There’s an old African proverb quoted in the above video that really speaks to me: “if there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm”. Some people have some rather intimidating external enemies, sure, but our biggest enemy is always that one within ourselves, that voice that tells us we can’t, makes excuses or tells us to quit.
On many days we’re faced with an internal conflict between doing what’s easy and doing what it takes to get ahead, to push that bit further and to achieve the goals we have for ourselves. It doesn’t make us weak or any less of a person, it is part of the human condition and acknowledging that is a good way to make that conscious choice to move forward.
Why do we experience this conflict? It often comes back to fear – fear that we will fail, hurt ourselves or others, live in poverty, get laughed at or a whole host of other personal fears. Fear is a mechanism to try and keep us safe, which of course in some instances can be healthy! But when it comes to taking risks and getting the things done that step you out of your comfort zone and into the zone of maximizing potential, fear is what causes us to choke.
Sure, you could choose to “just play it safe” and keep the status quo in your life, but how many great things were achieved by playing it safe? The entrepreneurs and achievers of this world have this in common: they all took risks. Sometimes of course, they failed, but if you’ve never failed at anything it’s also a sure sign you never stepped out of your own comfort zone and took a risk!
So, if fear is our biggest personal enemy, how do we step up and fight it? The simple answer is with courage.
Courage means taking that leap that is making your palms sweaty and your heart beat rapidly. It means feeling that fear, but doing what needs to be done anyway because it’s your life and you are in charge of your own destiny.
The good news is that scientifically speaking, there are some tested acts of courage which we can practice that will help us to overcome fear. Here are some of those:
- Acknowledge your fears – Researchers from the Pepperdine School of Management found that to act courageously, you must have an understanding of your fears and be able to acknowledge them so that you can then choose to work through them.
- Face your fear – Psychologist Noam Shpancer famously said “when it comes to fear, the only way out is through”. Research has found that if you repeatedly expose yourself to what you fear, your psychological response will be lowered or the fear will be eliminated.
- Use positivity tactics – Studies on high level athletes have found that those who used strategies such as positive affirmations were better able to cope with the pressures of high level competition. It’s all about pushing yourself into the positive where fear inhabits negative space in our lives.