Fire is a destructive force of nature. It can quickly rage out of control and destroy everything in its path, as witnessed by the many recent wild fires in various parts of the United States. Fighting wild fires – that’s not cheap; in 2012 the cost for fighting fires that consumed 350,000 acres in the state of Washington was more than $70 million dollars. For those with breathing issues like me, the smoke from a fire can seriously hinder your ability to breathe. And anyone who has survived a house fire and lost precious memories – you understand that the cost of fire isn’t only measured in dollars.
Fire can also be incredibly useful. It can heat, cook food, sterilize, cauterize, keep bugs away, or smoke bees from a hive. Fire can also be used to clear a field, weed, fertilize, and promote seed growth. You get the idea – fire is not all bad!
Fire – it is inevitable; and both useful and destructive.
That leads me to another four letter word that is also inevitable: fear. Like fire, it is both useful and destructive!
It is no secret that a fire needs heat, fuel, and oxygen to burn. A good boy scout also knows that you need tinder (small sticks and twigs), kindling (slightly bigger wood), and logs arranged in a teepee or log cabin that allows oxygen to circulate so the fire will thrive. In order to keep the fire going, you might fan to keep oxygen circulating and add additional wood.
Fear is no different. While fear might sneak up on you, you nurture it with negative thoughts, limiting beliefs, and by allowing your imagination to conjure up the wildest “what if” scenarios. Your thinking keeps you swirling in a vicious fear circle.
The only one who can feed your fear is YOU! And what you feed grows!
Is it time to starve your fear? If so, Here’s how:
1. Reframe Fear
When fear pops up take notice – it is affirming that you are making progress and growing! Fear is your friend – not your enemy. Beware of clues that fear is at work: making excuses, complaining, or being exhausted. Pay attention to your words, they can be very revealing. Ignoring fear has the potential to contribute to addiction.
Fear is a normal part of life, especially when you are attempting to make changes. Notice the fear, but don’t get caught up in trying to get rid of it. There are plenty of other things to focus on. Remember, what you feed, what you give your attention to, that’s what grows!
2. Take Action
Inaction breeds doubt and more fear. It is paralyzing. Action breeds confidence and courage. You don’t have to take a giant step… baby steps count! Just do something!
3. Create Structure
With structure comes safety – something lacking when you are consumed with fear. Trying to add exercise to your life? Do it the same time each day. Need to make 20 sales calls? Make that your first priority – everything afterwards will be so much easier! Struggling with public speaking? Create a pre-speaking routine: eat a mint, drink a glass of water, pray – something you do each time before you speak that is calming to you and helps you focus.
4. Gather Support
Facing fear is not easy! Making changes is hard; and making changes solo – even harder. Gather a group of trustworthy people around you to support you through the process. Enlist the help of a coach. And steer clear of the negative people in your life, the news, or anything else that might chip away at your positive focus.
5. Practice Discomfort
Overcoming fear, making changes, and walking fully in your purpose is going to require you to step outside your comfort zone. I know that’s scary, but if you are going to grow, change, and experience the exciting, creative, adventure of life, it is not going to be inside your comfort zone! Trust me, when you look back later, you will realize it really wasn’t so bad after all!
Often times “new” is uncomfortable so the more new experiences you attempt, the less daunting “new” will seem. You can practice in little ways every day by trying new foods, learning a new skill, or skipping social media for a day. Silly things like brushing your teeth while standing on one leg helps you get more accustomed to the feeling of discomfort.
6. Consider the Worst
Failure is not something you want to have happen, but the reality is that it happens to all of us. It can be a fabulous learning experience if you allow it to be. As you face your fear, ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” Odds are, the likelihood of it actually happening – next to nil! Trying to avoid that worst case scenario by trying harder or making promises you can’t keep virtually guarantees that your worst fear will become reality
When it comes to the things you demand of yourself – don’t let perfection be one of them. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and try again.
Rather than dwelling on the worst, focus on your purpose, passion, and being creative – that will inspire you and give you hope! Struggling to turn your thoughts in that direction? Take your thoughts captive – bring them to God and let Him help you. Allow your support team to speak positive things into your life. Hire a coach to be a consistent presence as you face your fear and making changes.
7. Let Go of the Outcome
Things don’t always go the way you expect them to, even when you are consistent and persistent in moving towards your goals. If your focus is on a specific outcome, rather than on steady steps forward, you will be disappointed. When you let go of the outcome there is room for creativity and new opportunities that might be bigger and/or better than you were capable of originally dreaming up.
Stress, fear, and disappointment are the result of making the outcome your focus. Letting go of the outcome makes space for possibilities.
8. Trust God
Rather than lugging your fear and burdens around and wearing yourself out, dump them at the feet of Jesus. No one cares more for you! No one understands your fears or your current situation like He does! He loves you. He always has! He wants to meet you in your weakness and be your strength so He will be glorified and you can revel in joy!
Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you. I Peter 5:7
For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10b
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:18-19
Fear, like fire, can be a killer. It kills hopes, dreams, careers, relationships, and more.
Fear, like fire, can also be a gift. Search for the gift in fear-filled moments. Be bold and face your fear rather than feeding it.
True leadership is about reassuring people in the face of fear so they can focus on the goals. Yet, you can’t pass on what you don’t possess yourself.
How have you been feeding your fear? What needs to change?