We all have fear – it’s an emotion that’s as normal as breathing.
The problem is that most people cling to their fears, and are therefore unable to move forward in their lives with necessary change.
I have learned a lot about fear in my life as a professional musician, and I’ve learned that the only difference between people who achieve greatness and those who do not is that the former ditched their fear. Many of the methods I have used to prepare for huge performances have helped me to conquer fear in other areas of life.
Here’s how you can start overcoming fear:
1. Be aware of fear in your life. Before you can begin overcoming fear, you have to admit that you have it. Perhaps fear is your “normal” state of being, and that is quite a bit to overcome all at once. Write down some aspects of your life where have fear; getting them down on paper is important, because trying to simply think them through never works.
2. Stare at fearless people. Fill your brain with images of what you want your “future self” to look like. Connect with as many role models as you can, whether in person, through a book, or online. Use these examples as an energy source to combat your fear.
3. Be objective. Take an interest in investigating your fears. Ask yourself about what thoughts generate your fear, where you feel the fear, and how you react to it. Try to be an objective observer of your own life.
4. Be willing to look stupid. Remember: Wayne Gretzky fell on his tail a ton, and Itzhak Perlman has had horrible performances. Once you are willing to risk the emotional pain of making mistakes, you will shed more fear than you ever imagined. Know that making mistakes will help you obtain information you use to create the correct behaviors, and that everyone who has ever done something great has failed more than once.
5. Adopt a mindset of gratitude. Whenever you feel fear, try to feel grateful instead. I have been performing a lot of solos recently, and it is scary! Instead of freaking out, I have decided to be grateful for the opportunity to communicate musically with so many people, and I know that they are there to genuinely listen to me play and root me on.
6. Seek out teachers. It’s never too late to have a teacher; we are never done learning. Seek out someone who scares you a little—not a polite person who always makes you feel warm and fuzzy. Seek out someone who watches you closely, is brutally honest, and gives clear directions on how you can get better at whatever scares you.
7. Share. How often do we hold the negative in because we are afraid of how others might react? Sharing helps, because you will realize that many people feel the same way as you do, and have stories to share as well. Do you have a fear of success, or a fear of failure? Sharing with someone can help you examine what you truly want from life, and where your fears come from.
8. Embrace struggle. Most of us instinctively avoid struggle, because it feels like failure, and that scares us, but the term “no pain, no gain” holds true. To develop our skills, it is a necessity that we struggle, so we must embrace it. Once we struggle, fear slowly disintegrates.
9. Read. My personal favorite. Reading a good book related to your specific fear can open new doors on how you can get rid of it. I constantly fill my world with motivational and inspirational books on, and related to, the topic I’m dealing with.
10. Use visualization. Imagine yourself in a scary situation without fear. Watch people do things fearlessly that would normally freak you out. Visualize yourself as that person. Create a very clear picture of fearlessness in your mind.
11. Put things in perspective. Putting your negative thoughts in perspective is a huge way to overcome fear. In the grand scheme of life, why are you afraid? While you are freaking out about something, life is moving on without you. Sometimes it’s helpful to remember this.
12. Release control. Of course we want to be in control, but when we relinquish it we tend to free ourselves up. Allow yourself to make mistakes—after all, that’s where learning and growth really happens. We learn from our failures, but to fail we need to release control.
13. Think about the worst case scenario. What’s the worst that could happen? I have crumbled on stage in front of hundreds of people. My wife still loved me; I lived. Life goes on.
14. Look within. What is the root of your fear? Meditate on it. Look inside and ask yourself when the fear started: How far back does your fear go? Did you have an early failure that has stuck with you? Explore it. That’s what life is all about.
Overcoming fear requires a growth mindset; an attitude that we can grow and change if we choose. Nothing is “locked in” forever; we can change. It takes time and practice. Hopefully the tips above will help you begin your journey to ditch fear.