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How to Overcome Your Biggest Enemy in Life: Fear

How to Overcome Your Biggest Enemy in Life: Fear

Have you ever heard someone say “Me? I’m rubbish at mathematics!” or “It’s no good asking me I’ve always struggled with grammar”? These are two perfect examples of the chosen thoughts we allow to hang out in our minds that dismember our goals and our results.

So many of us enable the wrong thoughts in our minds and our brain is only too happy to deliver exactly what we ask for. The damage is caused when we don’t realise we’ve been asking for the wrong things.

You see, our brain is a clever old bunch of cells. It’s highly likely you’ve heard of the exercise where you are asked to not think of a pink elephant… and weirdly there in your head is a pink elephant! Or of Pavlov’s dogs, who could be encouraged to salivate just on hearing a bell ring. Even now I could say to you “Don’t imagine a lemon being cut in half and the juice being squeezed down your throat”, and you’d start to realise “Hey I’m producing more saliva”. How is that possible?

Because our brains WILL deliver what we ask for.

When it comes to performance we have to choose our words carefully. If you appreciate the above and accept that we are easily suggestible creatures, then by nature it stands to reason that I can give you some top tips and tools to help you perform better just based on what words you are choosing to think.

You see, if words can impact what your body does it can also impact the results you achieve, and the standard to which you perform at.

How Fear Screws You Up

How is it that one person can relish the opportunity to stand on a stage in front of 5000 people, and another would rather have their spleen burst before it was their turn? (And trust me as someone who used to have a very physical fear of public speaking and who now adores it and coaches people out of that fear, I really know what that fear is like.) If we allow such a fear to fester and hang out in our minds then guess what that can do to your performance?

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Let’s stick with the public speaking fear since it is still one of the top fears in the world. We are still more scared of speaking than dying. Crazy right?

You are asked to speak to a large audience and the opportunity has the potential to rocket your career. If you fear public speaking then the overriding thoughts are around the fear… instead of the ideal results you want to get.

For instance, instead of thinking:

“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for and it’s going to rocket my success”

You are more likely to be thinking:

“Oh no the biggest opportunity of my life and I’m going to screw it up.”

Now remember our brain likes to keep us happy. So, if you are thinking the first positive thought guess what you are likely to get? And what about the second one?

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“That’s all very well and good Mandie but it’s a fear. It’s real, it’s tangible. It shuts my throat, makes me shake, sweat and I struggle to remember my name let alone an entire speech!” you say.

And from many years’ experience of helping people overcome those fears I know that this is exactly what fear relies on. It relies on you accepting the feelings, and accepting the physicality of it. It relies on you accepting those negative emotions and really experiencing them on a level that causes you to never question them. And that is the key.

To increase your performance success, you have to question your thoughts. Not all fears are obvious. Some can hide out in your subconscious for years and it’s only when you work on them that you become aware of a fear that has been impacting on your success.

Everyone Has Fears, Even Those Who Look So Tough

Don’t believe me?

Only recently I had someone who I’ve admired for a long time on an international level say to me that it was not until they read chapter 3 of my book that they realised something had been impacting their success for years. That something was the action of picking up the phone. How can picking up the phone kill your performance?

Let’s break it down by thinking about what happens if you choose your actions according to your thoughts. So, if you think picking up the phone is going to interrupt someone’s day, make them less likely to say “Yes” and want to hear what you have got to say, are you likely to revert to an email?

On the other hand, what if you accept that you are a valuable person who has every right to speak to someone on the phone because you have something useful to say that could be very relevant and interesting? What are the chances you will pick up the phone?

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So how do you revert to positive thinking and override the fears that damage your performance?

4 Tips to Override Your Fears

Adjust Your Assumptions

What assumptions are you making and are they good or bad for you? For instance, if you assume that mistakes are opportunities to learn, then you will go for it with all your heart. You will trust that even failure has its benefits and use them effectively to power up your performance. On the other hand, if you believe that failure is dangerous and damages your reputation and success then you are likely to shy away from the opportunities that can risk failure. With fear, you have to think like the superhero in a movie. Be prepared to step into situations that you fear with trust that you can do this. You don’t see superhero’s look at the big evil 20-foot bad guy and think “Mmm I don’t think I will protect mankind today, he looks a bit scary.”

Remember No One Really Cares

A big reason that fear can impact your performance and thus success is because we imagine what people are thinking. Ironically, it’s not usually true. We assume that everyone is thinking about us, and yet they are much more likely to be thinking about themselves — “what’s for tea”, “what they are going to get their Mom for her birthday” or “why did I wear these shoes, they’re far too tight”. However, remember that fear relies on negativity holding us in place and so if you just learn to accept that everyone is thinking their own thoughts and are as obsessed with them as you are yours, you can stop allowing incorrect thoughts into your head. And as one business friend said to me once “Mandie, you have no right to the thoughts in other people’s heads.”

Shift Your Focus

Fear loves us to repeat patterns. So, if you have thoughts in your head that say “this won’t work”, or “I’m scared of the end results” — then your brain will do all it can to prove you right.

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Therefore, if you can have a stronger new direction to focus your attention on the fear will reduce and eventually dissipate. For instance, let’s go back to the fear of public speaking (You can replace this fear with one of your own!) If you fear public speaking and focus on what you fear, that is what you will get. On the other hand, if you have a clear goal in sight then that is what you are more likely to get. That means you need to work out what you want. What do you want? What is the goal? Where do you want this to lead? By answering these questions with your true passions and desires your brain has a positive direction to aim for, and not the fear routed patterns of the past.

Don’t Be Afraid of Looking Stupid

Closely connected to the fear of what people think is the fear that you will make a fool of yourself. Thus, if you fear what people think and/or making mistakes and getting it wrong then fear again gets to overpower you. Think about a time you’ve felt stupid for saying or doing something. What happened next? Then answer, “How did that make you feel?” and then from that ask yourself “Did that result in a feeling or an action?” and then answer, “what happened next?” In this way, you can start to build up a picture of the automatic path way connected to this fear. How you fall into old patterns that have not served you powerfully, and allowed fear to hold its power of you. (And yes, this process can be used on any fear, I call this a negative spiral.) Once you build a picture of what is happening in your old state you can learn to see what thoughts and feelings create what actions. For instance, if you stood up for yourself and spoke up and that led to you feeling inferior, did that then lead to you not taking on the project that was offered to you, because you feared getting it wrong? Understanding the thoughts that create the actions means that you then decide to create a new thought, and that will lead to new actions. But again, this really needs a powerful focus and goal to help you achieve.

Ultimately fear is allowed to impact our performance because we’ve learnt to trust fear. Fear is useful in that it keeps us safe, however there aren’t too many woolly mammoths on the streets anymore. So when fear is given too much power it damages our success. Learn to challenge and stop assuming. And most importantly trust that you can do this, you can give yourself all the proof of your successes to tell you this. And I will leave you with this thought: Why do we assume what if we are awesome at something then everyone else can do that too? While if we can’t do something we are idiots because everyone else can do it?

You see, fear really does wish to damage your success. So, it’s time to challenge it.

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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