What stops us from realising our true potential? Fear.
We may have a great new idea or initiative but something gets in the way. The voice in our head. The voice of others inside our head. People tell us that our idea is crazy, that the odds are slim, that people like us do things like this, not like that.
But it must be said that success is impossible without taking the risk, without leaping into uncertainty, without overcoming fear. If we wish to be great, if we wish to realise our potential, we must learn how to conquer fear, or at least rise above it in the moments that matter. Here are five ways to do just that…and to hopefully get a little closer to reaching your true potential.
Define Your Fears
What we fear, we do not exactly know. We never actually define what so worries us. Our fears are not concrete, they are shadows, illusions, refractions. The Podcaster and writer Tim Ferriss has spoken of the exercise of “fear setting”—of defining and articulating the nightmares, anxieties, and doubts that hold us back. Indeed, the ancient roots of this practice go back at least to the Stoics. Seneca wrote about premeditatio malorum, the deliberate meditation on the evils that we might encounter. Undefined fear is sufficient to deter us; the more it is explored, the less power it has over us.
Fear What You Won’t Become
All growth is a leap in the dark. If you’re afraid of that, you’ll never do anything worthwhile. If you pay attention to your fears, you’ll never take that step, make that leap. There’s no way around it—there is no progress without risk. If fear is to be a driving force in your life, fear what you’ll miss. Fear what happens if you don’t act. Fear what they’ll think of you, what you’ll think of yourself, down the road, for having dared so little.
First start with small steps until you build momentum. We would do well to think of that concept when we feel afraid or when we despair in the face of an enormous problem. We don’t need to lead a grand charge. Put aside thoughts of some big gesture. Sometimes the best place to start is somewhere small. Eliminate one problem. Move things on. Write one sentence. Send one email. Make a spark. Then figure out what’s next after that.
Just Do It
How do you get over the fear? Simple, the decorated Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, says to get over fear, you go. You just do. You leap into the dark. It is the only way. Because if you don’t, what looms? Failure. Regret. Shame. A lost opportunity. Any hope of moving forward. Fear wants you to spend the day in deliberation, courage knows you have to get on with it, you have to get going. No one can guarantee safe passage in life, nothing precludes the possibility of failing or dying. But if you don’t go? Well, you ensure failure and suffer a different kind of death. Later, you’re going to wish you did something.
Surround Yourself with Courageous People
When another country called on Sparta for military help, the Spartans wouldn’t send their army. They sent one Spartan commander. This was all it took. Because courage, like fear, is contagious. One person who knows what they are doing, who isn’t afraid, who has a plan is enough to reinforce an outnumbered army, to support a broken system and to calm chaos. And so a single Spartan was all their allies needed. So it goes for you. Courage is contagious. Who are you catching it from?