Perhaps the greatest challenge that
you will ever face in life is the
conquest of fear and the development
of the habit of courage. Winston
Churchill once wrote, "Courage is
rightly considered the foremost of
virtues, for upon it, all others depend."
Fear is, and always has been, the greatest
enemy of mankind. When Franklin
D. Roosevelt said, "The only thing we
have to fear is fear itself," he was saying
that the emotion of fear, rather than
the reality of what we fear, is the cause
of the associated anxiety, stress, and
unhappiness. When we develop the
habit of courage and unshakable self-confidence,
a whole new world of possibilities
opens up to us. Just think:
What would you dare to dream, be, or
do if you were not afraid of anything in
the whole world?
Fortunately, the habit of courage can
be learned, just as any other skill is
learned. To do so, we need to go to
work systematically to diminish and
eradicate our fears, while simultaneously
building the kind of courage that
will enable us to deal fearlessly with
the inevitable ups and downs of life.
Syndicated columnist Ann Landers
wrote, "If I were asked to give what I
considered the single most useful bit
of advice for all humanity, it would be
this: Expect trouble as an inevitable
part of life, and when it comes, hold
your head high. Look it squarely in the
eye and say, 'I will be bigger than you.
You cannot defeat me.' " This is the
kind of attitude that leads to victory.
The starting point in overcoming fear
and developing courage is to look at the
factors that predispose us toward fear.
The root source of fear is childhood
conditioning that caused us to experience
two types of fear: the fear of failure,
which causes us to think, I can't, I
can't, I can't; and the fear of rejection,
which causes us to think, I have to, I
have to, I have to.
Based on those fears, we become preoccupied
with the idea of losing our
money, our time, our emotional investment
in a relationship. We become
hypersensitive to the opinions and possible
criticisms of others, sometimes to
the point where we are afraid to do anything
that anyone else might disapprove
of. Our fears tend to paralyze us, holding
us back from taking constructive
action in the direction of our dreams
and goals. We hesitate, we become indecisive,
and we procrastinate; we make
excuses and find reasons not to move
ahead. And finally, we feel frustrated,
caught in the double bind of "I have to,
but I can't" and "I can't, but I have to."
Fear is also caused by ignorance.
When we have limited information,
we tend to be tense and insecure about
the outcome of our actions. Ignorance
causes us to fear change, to fear the
unknown, and to avoid trying anything
new or different. But the reverse
is also true. The very act of gathering
more and more information about a
particular subject causes us to be more
courageous and confident in that area.
There are parts of our life when we
have no fear at all because we feel
knowledgeable and capable of handling
Once you've recognized the factors
that can cause fear, the second step in
overcoming it is to sit down and take
the time to objectively define and analyze
your own fears. At the top of a
sheet of paper, write down the question,
"What am I afraid of?"
Now, before you begin, here's an
important point to remember: All intelligent
people are afraid of something.
It is normal and natural to be concerned
about your physical, emotional,
and financial survival. The courageous
person is not a person who is
unafraid. As Mark Twain said, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery
of fear — not absence of fear."
It is not whether or not you are
afraid. We are all afraid. The question
is, How do you deal with the fear? The
courageous person is simply one who
goes forward in spite of the fear. And
here's something else I've learned:
When you confront your fears and
move toward what you are afraid of,
your fears diminish and your self-esteem
and self-confidence increase.
However, when you avoid the things
you fear, your fears grow until they
begin to control every aspect of your
life. And as your fears increase, your
self-esteem, your self-confidence, and
your self-respect diminish accordingly.
Begin your list of fears by writing
down everything, major and minor,
over which you experience anxiety.
The most common fears, of course, are
those related to failure and rejection,
but be more specific than that.
Some people, compelled by the fear
of failure, invest an enormous amount
of energy justifying or covering up
their mistakes. And some people, compelled
by the fear of rejection, are so
obsessed with how they appear to others
that they seem to have no ability at
all to take independent action. Until
they are absolutely certain that someone
else will approve, they refrain
from doing anything.
Once you have made a list of every
fear that you think may be affecting
your thinking and behavior, organize
the items in order of importance.
Which fear do you feel has the greatest
impact on your thinking or holds you
back more than any other? Which fear
would be number two? And so on.
With regard to your predominant
fear, write the answers to these three
1. How does this fear hold me back
2. How does this fear help me? How
has it helped me in the past?
3. What would be my payoff for
eliminating this fear?
Some years ago, I went through this
exercise and concluded that my
biggest fear was the fear of poverty. I
was afraid of not having enough
money, of being broke, perhaps even of
being destitute. I knew that this fear
had originated during my childhood
because my parents, who grew up during
tough times, had continually worried
about money. My fear was reinforced
when I was broke at various
times during my 20s. I could objectively
assess the origins of that fear, but it
still had a strong hold on me. Even
when I had sufficient money for all my
needs, that fear was always there.
My answer to the question "How
does this fear hold me back in life?"
was that it caused me to be anxious
about taking risks with money. It
caused me to play it safe with regard to
employment. And it caused me to
choose security over opportunity.
My answer to the second question,
"How does this fear help me?," was
that, in order to escape the fear of
poverty, I tended to work much longer
and harder. I was ambitious and determined.
I took much more time to educate
myself on the various ways that
money could be invested. The fear of
poverty was, in effect, driving me
toward financial independence.
When I answered the third question,
"What would be my payoff for eliminating
this fear?," I immediately saw
that I would be willing to take more
risks, I would be more aggressive in
pursuing my financial goals, I could
and would start my own business, and
I would not be so tense and concerned
about spending too much or having
too little. I would no longer be concerned
about the price of everything.
By objectively analyzing my biggest
fear in this way, I was able to begin the
process of eliminating it. You can begin
the process of developing courage and
eliminating fear by engaging in actions
consistent with the behaviors of
courage and self-confidence.
The future belongs to the risk takers,
not the security seekers. Life is perverse
in the sense that the more you
seek security, the less of it you have.
But the more you seek opportunity, the
more likely it is that you will achieve
the security that you desire.
The first and perhaps most important
kind of courage is the courage to
begin, to launch, to step out in faith.
This is the courage to try something
new or different, to move out of your
comfort zone, with no guarantee of
One way to get the courage to begin,
from which everything else flows, is to
plan and prepare thoroughly in
advance. Set clear goals or objectives;
then gather information. Read and
research in your chosen field. Write
out detailed plans of action, and take
the first step.
The second kind of courage is the
courage to endure, to persist, to stay at
it once you have begun. Persistence is
a form of courageous patience, and it is
one of the rarest types of courage.
Courageous patience is the ability to
stand firm after you have taken action
and before you get any feedback or
results from your action. When you
plan your work and work your plan
through with persistence, even in the
face of disappointment and unexpected
setbacks, you will build and develop
the quality of courage within you.
The third type of courage is the
courage to conquer worry — a form of
negative goal setting. When you worry,
you are dwelling upon, talking about,
and vividly imagining exactly what
you don't want to happen. The great
tragedy is that even if the situation you
are worrying about does not materialize,
your health and your emotions
will suffer just the same. And the fact
is that most of the things that people
worry about never happen.
The only real antidote to worry is
purposeful action toward a predetermined
goal or solution. When you get
by doing something to resolve your
problem, you will not have the time or
the mental capacity to worry. And
before you know it, your worrisome
situation will have been resolved.
The master of fear and the development
of courage are essential prerequisites
for a happy, successful life. With
a commitment to acquire the habit of
courage, you will eventually reach the
point at which your fears no longer play
a major role in your decision making.
You will set big, challenging, exciting
goals, and you will have the confidence
of knowing that you can attain
them. You will be able to face every
situation with calmness and self-assurance,
and the key is courage.
Source: A Treasure of Personal Achievement by Brian Tracy