Fear. We know the feeling – tight chest, sweaty palms, short breaths and rapid heartbeat. It is an essential part of the animal instinct to survive. It protects us from fighting a predator we can’t beat, and from stepping into potentially dangerous, unknown territory. Where does it come into play in the modern world? In the modern world, fear is not always the protective instinct it was intended to be.

Danger doesn’t have to be present to elicit a fear response. People have imaginative minds, and we quickly learn to recognize stimuli we believe will bring an unwelcome response. Have you ever been nervous to complete a task, and when you complete it you realize the danger you feared wasn’t even present? What happened was an imagined fear; as a form of protection your body responded with a fear response. That’s not uncommon.

Fear can be rooted in a variety of stimuli. It is most commonly rooted in one of the following concerns: Being wrong, not being good enough, missing out, or being victimized. Without question, many people will avoid those outcomes if possible. But does the desire to avoid them outweigh the potential benefits you’re missing out on? If you weren’t afraid of being wrong, would you speak up more often? If you weren’t afraid of being good enough, would you pick up that hobby you’ve always wanted to do? In a modern world, fear can manifest in ways that limit us from our potential.

The good news is that you’re not stuck. Just as fears can be learned, they can be unlearned.

  1. Acknowledge the fear – This is an important first step to overcoming a fear that is holding you back. The more specific the better. If a whole situation is causing fear, it can be hard to pinpoint the specific thing that is causing it. Ask yourself why you have made the choices you have and be honest with yourself about the thing you’re shying away from.

  2. Question the fear – Once you’ve pinpointed the fear, it is time to question it and the actions it has caused. What has it held you back from completing? How have your actions come across to others? Not participating in that business meeting may have come across as aloof, not nervous about being wrong. Ask yourself where it is coming from and where you would like to be if this fear wasn’t present.

  3. Determine your move – What was your answer when you asked yourself where you wanted to be? Go there. Here’s the key: This move is about you. No one else needs you to make this move more than you do, so your plan should align with your own values. Think of the answers you’ve come up with so far and go from there.

  4. Make your move – Go ahead, take that step. Remember when you learned how to ride a bike and you couldn’t believe that gravity would let you stay upright until you took off the training wheels and successfully rode that bike? Sure, the fear of not being good enough was present, but it turns out you were good enough. Remember that and remember you are good enough.