Last week social media channels were buzzing with the impassioned speech that Emma Watson gave to the United Nations on feminism. In her new role as UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Emma spoke from her heart on the pressing need for gender equality and asked that men and boys worldwide join the movement of the #HeForShe Campaign. It was powerful, emotional, honest, poignant, and it was fearless.
I’ve been thinking a lot this past year about what it means to be fearless. I see wonderful examples of it everyday—from people as visible as Miss Watson, on down to the little kid who whips by on her skateboard completely unaffected by the rough terrain ahead. That sense of knowing the road will be tough, but wanting it so badly that nothing can stop you from pushing yourself to go for it. That’s living fearlessly.
I’ve made some tough decisions this year with the intent of getting me closer to the life I want to live. I like to think I’m being fearless along the way. I started out by making the difficult and scary decision to resign from a job that was comfortable, but no longer challenging. I left the country for a month to recharge my batteries and reconstruct where I was going next. I got out there to reacquaint myself with my home city of Chicago—a city I lost touch with after working virtually for so many years. I took a few courses in areas that clearly pushed my comfort levels. After years of writing publicly on behalf of organizations, I finally decided to write for myself and launched my own blog. And I continue to face new challenges and uncomfortable opportunities every day, all for the sake of expanding and deepening the quality of my life.
The one thing I’ve noticed from my journey so far is that I’ve become a lot more comfortable with facing fear and taking risks. I suppose that comes with age, a history of taking chances, and experiencing numerous failures along the way. But I know the outcomes are never as bad as I imagine them to be, and I always learn something cool in the process.
Being fearless is what takes us from being good to being great. It can mean the difference between living a comfortable life, to living a life filled with passion and joy. It’s the only way to experience meaningful growth and powerful connections.
So how can we build habits to become more fearless? What can we do to ensure real transformation in our lives? Below are a few of the exercises I leverage when I’m faced with challenges that induce that fear.
Recognize the fear and push through it. The first thing is to look at what you are trying to do, examine which part you are afraid of and why, and push through the fear. Easier said than done I know, but something that needs to become part of our process every time. When we face our fears, we can see where our real strength comes from. Pushing past our fears allows us to become more confident, productive, and successful.
Ask what’s the worst that can happen. Fear can be a mind game. Most of the time, the worst that we imagine can happen, isn’t what happens. Usually, it’s something far less dramatic. I like to list out the potentials, even with the worst of them, and really explore how bad that outcome would be for me. Our fears tend to conjure all sorts of disastrous scenarios, yet they typically become valuable learning opportunities and great battle stories.
Get informed before taking a risk. If we educate and prepare ourselves for what we are about to take on, the fear dissipates allowing us to move forward. Fear comes from the unknown; therefore arming ourselves with information can help to prepare us for those rough patches.
Talk about it with others. Sometimes if we share our challenge with someone else, we find we all have similar fears. The strength of a support system can power us through those tough times. It can seem far less scary if we know there are others going through something similar, or that have in the past, and that can stand by our side. There is power in numbers.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Live outside your comfort zone. This may sound cliché, but I firmly believe that the more we push ourselves just beyond what we’re typically comfortable with, the more we grow. Each time you take on a new project or experience, try going one step further by facing something scary. Make it a habit with as many things as you can, and do it often. Soon it becomes a way of life.
Give up on perfection. Have you ever found yourself putting off going after what you want because you keep telling yourself you’ll do it when the timing is better, or when you can save just a bit more money, or when the kids are older and relying less on you, or once you drop just a few more pounds, and so on? We’ve all done it. We tell ourselves that things have to be perfect before we take action, or put ourselves, or our work, out there. Things will never be perfect. Meanwhile, the years fly by with little or no action making it even harder to begin. As Emma said in her UN speech, “If not now, when?”
Use visualization. A simple tool to build our confidence is to practice visualization. Spend a few minutes every day thinking about what you want, what it looks like, how it feels, how it’s changed your life for the better—act as if you already have it. This exercise places us in a more empowering mindset and lessens our fears by picturing ourselves having already overcome them and succeeded in our goal.
“Being fearless doesn’t mean living a life devoid of fear, but living a life in which our fears don’t hold us back.” – Arianna Huffington
Learn from failures. We need to get in the habit of reflecting on our failures in a positive way. Examine what went wrong and how you can learn from the mistake, but also recognize that the process may not have been as painful as imagined and may have been rather interesting or enlightening. This can strengthen our ability to take on new risks with far less fear.
Be grateful. Tony Robbins once said, “You can’t be grateful and fearful at the same time.” I hadn’t thought about it before, but he’s right. If you focus on the good things and what you are already grateful for in your life, you realize none of that came without taking chances. Focus on gratitude and fear fades.
Take action. You can visualize and imagine all day long, but this doesn’t get you any closer to what you want. The universe rewards action. When I feel fear creep in, I take action toward my goal. Even a small step is something that can show progress. And any sign of progress can chip away at that fear.
Enter with defiance. Turn your fear into power. The only way we get what we want is to go and get it ourselves—no one is just going to hand it to us. Remind yourself why this is important; why you’re doing this, what it is you want for yourself, and what is that life you want to live.
Be brave, step up to opportunities, and meet challenges head-on. Be fearless!