Make Fear Your Friend in 2021
“Where fear is, happiness is not.” — Seneca
I was sitting down to watch a movie with my fiancé when, out of nowhere, an old friend I hadn’t seen in years paid me a little visit. A friend who has taught me more about myself than anyone else but who’s presence I typically fear rather than welcome. That “friend” is called anxiety.
This visit hit me out of nowhere and knocked the wind out of my sails. I had gone a long period of time without feeling those anxious sensations I had become accustomed to many years ago and felt a sense of defeat after years of hard work rebuilding my life. But with it came a moment of clarity and an opportunity to learn.
I realized that, although those anxious feelings had become an after thought, a part of me had become afraid of feeling anxious. I had become anxious about being anxious. And like a volcano ready to erupt, the constant fighting and smothering of those feelings finally came to the surface.
This episode was, like all set-backs in life, a blessing in disguise. It forced me to take a look at myself and make a decision. Was I happy to keep going through life with an underlying fear of being anxious? Or did I want to fight and work towards freeing myself from my old friend?
Which brings me to the topic of fear-setting. Fear-setting is a term coined by Tim Ferriss and a system designed to help you conquer and take action over your fears. Although Tim’s process is a lot more robust than mine, the concept is very similar. Identify what makes you afraid and incorporate it into your goals for 2021.
If you’re afraid of being rejected, ask your neighbor for some milk or sugar. If you’re afraid of social situations, join an improv group or go to a happy hour with work colleagues (once safe, of course). If you’re afraid of public speaking, have a pre-written script or question ready to ask at your next company meeting. Start as small as possible, make it very achievable, and build on that over time. Small steps lead to big changes.
My fear isn’t as specific or tied to an action. It’s more of an underlying fear of the anxiety that consumed my life many years ago. Which is why my goal for 2021 is to welcome and befriend those anxious feelings. This idea came about after reading the book “Dare” by Barry McDonagh, where he recommends running towards anxiety rather than away from it. This makes perfect sense when you think about it. Depression, anxiety, stress, they’re similar to quick-sand in that the more you struggle, the deeper you get sucked under. When we not just accept but welcome our fear, it loses its affect on us. Anxiety thrives off the energy you exert trying to stop it, but can’t survive when that energy is no longer available.
So my fear-setting goal for 2021 is to invite and charge towards anxiety at every opportunity that presents itself. If I feel those familiar feelings when giving a presentation, socializing with friends, chilling on the couch, I’m not going to fight, but extend a hand and invite them into my life.
What fear are you going to defeat in 2021?
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