You wake up in the middle of the night in a flat panic. Fear is coursing through your veins, making everything seem threatening. “What ifs” are flying around your mind, vying for space with the “I’m f*ckeds”.
You’ve really done it this time – you’ve bitten off way more than you can chew. What were you thinking? What’s going to happen when you fail? Who’s going to bail you out from this one? Your heart is beating the way it does after climbing five floors of stairs. You toss and turn some more, hoping this calms you down. It doesn’t.
You turn on the light – maybe this will chase away your fear. You pick up your book and start to read. You find yourself re-reading sentences endlessly, but you’re managing to distract yourself from your thoughts. Eventually, you fall asleep again for the few hours remaining before your alarm goes off. You wake up with a fear hangover that stays with you all day.
You just want the fear to go away. Is it too late to reverse that decision you made – the one that triggered the fear?
Even if it’s not too late to reverse that decision, it may not be the right thing to do. If you made your decision in a thoughtful way, based on some sound reasoning, then it was a good decision. If, however, you made it in a reactive way, with little thought behind it, then it was a bad decision – and it’s so easy to make decisions like this when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. So, if your decision was a bad one, reverse it; if it was a good one, stick with it!
The thing is, most of the best decisions you make are scary, terrifying even. That’s because they push you beyond your comfort zone to the next level – the place where growth happens. The bigger the potential for growth, the scarier the decision. I decided, in my 50s, to uproot myself completely THREE TIMES – moving first across the country, then half way across the world, and finally back. On my own. Over the course of four years. These moves were well thought through and the right thing to do – and helped me grow enormously. They were neither easy decisions to make OR take action on – and I was terrified by each one. I often felt fear coursing through my veins. But, with these and all other big decisions I’d made in my life, I didn’t let my fear stall me.
Instead, I stepped into my fear and used its energy to propel me forward.
How do you move into your fear and use its energy to move forward? Here are 8 steps you can take to help you do this.
- Acknowledge the fear. When you feel fear, allow yourself to sit with it. Feel it fully – feel its strength.
- Accept that you’re scared. Whilst feeling its strength, accept that you’re scared. I say to myself something like: “Well, Sarah, this IS a big one. I’m feeling scared by this decision. And that’s perfectly understandable and OK.”
- Commit to change. Fear dissipates when you accept it, leaving behind its energy. Now’s the time to commit to yourself that you’ll make the change – decide that you’re worth the effort required.
- Plan. Using this energy, start planning the detail of what you’ll need to do to make the change happen. Make sure you plan in enough steps – a lot of people fail to make changes, because each step is too big and overwhelming. Instead, make each step small enough to be achievable, yet big enough to have challenges that will sustain your interest.
- Take action. Do something EVERY DAY to take you closer to your desired change. Daily action gives you momentum and is totally doable if you’ve planned your steps well. If you find yourself unable to take daily action, go back and re-plan your change, breaking it down into even smaller pieces. Momentum is everything and is MUCH easier to keep going once it’s started, than to build it back up repeatedly.
- Celebrate your success along the way. Don’t wait until the end to celebrate, do it every time you complete a step. This will keep your spirits up and also contribute to your momentum.
- Review. At the end of each of the larger steps, have a look back at what you’ve done. Note what worked well, and what didn’t work so well. With this in mind, review your remaining steps and alter them, if required. You should also alter your plan if anything relevant about your situation changes. Nothing remains fixed, so it’s important to incorporate new information into your plan as it arises.
- Complete. Unless you have a VERY good reason not to (e.g. a substantial change in your situation), see your decision through to the end. After all, if it wasn’t worth seeing it through, you’d never have started it, would you? It’s amazing how good this will make you feel – because you’ve shown that you were worthy of ALL the effort.
Fear is a very powerful emotion. You can be stalled or even stopped by it. Or you can be fuelled by it.
The choice is yours.