and try to write down as many scenarios as you can think of. And then you’re ready for step three, minimize negative outcomes. So in the second column of the worksheet, write down what you think you could do to minimize the chance of each of those scenarios that you listed in the first column. What could you do to make sure they’re not as bad?
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And then, the fourth step is to get back on track. In that third and final column, write down a plan for what you could do if the negative outcome in column one actually happened. How would you get back on course? And here’s the key, there’s always a way to get back on course. I promise you there always is. So, that leads us to the fifth step, which is rehearse that fear. The last step is to play out or even rehearse some of these fears as a way to realize that maybe your worst case scenarios really aren’t as bad as you think.
So for example, let’s say that you’ve listed the risk of starting your own small business, and one of the worst case scenarios of starting your own business might be that you wouldn’t have the financial means to pay for your current home or your apartment, and maybe you’d have to live with your sister, and her husband, and her kids for a few months until the business gets going. Well, that might sound like, you know, “Oh, gosh. That’s terrible that you wouldn’t be able to pay for your apartment.” But, is that scenario all that bad? In fact, you could even test it out and go stay with your sister and her family for a few days or even for a week and see if it’s really as dire as you perceive. My guess is that it’s a worst case scenario you probably would be willing to tolerate, and maybe that realization will help tamp down some of those fears that you have. Assessing and analyzing your fears really does help you realize that a lot of these worst case scenarios that are running wild through our head are actually just minor inconveniences at best. Doing an activity like this worksheet, that helps you feel a little more in control of your fears, and it helps you to realize there are always ways to get around some of these worst case scenarios.
Looking fear in the face and giving it a name makes it easier to knock down. Acknowledge your fears. It’s okay. We all have them. Having fears doesn’t make you weak. It can actually make you stronger. And through doing an exercise like this, you really can feel a little more confident about your fear.
So speaking of confidence, I want to take just a second to talk about having courage versus being fearless, because I see that word fearless being thrown around an awful lot, that we should be a little more fearless. And many people think that it’s
the same thing. And now, while they both have to do with facing fear, they’re actually quite different.
Being fearless means you have an absence of fear. Literally, you have no fear. And I’m sure in your life there are some things that you truly don’t fear. Take driving, for example. Maybe you’ve been driving for so long that getting behind the wheel and jumping on the highway, that’s no longer a scary task like it was when you were 16, and you were borrowing your mom’s car, and you just got your license last week. That was really, really scary. Or maybe there are other areas of your life where you feel completely comfortable, and safe, and in control. So in some instances, yeah, you might be absolutely fearless. Embrace those things. Because in life, we can’t be a hundred percent fearless all the time. None of us are superheroes. Fear helps make us better and safer decision makers, and it keeps us out of harm’s way. It forces us to trust our instincts. So, it’s a protective mechanism, really.
Now, in situations where you’re not fearless, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a shot at overcoming the fears you have. In fact, that’s actually where courage comes in.
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Sometimes you just need a little courage to face a fear head on and overcome whatever is standing in your way.
Soldiers aren’t fearless. They are brave. They have courage. They know there is a frightening situation ahead of them, and having a little bit of fear is what keeps them safe. They have the strength to face those fears, and they look at those dangers ahead of them and they forge ahead to complete their missions. That’s what makes soldier so amazing, is that they do have that fear, and yet they push forward, they overcome it, and go in anyways.
So, we don’t have to be super heroes. We’re okay having some fear. We just have to think like them. We have to think like soldiers. Look fear straight in the eye, go in with a good plan, push it aside, and just go for it. That’s what I want you to take away from today’s episode. I want you to stop worrying about the fears going on in your head. Stop running through all those worst case scenarios that maybe are running wild through the hallways of your head and start realizing that it’s okay to have those fears. It’s okay to be a little bit scared. But, look that fear in the eye and decide, is that fear real or is it just a perception? Is it something in my head? Because truly, when you overcome your fears, that’s when confidence comes in, and that’s when it gets really exciting.
So, I hope today’s episode has really helped you to see fear a little bit differently. It’s not always a bad thing to have fear. And I think we all have that ability to overcome our fears if we just take a little time to analyze things and see that there are paths and opportunities to get around those obstacles. So, take hold of that fear.
Shove it in the glove box because I want you in the driver’s seat. I want you to be in control so you can go after what you really want because you are completely capable of it. Push that fear aside, and keep moving forward.
Now, don’t forget to grab that free download I’ve got for you to help you work through those steps of managing your fear. Just go to inkwellpress.com/podcast and look under episode 115. And next week, we’re going to continue this idea, this exploration of courage and fear with my interview with Sarah Herron. Now, you might recognize Sarah from her time on The Bachelor where she had to learn how to love herself before she could learn to love others. So, I’m really excited with how this ties in with our season on New Year, True You. And trust me, you don’t want to miss that episode because it is an amazing interview. So until next time, have a beautiful and productive week.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox. To get free access to Tanya’s valuable checklist, five minutes to peak productivity, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/podcast.