Let me ask you a question.
What do you think about when you hear the word “fear”? What image do you see? What populates your mind?
If you’re like a lot of people you may think of snakes, spiders, darkness, heights… things that may or may not be dangerous in of itself.
Now, let me ask you another question. What’s the difference between fear and danger?
Hold that thought, because I want to tell you about a fear I once believed I had.
I used to have this fear of being deep under water.
I believe you have to challenge your greatest fears
to reveal a greater strength.
I decided to go to an island off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua to get my scuba diving license.
So picture this, I’m inside of a completely new world. I’ve got my scuba diving gear on, I’m down in the sea, and there’s nothing but fish, endless water, dark dark space and just walls of coral everywhere. So I’m down there, my hearts racing, trying to control my breathing and I glance over to my instructor; he’s about 10 feet away and all he does is points behind me.
So I glance back and there’s this large 7-foot-long monster of a shark coming towards me! I lost it!
What happens when we come face to face with what we fear most?
We stop breathing; we hold our breathe; which leads to the feeling of anxiety. At this point the anxiety we feel is not necessarily a direct result of the original fear…but rather it is a result of you holding your breathe; you are restricting oxygen to your body.
So the shark is coming towards me, it swims past me and I feel the current it generates as it goes past me. I look as the shark continues swimming to my instructor and my instructor casually puts his hand out and he gently strokes the shark as it’s going along.
The shark is now swimming toward my direction, so I tell myself “okay…let me just do this”.
So it goes by me, so I put my hand out and touch the shark as it swims by.
So I did that a couple times and I didn’t die!
Now it turns out this was a nurse shark. They’re not at all dangerous, they don’t eat humans (Neither do most sharks!), they’re more like a pet dog than anything.
In that moment, I stopped holding my breath and I embraced the moment for what it really was, one of the most exciting and memorable experiences of my life; having this giant 7-foot shark engage with me.
Now let’s back up, what is the difference between fear and danger?
Well danger is the awareness of a potential threat; so then what is fear? Fear is nothing more than a feeling we perceive as negative.
It is the feeling of fear, not danger that holds us back.
People are afraid of approaching a person they are attracted to; People fear going to interviews, people fear heights, starting a business, or speaking in front of an audience.
Now do any of those things actually dangerous? Are they actually a threat to you in and of themselves? No! Of course not. There are no saber-toothed cats lurking around the corner trying to get you; which largely relegates fear to a very primitive emotion. While fear has helped us to survive as a species for thousands of years, in this day and age if you don’t have it in check, it’s going to do more harm to you than it will protect you.
Most the time the feeling of fear comes from us being outside of our comfort zone, in a new experiential territory, and what is actually an opportunity, we misdiagnose as a danger or threat.
So how do we get over fear? Well that’s the thing…
“You Don’t Actually Get Over Fear,
You Transmute it into Excitement.”
It’s easier to transmute a feeling than it is to try to get rid of it.
When I was scuba diving, I started breathing, becoming present in the moment and embracing the moment. I started saying to myself “this is exciting!”, “this is an awesome opportunity!” and this completed shifted the way I was thinking about my experience.
The same energy was there, but it went from negative: fear, to positive: excitement. Nothing actually changed in the way my body processed the experience, just the way I was labelling it.
The experience of fear and the experience of excitement produces exact same chemical signals inside your body; your adrenaline starts pumping, your hearts racing, your senses kick into over drive.
See, I learned a long time ago from a guy named Tony Robbins. There is an incredible amount of power in our language. It literally defines the emotion you’re feeling.
“The Way You Declare Your Feelings Determines The Way You Experience it.”
If something scares you a little and you say to yourself “I am scared”, notice how you become more afraid. You reinforce what you’re saying to yourself.
It works the exact same way with any emotion; sadness, happiness, fear… and even love. That’s why two people can have the exact same experience, like sky diving, one would absolutely love it and is excited by the thought of it, and the other person would never do it again and found the experience terrifying.
Now, just to make this perfectly clear, this whole thing about transmuting fear into excitement is about not letting fear hold you back from doing something that you actually want to do.
Try it out in your life and see how it feels. The next time you feel fear,
Remember to Stop, Be Present, Breathe and Embrace the Moment.
“The Consequence of facing your fear, is renewed enlightenment of possibility.” – Adrian Logan