By Seth D. Cohen for Stop.Breathe.Action
Fear. It’s the single trait that all humans share. No matter who we are, or what we believe in, or where we’re from, fear plays a major role in our lives. Everyone deals with fear differently. For some it paralyzes them, for others it motivates them. For most though, fear has a profound impact on our daily lives. But why do we let something that exists only in our mind define who we are?
Last year I had a fear of the rain and bad weather. Yes you just read that correctly, I had a fear of the weather. I wish I could tell you that my fear was public speaking, or flying, or even heights, but no, it was the weather. Why, because when Hurricane Irene flooded my basement and caused leaks throughout my house and the 2011 Halloween snowstorm left me and my family without power for days, I developed an extreme fear of the weather. I dreaded hearing that a big rainstorm was coming my way out of fear of additional flooding. To try and get over this fear I decided to track weather patterns and storms on weather.com so I could know exactly what was headed my way. I was obsessed with watching the local weather radar. Not only did this not make me get over my fear, it actually made it worse.
So how did I get over this fear? Here’s my mental trick that I will now share with you – I decided that it wasn’t about being fearless but it was about fearing less. I realized that if I took extreme measures to try and wipe out this fear completely, it was only going to get worse. These are the steps I followed to fear less:
- No matter how much you fear something, you rarely have any say in the outcome – I realized that no matter how much I agonized over the weather, I had absolutely no control over it. I was never going to change weather patterns.
- Avoidance is not a solution – Fear is inevitable and you need to accept the fact that fear will impact your daily life at some point. Once I realized my fear and that I had no control over the weather, I had to face my fear everyday. I allowed myself to only look at weather.com once per day. Now I barely even check the weather.
- Certainty is not realistic, it’s a naive, limiting thought – Nothing is certain in this life. I had to accept that it wasn’t going to be 75 degrees and sunny everyday. I have no ability to avoid a hurricane or a freak snowstorm. I have to roll with the punches that life gives me. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
- Fear is a gift, use it wisely – When you can face your fears head on, nothing is more satisfying. Facing your fears provides you with amazing growth opportunities. Getting over my weather fear has made me stronger. I have realized that no matter what fear I might have, I can get over it and it will make me better for it.
- It’s fear less not fearless – Ever try quitting a bad habit cold turkey. Does it work? Maybe for a few, but statistics show that more than likely you will return to your bad habit. The same thing applies to fear. It’s not about trying to rid yourself of your fears, it’s about not letting it control your life. It’s about chipping away at fear so that it’s barely present. It’s about not giving fear any power. Fear will always be a part of our lives, it’s inevitable, but if we could all fear less our lives would be far more enjoyable.
Do you want to be remarkable? Do you want to be successful or significant? Fear can destroy your chances of reaching these goals. I wasn’t going to let fear destroy any of my dreams or goals. I made a conscious choice to fear less and I have no regrets. There is no magic formula for ridding yourself of fear, but fearing less is a great start. Don’t let fears limit your life.
Seth D. Cohen (SDC) is the founder of Stop.Breathe.Action. Follow him on twitter @sdcohen.