About ten years ago I attended a weekend seminar on personal development and achievement. It was an exciting event with fire eating and board breaking. On the first day the presenter spent some time working one on one with people in the audience to help them eliminate their fears. I really wanted the chance to work with him and when the ball came flying through the air I caught it--and then I began to panic--although I wanted this opportunity, I was terrified about what I might learn about myself. I contemplated handing the ball to someone else, but decided to embrace my fear and see where our conversation lead.
The first question he asked me was "What is your biggest fear?" My response was that I was fearful of everything; success, failure; relationships; talking to strangers, etc. We ended up speaking for about 10 minutes and during that time he was able to strip away my defenses until I was being completely honest with myself (and the audience) about a major problem that was holding me back.
That event was very liberating, yet I didn't extend the lesson. He had helped me in one area, but I failed to transfer those same ideas to any other part of my life. I am very good at "faking it until I make it" or "acting as if...", but I have normally only applied that strategy in situations where my fear level is very low.
I have a paperweight on my desk with the quote "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" I often wish that I had the courage to live by this idea--but so often I still allow all those unknown fears to overcome me and I fail to take action.
The challenge I am going to make to myself (and I encourage you to make it with yourself as well) is that the next time I am faced with a situation where I want to retreat and allow all my fears to stop me from taking action I will remember my paperweight and then follow its words. I know that the only way I can create a purposeful and driven life is through facing my fears and taking action.
How do you handle overcoming your fears?