Apr 14, 2010

Fight Fear with Positive Thinking

Summary: Fear and other negative emotions can routinely block you from living your most successful life. This post contains a straight-forward, seven-step process for quickly converting fear to confidence. And it all takes place in your own head!

The power of positive thinking can change your life in both big and small ways. You've already seen it in action. But it's often easy to miss. The more attention you give it, however--being consciously mindful of cultivating good thoughts--the dozens more daily moments you begin to witness where feelings like fear are replaced with ones like harmony.

So, how do you cultivate positivity? Emotions are a natural part of the human experience. The last thing I would ever advise you to do is ignore them or try to instantly change them. (More on this later*.) But once you've done the personal work of figuring out which emotions work against you on a regular basis--and in what specific situations you most often find that this happens--you can begin to see the negative patterns that some of your more negative emotions have on your success in life.

Fear is a common emotional roadblock to success. The next time you find yourself in the same old situation that commonly keeps you back--whether it's in asking for help when you need it; being honest about your needs with a romantic partner; speaking up to take credit at work; saying, "No," to extra responsibilities in a professional or volunteer setting--try these helpful tricks for converting fear into calm confidence:

(1) Know that fear is chemically made up of a lot of the same neuro-components as excitement. If you start from this fact, you can readily move from the fear end of the scale to the excited end with just a few additional thoughts.

(2) Remember that all emotionally-based thinking is subjective. More importantly, nothing subjective is ever 100% true.

(3) Be open-minded. It's hard to be open-minded when you're afraid or otherwise negative. But if you can tell yourself that your fear-based thoughts aren't trustworthy right now, you can likely suspend those thoughts and then be open to thinking new ones.

(4) Think of the thoughts that are holding you back (i.e., "I'll look foolish if I ask for help" or "People will think less of me if they learn I don't know the answer") and find ways to poke holes in them. Using your knowledge from points #2 and #3, search out reasons your negative, fearful thoughts are wrong (such as, "Lots of people don't care if I know the answer" or "People who judge me probably have their own fears of looking stupid--my own opinion of myself is the one that counts"). You can even try substituting the opposite statement to see how that makes you feel. Check out Byron Katie's The Work for more on this point, especially noting her "4 questions."

(5) Find the humor in your original thoughts. The more you can laugh at yourself, the more you can turn your fear-based brain chemistry into that of excitement. Do whatever works for you: Perhaps think of humorous situations in movies you've seen or books you've read that can help you to laugh at fear in general (say, Steve Martin in The Jerk, running from the man who "hates cans")--or even your specific circumstance.

(6) Breathe deeply and smile. Both of these will naturally change your brain's chemistry, plus regulate your Central Nervous System to produce that calm and confident feeling. Pairing these actions with the following step's suggestion is best.

(7) Think of a reason to do what you're afraid of doing. Sample ideas may include: "What do I have to lose? If I don't ask for help, I'll never know--and then I'll always be afraid to look stupid on this subject! Sweet, silly little me."

*For some insight into recognizing your emotions, check out some of these past posts:

4 Basic Types of Self-Talk
WORD OF THE WEEK: Integrating Integrity
Checklist for Customized Affirmations
WORD OF THE WEEK: Neuro-Typical
How to Say What You Mean

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2010

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