Is Fear Holding You Back?

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Recently, I met up with a client who told me that he is afraid of making a change and taking a chance to change his job even though he knows he needs to, because by staying where he is, it will “Drain the happiness, joy and peace out of his life”. Those were the words that he described. I have known him to be a very consistent, diligent, committed individual, however, because of his kind-hearted nature, he was bullied by his demanding boss who plays favourites and some manipulative colleagues who play office politics.

Feeling despondent, my client said:  “I have stayed silent and endured the pain of being constantly bullied because I am afraid of ruffling the feathers of my boss and colleagues. I wish I just had the courage to do something about my situation.”

My client is not alone; we as humans have the propensity to take the road of least resistance and we are wired for caution. We try to avoid conflict. We do our best to keep things the same, even though the situation calls for an urgent change. Our yearning for security and certainty fights against our desire to pursue our passion and growth.

“If only I was as courageous as X”. We have this conversation in our mind so often, but courage is not something only a lucky few are blessed with. Each of us is capable of taking control of our life and we can have courage to make a change, whether it’s in our work, relationship or personal life.

We only need to flex the courage muscle.

I know this because I spent most of my life learning how to muster courage and fight against fear that for over two decades had robbed me of my peace, joy, and happiness. I have frequently felt like a prisoner yearning to be set free. My challenges involved situations similar to those of my client. I was too afraid to ‘rock the boat’ and it wasn’t until I was tested beyond my limit, that I discovered my courage muscle. It was very challenging in the beginning, but just like strengthening core muscles when doing a consistent workout, to build up my courage muscle I had to be consistent in taking calculated risks in spite of my fear.

As scared as I was to leave my job that was robbing me of peace and joy for several years, I knew deep within my heart that if I didn’t have the courage fight against my fear, I would run the bigger risk of looking back with much regret. I am still learning, but now that I have left, I am very much at peace and am truly happy. What I found to be true is that if you use your courage muscle often, you will slowly shrink your fear. Fear will not go away completely; from time to time you will find its presence, but if you build your courage muscle strongly enough, your strength in courage will weaken your fear, making things easier for you to manage.

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Here are some tips which I found useful to flex my courage muscle; I hope it will serve you well also :

1) Identify your key motivation

It is important to first know your WHY. Having the courage to take calculated risks demands you to be clear about why you are doing it in the first place.

Often we are too focused on what we will lose, rather than what we might gain. We need to ask ourselves, what are we willing to sacrifice? Be it our status, reputation, ego or vulnerability, are we willing to lay them on the line? Only when our deep “hunger” for something goes beyond the need for safety and security, can we then rise above the fears that were ingrained to protect us from uncertainty.

2) Embrace change

Change is never easy: It is extremely uncomfortable, as it requires getting out of the familiarity of the known for the uncertainty of the unknown. It’s why so many people choose to go through their lives staying in jobs that rob their peace and happiness, or in relationships that leave them in emotional (and sometimes physical) pain. People choose what is most certain now because they are afraid of the possibility they might end up worse off than they were before.

3) Chunk it down

Once upon a time, I told myself I needed to lose 10 kilos in 5 months. I tried, but I failed.10 kilos in 5 months felt intimidating and made me feel unmotivated after two months, because I was so focused on the big number that I needed to lose. However, when I changed my strategy, I managed better. Gradually, I was able to achieve my goal. I make it a point to lose 2 kilos in one month. At the end of 5 months, I was able to reach my 10 kilos goal. To achieve a 2 kilo goal 5 times, makes it easier to manage and makes a person feel more motivated to achieve that goal.

Often we will get overwhelmed by the size of the goal between where we are and where we want to be. I am speaking from my personal experience, however, I have also learnt that it is important to set incremental goals and celebrate each win before I proceed to the next.

Think big, start small and have the courage and discipline to trade the conventional safe route of the known for the possibilities towards enhanced growth that inspire you most.

The most important lesson that I have learnt about courage is that we must not wait until we know everything before we take action. It is better to look back one year from now with the action you have taken and the lessons learnt, than to have waited for an opportunity to show itself.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by your big goals, chunk your goals down into manageable sizes and take incremental steps. Take baby steps but always be consistent. Make it a daily routine to do the small things that will lead you to achieving your bigger goals. It is far better to be moving gradually than to feel overwhelmed, do nothing or stay stuck.

In a nutshell, realise that the courage and strength are in YOU all along. You have the power to flex your courage muscle and bring your bravest self to achieve your biggest goals! You have the capacity for greatness within YOU! Use it well and you will be pleasantly surprised by what you can accomplish!

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