Fear. It’s a normal human emotion and a primal physical response to danger. Fear can help you survive a potentially life-threatening situation, by releasing adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones that push your body to fight or flee. Check out this explanation of what your body does when you’re afraid:
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But our bodies aren’t always able to discern the difference between an actual threat and a perceived threat. Did you know the common fear of speaking in public, glossophibia? Many people actually fear public speaking more than they do death.
So what do you do when your fear gets in the way of stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals, to grow your business, to take that next step toward greater success?
You should do it anyway.
What do I mean by that? Well, in my experience I’ve found that we always have at least one choice. Regardless of how terrible and oppressive your situation may be, you always have a choice. And that is what you choose to think. Viktor E. Frankle writes of this in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” where he relates his experiences in the concentration camp Auschwitz in WWII.
This is one of my favorite passages from the book:
What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our question must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
If there is something in your life that you’re afraid to do, whether it’s a phone call, a project, a dream you want to achieve, it’s okay if you’re afraid. But after all the excuses and rationalizations, and no matter how hopeless it may seem, you still have a choice. That choice is to do it anyway. To do it afraid.
That sounds much easier said than done. Let me explain how I’ve learned to do it anyway.
When I feel overwhelmed, stressed out, exhausted and ready to throw in the towel, I know that’s a cue for me to narrow my focus. Sometimes life is too much and unfair and ridiculous. But for now, it’s the only life I’ve got so I’d damn well better do something with it. So that’s what I do. Something. One thing. Here’s my process:
1. Grab a notebook. When I’m really overwhelmed, I need a pen and paper. But if a computer works for you, open a Word document and get ready to write.
2. Brain dump. It’s very helpful if you’re able to get everything that’s spinning around in your head causing you to feel overwhelmed down on paper. So write/type out a list of all the things that you need to do.
3. Prioritize. After you have your brain dump list, it’s time to sort through it and divide your tasks into categories. The categories I use are: Urgent, Semi-urgent and Wishlist. Go through your lists and separate the tasks into these three categories based on their urgency and deadlines.
4. Narrow it down. After prioritizing your lists, it’s time to get realistic. And this is where you get to make the best use of your only non-renewable asset: time. You only have 24 hours a day, just like everyone else. So look at your most urgent tasks and the amount of time you have for the day or week, and then decide which of those urgent tasks you can get to work on today.
5. Choose one thing. I confess, I’m a to-do-list junkie. I love these lists, and I write things down I’ve done that weren’t on my list just to get the satisfaction of marking something as done. I also am a recovering perfectionist with extremely high standards for myself. But I’ve realized that I have limits. And I can only do my best at that moment with the resources I have. And that often involves just choosing one thing from my list and getting that done. With all the things I need to get done written down on paper, I’m able to see what absolutely needs to get done in order for me to progress. I don’t have to dedicate any brain space to remembering all the other little things that also need to get done because it’s all written down on paper.
These five steps help me organize the chaos inside my head so I can focus on just one thing. Even if I’m petrified to do that one thing, if I know that is the only thing I need to do in the next hour I know that is the only thing I need to do right now. And I do it afraid. And then it’s done. Yes, life is hard. It’s often very hard and seemingly unfair. Tragedy and heartache may strike. Things out of your control may turn your life upside down. You can’t control that. Like Frankle and his fellow prisoners at the mercy of their captors in Auschwitz, we can’t always control our external environment. But you always have a choice. A choice in the attitude you will assume and a choice of the one thing you can do right now in your life.
If there’s something you’re afraid of in your life, I challenge you to try these five steps and see how much you can get done when you give yourself permission to do it afraid.
Do you agree or disagree with “do it anyway” perspective? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment and share below.