The following is an edited excerpt from Mastery Of The Mind. Check it out if you are looking for some help on learning lasting habits and tools you can use to fight off things like procrastination, anxiety, fear, and jealousy.
I have talked about progressive desensitization (the ladder method) as a fast and simple means of getting over fear.
Basically, instead of beating yourself up about being scared of doing something (I’ve been there MANY times), you start off with something small related to what you accomplish and work your way up to the end goal. The point is that you are happier taking steps to facing your fears compared to spinning in your head and doing nothing, and you’re also much kinder to yourself in the process. I’ve talked about it mainly in the context of approaching people and dating.
And this is great for planning ahead – it’s a structured way to face your fears.
But what happens if you are out living your life, and you want to do something RIGHT THEN but you feel afraid to do it? Are you going to get out a notebook and create a fear ladder? Well I guess you could, but that’s kind of impractical…
Note that if you really have never conquered a fear, you can’t expect to really be able to magically conquer it in the moment.
But if you’ve tackled it before and are now having issues, or are just feeling a bit uncomfortable, here are 5 tips you can use to push yourself, which I refer to as SIHAP:
First, the longer you wait to do something, the greater the sense of anticipation, the more stories your mind builds about what MIGHT happen, the more mental resistance there is, and the more nervous you feel. The faster you do the thing you are afraid of, the better.
Example: As a guy, don’t just sit and wait to approach a girl. This is where the often quoted “3 second rule” comes from, e.g., that you should go up to a girl within 3 seconds of seeing her or your mind will come up with excuses as to why you shouldn’t do it (“She looks busy“, “She probably has a boyfriend“, “She probably isn’t into guys with X“, where X is some random characteristic about you).
Think about times when you’ve done something you’ve been afraid of. Maybe there is something that is WAY scarier than what you are thinking of doing right now. For example, I’ve traveled across Europe for two months by myself, getting lost, dealing with stressful situations, and making friends along the way. Comparing that to just going to a new city for a day, I can say, “Well what I did before was WAY harder and had A LOT more risk involved, and I survived. I’m sure I can handle this and it will be OK.” Indenting is a process of comparison.
Have I Accomplished This Before?
If you have done a similar thing before (i.e., you have pushed through the fear already), then logically you should be able to do it again! Once you do it, you can always do it – as long as you are still you, even if you FEEL more scared. Feeling more scared is just an emotion in the moment, and you can use your logical brain to reason out that since you survived before, you can survive again.
Affirmations can also be known as “self-soothing”. Tell yourself “I can handle it,” “I’ll be OK,” and “I can always call a friend if something goes bad.” You are calming yourself down and saying that no matter what, you’ll survive and be better because of facing this fear. You’ll be stronger.
Think about what you could gain from doing this thing. Think about how it could go well, and how good you will feel after. If it’s traveling somewhere new, then what will you see and experience? If it’s talking to someone, what type of connection could you make? Always, always, always assume the positive.
Try each of these methods separately and see if they help you. Do not try to do everything all at once. Build up the positive habits slowly, trying one for one week, then another the next week, and so on.
You aren’t scared of being bad, you’re frustrated because you think you could be doing so much more, and something is holding you back. Start fighting! Be OK with fear, accept that it’s normal and that EVERYONE—the old man in the rocking chair, the runway model, and me—has fears. The difference between the strong and the weak is that there are those who are courageous and brave enough to fight against their fears, versus those that give up and shrink in the face of them.
Are you willing to be strong?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
– Marianne Williamson
When you go out and face a fear, either using a ladder method or the SIHAP approach, please comment here and let me know. I want to hear about your success! And even if you couldn’t, let me know and we’ll try to get you to the point where you can do it.