Fear Factor: it’s more than just maggots!

Question: If you take 40 gallons of putrid smelling cod liver oil, thousands of maggots and cow hooves, and put them together what do you have?
Answer: A huge mess. Fear Factor contestant Sean Cashman figured that out the hard way when he participated in a relay of bobbing in cod liver oil for cow hooves, transferring the cow hooves to a box of maggots, grabbing a mouthful of maggots, and transferring them to a scale, again and again and again.

Wow! While this is not my preferred method for overcoming fear, I admit to being pretty impressed. Once you’ve survived a mouthful of maggots, public speaking and asking your boss for a raise seem pretty tame. But even if you haven’t attained this particular height of personal bravery, you may find less gross but more pertinent fears holding you back. Should your bumper sticker say “I Brake for Success”? Or perhaps “I Brake for Serious Relationships”? Or the ever popular (and my personal favorite) “I Brake for Big Opportunities”?

Fears often take the guise of perfectly reasonable excuses, justifiable postponements, and well-developed obstacles. What big opportunity passed you by while you mulled it over in agonizing detail? Did you not apply for that promotion because you worried you might not be good enough? Have you been sitting on a great idea, waiting for just the right moment? Did you avoid asking for what you wanted because someone might have said no? What would have been lost if you had pushed through your fear? What could have been gained?

We tend to surround ourselves with the safe environment that we have created over time, framed by established habits, comfortable relationships, and known success paths. Highly successful people purposefully move out of their comfort zone and challenge their fears, daring the maggots to try and stop them. We often think these people are fearless, when in actuality they have learned to tap into the energy and sense of self-power that results from embracing and overcoming fear.

Embracing fear is a process, so start small and work your way up. Saying ‘No’ to the expectations of others can be just as exhilarating as bungee-jumping the Grand Canyon and certainly easier to swallow than a maggot! So try the tips below and the next time opportunity knocks, don’t let fear answer the door.

Tips for embracing fear:

First, know that fear is just a feeling
• Fear is a sensation, just like hunger and joy. Fear only has the power that we choose to give it.
• Reconsider what your fear means to you. Write down your normal reaction and thought pattern when you encounter personal fear. At the time it crops up, do you see it as fear or something more justifiable? How do you feel when you give in to it?
• Rather than a reason to stop, fear is a signal that you are pushing your envelope and trying to grow. Write down what your reaction would be if you were able to see fear in this light. How would you choose to acknowledge fear but keep moving?

Second, know where fear is getting in your way
• Look back in the past year and write down three instances where fear, perhaps masked as something else, has “protected” you from a potential opportunity. For each instance, what might have happened (good or bad) if you had pursed the opportunity instead.
• Susan Jeffers, author of Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, says, “At the bottom of every one of your fears is the fear that you can’t handle what life may bring you…All you have to do to diminish your fear is to develop more trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way”

Third, take some action outside of your comfort zone
• Fear will not go away by just thinking about it. Fear thrives on analysis paralysis, but it does not like action. Action diminishes fear. What actions need to happen to conquer your fear?
• Make a verbal commitment of action to someone you trust. Ask them to support you and hold you accountable. I have no less than six people holding me accountable for creating a demo tape for a new television show. Their accountability is more persistent than my fear!

Know that you are not alone; everyone experiences fear. It comes in many forms and wears many guises. A final truth from Susan Jeffers: “Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.”

Author's Bio: 

Teresa Pool is the President and founder of Transitions for Life. She is a professional coach with a passion for assisting individuals in achieving their full potential. Her specialty is re-energizing careers; guiding executives, professionals and business owners through transformational change. Transitions for Life focuses on motivating change, supporting leaders through significant challenges, diverting career burnout, preparing for promotion and improving performance at all levels.