Jan 152012

Shark! - Atlantis Resort Aquariums


Overcoming our fears can be incredibly liberating. It allows us to do so many things that we’ve only dreamt about in the past. It allows us to take those risks than can be truly life-changing. And the best bit is, that once we’ve consciously worked at overcoming a particular fear, it gives us more confidence to tackle other fears, leading to an upward spiral of fear-busting awesomeness!

If anyone had told me a few years ago that I’d be diving at night, to look for reef sharks in the deep dark waters I’d have laughed at them. What kind of person does that?! Well it turns out that since last night I’m that kind of person. When we saw our first reef shark – a 2.5 metre giant my immediate reaction was a less printable verion of ‘GULP!’. At the same time it was THRILLING and oh so exhilarating.

Just before I dived in I remembered a great quote I’ve recently read in Nelson Mandela’s biography

‘Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to conquer it.’

Which kind of makes me a very courageous person, because a lot of things I do scare the ‘bejeezus’ out of me. This is how I’ve managed to conquer many of my fears:

 1. Spell them out

Either by writing them down or discussing them with someone. When fears are out of our head and into the open, they can lose quite a lot of their power. For more about this check out an earlier blog I wrote here.

Fear-busting question: What are the fears that are holding you back?


2. Take baby steps

Breaking down whatever scares us into smaller related challenges can help us build our confidence gradually so that when we come to face our fear in full, it does not feel like such a big deal.

My night dive with sharks was clearly not my first dive. I built my confidence by diving in easier conditions on many occasions beforehand. Similarly if we take public speaking as an example, we could practice on our family and friends, before moving on to our colleagues and eventually to a larger group of people. If we want our own business, start it part-time before quitting the job.

Fear-busting question: What small actions will help you build up to face a big fear?


3. Speak to someone who’s done it

Whatever it is that we want to do, someone’s very likely to have done it before us. Reaching out to these people can help us get a better understanding of what it’s really like. So if we’re thinking of starting our own business the best people to speak to are those that have already done it. Different people will have different experiences so it’s a good idea to reach out to a number of people instead of just one.

The beauty of social media is that it allows us to access a massive group of individuals just by asking our friends if they know someone, who knows someone who’s done whatever we want to do.

Fear-busting question: What questions will you ask once you’ve met someone who’s done it before?


4. Practice at feeling scared

We can actually practice at being scared and not losing it by deliberately doing things that scare us. It could be something completely unrelated to what we’re trying to conquer – the point is to feel that feeling of fear and know that your world isn’t about to end. Even if it’s just smiling to a stranger or taking a roller-coaster ride, doing little things will help us build up to the big things.

Fear busting question: What little things can you do for the next 10 days to practice at being scared?


5. Steer clear of the nay-sayers

We all  know people who would rather eat their hat than take a risk. They take great pleasure in thinking about all the possible disasters that could happen and why it’s a bad idea to take a risk or do anything that’s unconventional. These aren’t the people who will help you live an extraordinary life that brings you great joy and satisfaction.

I prefer to take my advice from people who are living lives that excite me, lives that are my idea of success. I don’t necessarily need to know these people. If I want business advice, I’d rather look at how Richard Branson would have tackled it, rather than ask a friend who’s spent their whole lives in a 9 to 5 job.

Fear-busting question(s): Who is currently discouraging you from going for what you want? Are they living the kind of life you’d want for yourself? Is there a public figure you admire that has done what you want to do? What can you learn from them?


6. Breathe and re-frame

When you do decide to jump in I promise you, you will feel your heart beating faster, butterflies in your stomach and a huge desire to run. It’s your body’s natural response to fear. I remember when I first landed in London with my big blue suitcase, a £15000 loan and not much else. The enormity of doing a Master’s degree in a foreign country hit me with full force, the fear kicked in and the only thought running through my head was “what have I done?!!”

When this happens remember Mr. Mandela’s wise words, and breathe! To be exact, breathe in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 12 – just letting the air come out gently instead of blowing it out. Repeat for 5 times and your body should have naturally calmed down.

Because our brain interprets the feeling of excitement and fear in the same way, if we force ourselves to think about how exciting this adventure we’ve taken is instead of the ‘what have I done?!’ type of thought, our mind will soon be convinced that we’re not scared, we’re excited!


7. Use past success to get more courage

In some shape or form we’ve all conquered a fear in the past. We’ve all done something that’s scared us and lived to tell the tale. Reminding ourselves of past success helps to reassure us that we’ve been in this situation before and we’ve managed.


Fear-busting question(s): What are you proud of having achieved in your life? How did you feel at the start of that challenge? What helped you persevere until you succeeded?

I hope this post helps you overcome those fears that are holding you back. I’d love to hear your answer to this question:


What would you do if you weren’t afraid?


Post your answers below or e-mail me at Karen@the1bigthing.com


With love




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P.P.S Shark! – Atlantis Resort Aquariums, a photo by Dave Allen Photography on Flickr.

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