How to overcome fear and be your best self

There is a saying that everything you want is on the other side of fear.

It’s quite an inconvenient truth. We prefer to tell ourselves that it’s other people’s fault we aren’t where we want to be. That the world is against us.

Take for example the expression, ‘I’m having a bad day.’ There is an implication that things outside of your control are going wrong for you. It’s not your fault. You’re a victim of circumstances.

The trouble is that it’s also quite disempowering, because having a good day is not up to you either.

In the longer term, you might blame your unhappiness on a boss who mistreats you, a job that requires long hours and high stress, a partner who doesn’t treat you with love and respect, a health condition that won’t go away…

Personally, I find that the more I would love something in my life to change, the harder it is to believe that it’s within my control to change it.

Last year, realising that not daring to go after what I wanted was making me feel stuck, small and unfulfilled, I set myself a challenge to do something every day for 50 days that I thought I would probably not succeed at. I called it 50 Days of Failure.

By nature of the fact that I didn’t think I would succeed, it required courage, determination and self-belief to even try. Indeed, I did fail at many of the things I tried. I didn’t manage to lie on the floor of Victoria station for two minutes; I managed just over one before being told to move on. But it was fun having a go!

I didn’t manage to sell a mindfulness session to a stranger in McDonald’s. My attempt to pitch three documentary ideas to the BBC ended in about five minutes, and before I knew it, I was back outside the building.

But my big fear — how excruciatingly awful it would feel to fail — never materialised. The lesson I need to relearn every day is it’s almost always worse in my imagination than it is in reality.

I did surprise myself by succeeding at some of the things I did. I had people laughing all the way through my five minutes of stand up comedy. I managed to walk in a straight line up and down Oxford Street without moving to get out of anybody’s way. But the goal that seemed the most too-good-to-be-true, was earning ‘£10k in May.’

I had built up almost £10k of credit card debt through the process of setting up my business and was starting to pay it off, but it seemed like it would take a long time.

Before I set the target, I never dared to imagine that I could pay it off in one month, but that’s exactly what happened. It’s amazing how, if you do allow for the fact that it’s possible, the mind gets to work thinking of how to do it, noticing and creating opportunities that it wouldn’t have done otherwise.

I hadn’t dared before because I feared that I didn’t have the ability; I feared it would mean making too many sacrifices to earn that much; I feared what other people who earned less than that would think of me; I feared the disappointment of trying and failing.

But having done it, and seeing that those were all falsehoods, I hoped that I would just be able to sustain my trajectory of increased income. I sat back, had a relaxed summer of guilt-free retreats, holidays and festivals, and lost momentum.

I no longer had the goal or the accountability (I was posting about my challenges every day on Facebook), so my drive and daring evaporated. Your comfort zone just seems so cosy and safe! The problem is though, in my experience, the longer you stay in your comfort zone, the more uncomfortable it becomes, the less excitement you experience, and the more predictable and dull life is.

And I built up debt again. It turns out just writing down a goal and hoping it will somehow happen by itself doesn’t work.

So I’ve set myself the challenge again: £10k this month. This time, I set myself the challenge with a group of people who have also set themselves goals for the month, and we’re helping each other to do it.

I’ve been reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and he talks a lot about the power of really believing that it’s possible, visualising it happening and using affirmations to reprogramme your subconscious mind.

It might sound a bit woo-woo, but when I meditated and pictured myself earning the money, I started coming up with so many ideas about how to do it, which I wrote down and am working through.

If you feel moved by the idea of facing your fears to go after what you really want, come to an event I’m speaking at called How to Overcome Fear and Be Your Best Self on Tuesday 26 November.

You can also book a coaching session to get 1–2–1 support. In my experience, goal-setting and accountability are crucial aspects of overcoming fear to be your best self, and this is what I will give you.

I’ll end with this quote that inspires me every time I read it:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back; always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man would have dreamed would come his way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.’”

- W.H. Murray, in The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, 1951.