Beyond Fear

Earlier this week I signed up for an Ultra Marathon. I’ve never run a marathon before, or anything more than ten miles. And while I’m a strong runner, 50 kilometers is a big step. I’m afraid. And I’ve been reflecting that when I’ve been afraid, and taken action anyway, are the times I’ve experienced the most growth and joy in my life.

  • Learning to do a gymnastics giant.
  • Performing as an acrobat with the San Francisco Opera.
  • When I made the decision to start Robin’s Cafe. And when I sold it.
  • The times I’ve gone “all in” on a relationship. Even when it didn’t work out. 
  • Even when I started the Evolve newsletter!

Beginning something new never gets easy. But most good things come on the other side of fear.

Fear is an Indicator

My car indicates if there is something in my blind spot. It also indicates if my tire pressure is low or I’m out of gas. Fear should be treated like the indicator: neither good nor bad, but warranting further attention. 

Fear is always an indicator that something merits further consideration. It can be a good guide of the direction you want to go. 

Notice What You Are Avoiding

Pay attention to what you are avoiding.

There are always things in business that I would just as soon ignore and opening my mail is high among them. As I discussed in How to Reframe Failure, the reason behind my reluctance to open mail was fear of failure. By noticing the avoidance, I was able to identify the fear.

There’s often a hint of something that you are not wanting to start, or that you are afraid of in the tasks that you are putting off.

Get Curious

We treat fear as something to be avoided.

Whether the thing you are afraid of is asking for a promotion, starting a new business, a first date, or running an ultramarathon – get curious. That is a form of courage.

Curiosity is a way to channel your attention and take a small step. Though it doesn’t feel like action, bringing your attention to focus on what you are afraid of moving towards your fear. 

“Fear Setting” Exercise

Tim Ferriss popularized the idea of “fear setting” through this TED talk and the article Why You Should Define Your Fears. The purpose is to identify the worst case scenarios, which usually turns out to not be quite so bad.

The simplest version of this exercise is to repeatedly ask the question “What am I afraid of?” 

What are you afraid of?
Not being able to do an ultramarathon

What about this are you afraid of?
That I’ll try to run the ultra and get injured.

What about this are you afraid of?
That I’ll feel like a fool.

What about this are you afraid of?
Even if I don’t run it or don’t finish, signing up gives me an objective and six months to train.

And I recognize that my fear isn’t as big as I’d made it out to be.

Take a small action today

The final step towards accomplishing a big audacious goal is to take one incremental step. 

No one who has done something you admire got there in one big step. Unfortunately, we usually see the endpoint and not the journey along the way. 

Notice what you are afraid of, get curious, and then take some tiny action towards your fear.

Signing up for an ultramarathon when I’ve never run more than 10 miles might sound crazy. It is, as they say, “jumping into the deep end.” But I like to run. I’ve wanted to run a marathon. And the worst case scenario isn’t that bad. I’m excited to discover who I am as I go towards this thing that I am afraid of.

Do the thing you are afraid of. Take action. Fear is a good indication that there’s something there for you to learn.

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