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Five Things We Can Learn from Facing our Fears

Five Things We Can Learn from Facing our Fears

I love to workout, but sometimes the aches and pains of advancing years make me want to throw in the towel and quit. But rolling over and playing dead is not my style. Recently, I started switching up my routine from P90x to Jillian Michaels. Her workout videos are no joke. I love what she says in one of her tapes: “Most people don’t show up in their own lives.”

If that wasn’t enough of a kick in the pants, I read another article by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt, she quoted her cycling instructor as saying, “Remember, ultimately you are in control of your workout! I can motivate you to push harder. I can try to keep you from giving up, but in the end, it’s all up to you.” Wow.

All this is so true and it speaks to the lack of ownership we take in so many areas of our lives. Sometimes we don’t show up because we’re tired, lack effective leadership skills, or we’re passive.

As a therapist, I see people giving up control over important areas of their lives all the time. Passivity can originate from fears of facing conflict, how we’re genetically wired, fears of less than favorable outcomes when we act assertively, and a whole host of other things.

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For example, I work with a lot of clients who struggle with eating disorders. These folks can loose their identity in the battle with food when it’s not even about the food! It’s about controlling something in their lives when everything else seems unmanageable. They really want to take charge of something, but they aren’t taking the authority where it counts. Often times they are afraid of sitting with difficult feelings or managing difficult situations — so they hide.

Then there are those folks, myself included, who struggle with anxiety issues. We give anxiety the power to control our emotions. Others give husbands, bosses, or friends the power to decide because they feel worn out or defeated by the relationship. We all struggle in different ways, but the lack of owning up to personal responsibility, the fear of showing up in your own life, and the consequences all this brings in each of our lives can be summed up in two words: conflict and frustration.

If you are sick of not being authentic and want to take control of life by facing your fears, the following suggestions can help get you going.

How to Start Showing Up

The first step is to decide how you want your life to look? Then look at what’s holding you back. What are your fears? What obstacles do you believe you’re facing? Showing up in your own life doesn’t mean you have it all together, it just means you’re willing to set goals, plan, face obstacles head on, be assertive, and get honest with yourself and others. Failure is OK. So many notable and famous people have failed. The key is to learn and grow through your mistakes.

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Face your Fears

Being scared doesn’t have to mean you lack courage; it’s going ahead and facing the giants anyway. Courage means you step out and take a risk. Behind all our fears are beliefs, ways we have interpreted and given the events of life meaning. For my ED clients, they don’t starve, over exercise, or binge and purge because they like it, they do it because they hold beliefs that having a thin or in shape body will give them the acceptance, adequacy and value/worth they crave. Dig deep and look at your insecurities. Decide what beliefs are driving your fears.

Small Steps

The old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is true. Don’t try to make too many changes at once. You will become overwhelmed. Instead, decide what’s timely, what’s attainable, and what’s realistic. Ask yourself the following questions:

What is the state of my readiness for change in any particular area?

How badly do I want what I say I want?

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How hard am I willing to work?

What incentive do I have for pursuing change?

How do I get what I want or need?

First Steps toward Change

Now that you know what you want, what do you need to do? Explore strategies for getting where you want to go. Ask yourself what actions will get you where you want to go. Where can you start? What do you need to do right away and what can you do later? Then list strategies to action by examining what strategies will actually be most helpful and best for your situation.

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Craft a Plan

A plan gives you a road map. Plans are crafted to drive you to action. They keep us from being overwhelmed and help us find useful ways to get our goals accomplished. Ask yourself what actions will get you to the desired goal? Also consider how you can plan for obstacles and be flexible if plans have to change or be modified.

These strategies will help you change your life if you are intentional about putting them into practice. Don’t wait. Start now and take ownership of your life. You’ll feel empowered by stepping out and risking change. Remember, it’s all up to you!

More by this author

Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Last Updated on October 20, 2020

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

Bonus: Think Like a Rhino

More Tips for Procrastinators to Start Taking Action

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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