Make 2017 the year you actually do all that stuff on your ‘life plan’ to-do list with these tips from Jo Usmar, author of This Book Will Make You Fearless.
It would be weird if you didn’t ever feel frightened. If you never experienced the heart-thumping, leg-shaking, hard-to-breathe reality of facing new things. It would be weird because fear is a natural part of being human. You can’t delete it, escape it or avoid it – your emotions are your way of processing your experiences. You can’t pick and choose which ones to feel and when. Fear is your inbuilt threat-detecting device, flagging up danger and hazards. And sometimes we need that – sometimes. Like when you’re considering tobogganing off the top of a roof on a tray or kicking your boss. Just not all the time. Especially not when you’re negotiating a pay rise or about to meet your in-laws. Having to duck into a corner and wheeze into a paper bag isn’t often that convenient. But if you learn how to recognise fear and accept it, you’ll stop fearing fear itself and will be able to push through it. You’ll feel brave enough to take chances and make changes, realising that yep, actually you can cope with whatever life throws at you, ta very much. Here are five tips to feeling fearless this year.
Ask yourself: ‘What would my epitaph read?’
If it was written today, would it say something like:
- Emma spent 30 years safely ensconced in her comfort zone
- Jack always regretted giving up on so many projects
- Grace wasted years worrying about her appearance
Is that what you want to be remembered for? Or would you prefer something like:
- Emma had the best and most contagious laugh in the country
- Jack never regretted throwing his all into his projects
- Grace was fun, confident and always made people feel good about themselves
If you were a stranger reading both sets of epitaphs, which set of people would you most like to have known?
Fail with style and panache
Failing is a good thing. Every time you cock something up or get rejected you learn how not to do it. No one leaps fully-formed into something new. You have to mess up or get told ‘no’ occasionally to develop and grow. Think of Brian Acton, who, after being rejected for a job at Facebook in 2009 went on to create WhatsApp, which Facebook then bought for $19billion in 2014. Well played, Brian.
Stop thinking of things as ‘risks’
Ban the words ‘risk’ or ‘risky’ from your vocabulary. They suggest the possibility of danger (usually in the form of failure) which immediately makes you want to find reasons not to do whatever it is you’re considering. Use the words ‘opportunity’ or ‘chance’ instead. So, ‘Do I want to take this opportunity?’ rather than, ‘Do I want to risk this?’ This simple change will make you assess the situation more fairly.
Say ‘I don’t’ instead of ‘I can’t’
The phrase ‘I can’t’ suggests an external restriction or lack of ability on your part – both of which are unfair and most likely untrue. Yet we use ‘I can’t’ all the time without realising the unconscious effect on our mood. For example, ‘I can’t drive’, ‘I can’t date anyone’, ‘I can’t tell my partner I’m pregnant’. Saying ‘I don’t’ instead may sound weird, but will make you feel you’ve made a choice over the matter and can therefore reverse the decision whenever you want. It will make you feel you have more power over the situation. For example, ‘I don’t drive, but I could’, ‘I don’t date at the moment’ or ‘I don’t tell my partner news like this until I’m ready’. Suddenly these aren’t things you physically or mentally can’t do according to some unwritten rule, but are things you’re choosing not to do until you’re ready. This small change will make a big difference in how you view your ability to cope with things that scare you.
Ask yourself, ‘Is what I’m doing going to make tomorrow better or worse?’
If you’re avoiding something, procrastinating, self-sabotaging or generally tripping yourself up, ask yourself if your behaviour is going to make tomorrow better or worse. Worse, right? So what can you do to make it better? Realising you’re setting yourself up for a bad day/week/month/year can act as an effective wake-up call.
This Book Will Make You Fearless by Jo Usmar is out now, £8.99, Quercus
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