Are You "Fear Fit"?written by Anne Bolender

Being ‘fear fit’ is all about:

  • iden­ti­fy­ing if the fear we are feel­ing is one that will help us, or if its a fear that will harm us, and
  • expand­ing our com­fort zone so that we become increas­ingly more com­fort­able with feel­ing our fear and react­ing accordingly.

Basi­cally, fear can either pro­tect us from get­ting hurt by pre­vent­ing us from doing things we prob­a­bly shouldn’t be doing (the ‘fight or flight’ mech­a­nism), or fear can show us what is really impor­tant to us and become an indi­ca­tor that guides us along our right path.

Unfor­tu­nately, most of us tend to iden­tify all of our fears as the ‘fight or flight’ type and miss out on the oppor­tu­nity of let­ting fear help us fig­ure out what is really impor­tant to us. After all, if what we were doing or think­ing about doing wasn’t impor­tant to us, we wouldn’t care if we did it or not and we wouldn’t feel fear when we thought about it or tried to move towards it.

How Can You Tell if You are Feel­ing a Good Fear

A good fear is one that is try­ing to help you, or a pro­tec­tive fear, one that is try­ing to pre­vent you from hurt­ing yourself??

An effec­tive tech­nique is to rec­og­nize when you are feel­ing fear­ful and to iden­tify what you are think­ing about or doing that evoked the fear response.

Take, for exam­ple, a sit­u­a­tion where you are think­ing about mak­ing a major lifestyle change. You want to incor­po­rate into your life some­thing you have been dream­ing about doing for a long time, like becom­ing self-employed or becom­ing a pro­fes­sional Travel Writer.

If every time you begin to think about open­ing your own busi­ness or being a Travel Writer you begin to feel fear­ful, then you should ana­lyze that fear. Ask your self if the fear is iden­ti­fy­ing some­thing that is impor­tant to you, or is the fear try­ing to pro­tect you from hurt­ing yourself?

If you believe the fear is try­ing to pro­tect you from hurt­ing your­self, then make a list of every­thing you can think of that might hurt you if you made this change. Go through the list and iden­tify any fear that is related to a sit­u­a­tion that you can develop a cop­ing strat­egy for. The cop­ing strat­egy could be any­thing that either reduced the impact of the sit­u­a­tion, changed the way you felt about the sit­u­a­tion, or elim­i­nated the sit­u­a­tion all together.

Coping Strategies Can Help Overcome Fear

If you can iden­tify cop­ing strate­gies for most or all of the fears you iden­ti­fied, then the orig­i­nal fear you felt was very likely to have been a good fear. This is the kind of fear that iden­ti­fies things that are impor­tant to you and lets you know you are on your right path.

I did this exer­cise recently and was quite sur­prised by the results. Of course, these weren’t my fears that I was ana­lyz­ing, which made the exer­cise a whole lot eas­ier to do.

A few years ago a Loca­tion Inde­pen­dent/Dig­i­tal Nomad Sur­vey was run online to an audience that was either living the location independent lifestyle, or was extremely interested in creating an independent lifestyle. The author’s of the study identified 268 peo­ple responding to the study (94 indi­vid­u­als who were liv­ing a loca­tion inde­pen­dent lifestyle, and 174 aspir­ing loca­tion inde­pen­dents). The loca­tion indepen­dent lifestyle is a lifestyle design that com­bines exten­sive travel with a career or self-employment, some­thing that requires a fairly high fear threshold.

One of the ques­tions asked par­tic­i­pants to iden­tify fears that they had regard­ing either liv­ing this lifestyle, or plan­ning to live this lifestyle.

A total of 86 unique fears were shared by the 268 par­tic­i­pants. Sev­eral of the fears were shared by dozens of the respondents.

In look­ing at each fear I asked myself if I could develop a cop­ing strat­egy for that fear, or if this was a ‘pro­tec­tive’ fear that iden­ti­fied a sit­u­a­tion that would be totally beyond my con­trol and there­fore some­thing I could not develop a cop­ing strat­egy for and should be afraid of.   Over 90% of the iden­ti­fied fears were fears that a cop­ing mech­a­nism could be iden­ti­fied for, with less than 10% being the ‘pro­tec­tive’ kind of fear — fears that iden­ti­fied sit­u­a­tions that were out­side of the individual’s con­trol.  What I found most inter­est­ing was that 80% of the ‘pro­tec­tive fears’ were iden­ti­fied by peo­ple who were already liv­ing a loca­tion inde­pen­dent lifestyle (these included fears of plane crashes, bor­der con­trol prob­lems, not get­ting home in time if a loved one died, those kinds of fears).

Using the idea of being ‘fear fit’, it seems that the aspir­ing Loca­tion Independent/Digital Nomads that par­tic­i­pated in the sur­vey were expe­ri­enc­ing the ‘good fear’ — the kind of fear that indi­cates that they have found a lifestyle choice that is impor­tant to them.

So the first half of being ‘fear fit’ is to iden­tify and ana­lyze your fears in order for you to deter­mine which fears are act­ing like a ‘fear radar’ and are show­ing you what is impor­tant to you, and which fears are the ‘fight or flight’ type of fears that are pro­tect­ing you from harm.

The sec­ond half of being ‘fear fit’ is to learn how to find the courage to expand your com­fort zone so that you can stop let­ting your fears pre­vent you from doing things that are impor­tant to you.

One very effective technique for overcoming this type of fear is to find small, safe challenges in your life and do at least one of these challenges every day.  Challenges could be as simple as finding a new route to work or home from work; shopping in a store that you have never shopped in before; rearrange the furniture in one room of your home; try eating in a new restaurant; try having breakfast for dinner.

Basically anything that takes you outside of your normal routine, that challenges your habits can expand your comfort zone and help inoculate yourself to small amounts of fear.

As you become comfortable with your newly expanded comfort zone, challenge yourself again. The key is to expand your comfort zone in small, easy steps. Before long you will find that both your fear tolerance level and your comfort zone have expanded nicely.


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