This week I wanted to post about fear and how it can greatly limit our potential but when used correctly can also be a very powerful motivator. Here’s to a week of channeling your fears!

Feeling afraid, there’s no feeling like it. It is real and powerful. It creates intense physical sensations that cause our brains to scream RETREAT! or FIGHT! It is also useful because it keeps us alert and keeps us safe. It is the emotion of fear and it has been one of my greatest adversaries. Growing up, I was never once accused of being a major risk taker. I was not interested in being adventurous or exploratory. While the thoughts entered my mind to take on risks, once they were spoken, when I actually gave them life, others usually took the charge while I found 1 or 53 reasons I could not partake in my own foolish and dangerous ideas. I remember being afraid to try the half-pipe on my skateboard, terrified of going on roller coasters and the thought of doing the big Washington D.C. field trip for school didn’t enter my realm of possibility. For whatever reason, I was very much controlled by my fears.

I’ll never forget a specific incident that occurred over 13 years ago. I was studying martial arts and my instructor recognized me as one of the more studious, and athletic technicians. He wanted me to participate in a tournament to demonstrate weapons and empty hand forms as well as to spar opponents. Now, this martial art is not one of the traditional martial arts you will think of when I say things like “tournament” and “sparring”. I say this because, it’s important to note, this was the first time since I started studying that entering a tournament was mentioned. The idea terrified me. Even though I knew my forms very well and I was holding my own sparring black belts, the idea of being “tested” in a bigger arena made me doubt myself. I chose not to participate. I could tell my instructor was disappointed but understanding. I did attend the tournament to show my support for those that were able to conquer their fears. I will never forget the feelings I had when I realized the only people I would have truly been competing against were my peers. The other schools that entered the tournament were just not as prepared as we were. My peers, many of them not as crisp with their forms, won trophy after trophy. My peers, that I bested in several sparring matches, picked up their trophies too. Yet, I can still vividly remember the crippling sensations of fear as I visualized myself getting pummeled by some Bruce Lee like opponent or letting a baton loose and striking a judge while demonstrating a form. Fear took me out of the tournament before it started. Fear cost me trophies, personal success and bragging rights.

One of my best friends, on the other hand, seemed to have been born with a higher threshold for fear. I remember him getting on the biggest, fastest roller coasters, sky diving, and driving a motorcycle that was 2 sizes too big for him and scary fast. He would take a road trip to Florida with a “I’ll figure it out as I go” attitude. To this day he’s still taking risks and being adventurous. Does he experience fear? Of course, but he does not allow fear to be a deciding factor in his goals and aspirations. When I finally adopted the same mindset and made a commitment to take action in spite of fear, I was able to take full control of my life and implement lasting change. As I began to work on myself and learned what my fears were and why they existed, I started to truly understand the limitations that fear had created in my life. Once I placed my focus on what my fears cost me, the motivation to overcome the fears seemed to blossom. I actually felt angry because I was now associating the embarrassment of missing out on life’s adventures with my own inability to transcend fears. I now see fear, doubt and worry for what they truly are; imagined catastrophes. I remind people all the time to only focus on what they have control over. When I do this it helps ground me closer to reality and get further away from imagined and often exaggerated catastrophes. When I am feeling fearful, I can effectively deal with the emotion because I now understand that I am literally using my imagination to contemplate a disastrous outcome to a situation. Having this awareness allows me to move forward, experience the physical sensations being caused by the fear and ultimately overcome the feeling. The best part about learning how to overcome fear is the true sense of liberation. To set the record straight, yes I was a fearful kid but I still had some amazing experiences and many came when I mustered up enough courage to do something that scared me.

I hope you understand that fear is a natural emotion and can, at times, be a very logical response and very helpful. It is when we dwell too much on our fears and begin creating scenarios that don’t exist that works against us. Many of you may have the goal to step out on your own. To start your own business and to stop working for others. Fear might tell you that this is not possible. Fear will want you to play the “What If” game. Well, the “What If” game works the other way too. What if you succeed? What if you become wildly successful beyond your dreams? What if you’re able to stop working for others and become your own boss? In order to start you need to address your fears.

I continue to have fears to this day. Do you remember my adventurous friend I told you about? He and I recently completed a physically and mentally grueling obstacle course. We had to accept and embrace fear on the spot so we could continue to move forward. It is the culmination of practice that continues to chip away at my fear and move me toward liberation. While I accept and embrace fear as a part of the equation that keeps me sharp, I am able to continually move forward and develop myself to new levels and plateaus. Life is much more exciting now that I have learned to use my fear as a powerful motivator to live a more rewarding life!

Author's Bio: 

Jason Magill is a respected Licensed Professional Counselor that focuses on behavior modification to help men, women and children achieve goals. He is a husband and father of three. He specializes in working with children and adolescents but started his career working with adults in Chicago, IL. He co-founded, with his wife, Salus Personal Solutions to offer others a way to find the sound advice they desperately seek without the many barriers that often get in the way.