5 Steps to Destroy Debilitating Fear

Can I really do this?

Am I crazy?

What will others say?

It was 3 years ago, as I sat in my home alone, in the evening. I had spent the previous 4 years of my life teaching in the inner city of Los Angeles, California.

I was burnt out, depressed and overwhelmed.

man in a boxI was caught in this strange vortex. On one end, I despised my job. Yet, the only thing that scared me more than staying at my job… was leaving my job.

Fear is debilitating.

The major problem so many of us run into is that we are so afraid of the ambiguity of leaving our current life behind, that we are willing to choose depressed, unhappy, and overwhelmed over “not sure what I’ll do now”.

This fear stops us dead in our tracks. It allows us to stay in a job we hate, settle in an unhappy relationship, and to bury our dreams in the sand.

At the core of this is one major problem: You are an incredible human being with phenomenal potential. You are designed to live an amazing life. Yet, the only way to make this happen is to push through your fear. Your fear is killing your opportunity to live the life you were meant to live.

Use Fear to Guide Your Life’s Path

I know what it’s like to doubt yourself, to feel insecure in everything you do. I know what it’s like to wake up each day, with no clue why I was put on this earth. But I also know what it’s like on the other side.

Not too long ago I was a depressed, burnt out, overwhelmed teacher. At some point I became sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I decided to do that which I feared most. I decided to follow my dream: to become a ninja…

Fast forward 3 years. Now, I live in Kyoto, the historical capital of Japan. I train extensively in martial arts, 4 hours a day 5 days a week. My body aches, my mind wavers… But my heart is filled with a joy I never knew possible.

I share this story with you – not to brag, but to show you it is possible to go from lost, confused, and debilitating fear to living your dream.

I live in a strange land, where I can’t speak the language, don’t quite understand the culture, and often eat foods I don’t know. But rather than running from my fear I have used it to guide my path. Fear has become my guide along this journey.

Fear doesn’t have to overwhelm you. It can do the opposite – it can be like a lighthouse, pulling you in the right direction.

5 Steps to Turn Overwhelming Fear into Your Life’s Plan

Below are 5 steps to take a fearful situation in your life, and to use it to guide your path.

Step 1: Write it Down

The first step is to take your fear and put it on paper. It’s easy to get caught up in a vicious cycle of doubt, insecurity, and overwhelm. The nature of fear is that it kills our rational thought. We start to blow everything out of proportion.

By writing our fears on paper, it begins to look and feel more objective. It’s as if we get to step outside the box and observe it. Write as much as feels comfortable. Maybe, you write a sentence or two, maybe you write a paragraph.

Step 2: Identify The Perfect Outcome

Now, look at your written fear. What would be the ideal outcome?

Instead of “You lose all your money, go homeless, and get disowned by your parents” what would be more ideal?

Don’t get caught up in what is possible. Just focus on the perfect outcome. This is very important because it will start to give you a sense of direction.

If you want to solve a problem, you need to know the ideal solution. By identifying the perfect outcome it will also have a calming effect because it shows you there is alternative to this fear.

Step 3: Brainstorm 20 Possible Actions

Now, that you know the perfect outcome we get to start with the fun stuff. Look at your perfect outcome. Come up with 20 possible actions you can take that can lead to this outcome.

Now, here is thing – don’t worry if it’s possible or not. The key here is to get your creative juices flowing. Even though your first 15 actions might be absurd, one of these might lead to the 16th idea, which turns out to be the best action.

Just write, write, and write some more. If you can come up with more than 20 then go for it. But no less than 20.

Step 4: Take 1 (and only 1) Action

Now, look at your list of 20 possible actions. Choose the 1 action you think is the best given your current situation.

Don’t think too hard about this. The focus is on moving in a direction. This step is incredibly empowering. One of the things that is so disempowering about fear is that it makes us feel helpless. By taking 1 action you will begin to feel in control.

Also, as you will see in the next step, it’s not a huge deal if this is “the right step”. It’s more important that you just take a step.

Step 5: Act, Reflect, Adjust

This last and final step is your bread and butter. After you take action and get some results then at some point you need to reflect on the results. Ideally you want to do this at minimum once a week (and in some cases daily). I always ask myself these 3 questions:

  1. What should I keep doing?
  2. What should I stop doing?
  3. What should I start doing?

The first question tells you which actions to keep doing. The second question tells you what to stop doing. The third question identifies your new actions.

Next, you need to adjust your plan based on your answers to these 3 questions.

From here on out continue to focus on acting, reflecting and adjusting. If you do this on a regular basis you will destroy your fear.

For The Comments

What fears are currently holding you back? How can you use this process to destroy your fears?

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About Izzy Arkin

Izzy is living, breathing proof you can pursue your dream, no matter how crazy it is. Izzy's a former teacher who lives in Japan. He's pursuing his childhood dream: to become a ninja. Read more of his story at his blog, where you can discover how to discover and live your dream.

Comments

  1. Hi

    Excellent tips on overcoming fear.

    It’s true, fear is debilitating and if you’re not careful it’ll completely engulf you, shutting you away from life. I’ve been there, too.

    How did I work through it? Life is for living, not for allowing myself to be shut out. I took my power back. My attitude became “Ok, I’m full of fear but what the heck! Let’s do it!” So I did and I am.

    So glad I found this blog!

    Shan

  2. First off what a sick story. I can’t believe you moved to Kyoto and train in Martial Arts intensely. I love it. You are an inspiration.

    I think my biggest fear is failing (whatever the hell that means). This usually means I don’t even try or I stop when things get tough. I am working on not giving up and making sure I stick with my plans for the long haul Things don’t happen over night.

    Thanks for the inspiring post.

  3. This was an awesome post Izzy! And I love your plan of action at the end.

    You’re right, fear is not the monster we make it out to be. It’s really nothing more than the needle that points us the way. The further we run from our fears, the further we run from the opportunity that accompanies them.

    Better to chase our fears instead. Nothing can instill boldness in a person more than a long history of facing fear head on. It breeds confidence. Strength. Courage.

    And it’s a necessary first step for anyone who wants to accomplish anything of worth in their lifetime.

    Cheers!

    • What’s up Trevor :)

      You bring up a great point – nothing is more confidence building than facing our fears head on, as long as we are able to keep pushing forward no matter what.

      I think some people will try to push past their fears for a moment but then they give up. When this happens fear takes even more control of us.

  4. Great information, Izzy.

    After a year long seige of vision problems, I developed a fear of driving. I was able to see clearly again, but for some reason I felt that I would run into another car or somebody would hit me. I even heard the crunch noise that never came.

    I was particularly fearful of going to a monthly writer’s meeting that I used to attend often and enjoy. I’d run into lot of traffic as I got closer to the meeting place and I was so anxious, sometimes, that I’d miss the turn into the parking lot and that made things worse. Then I’d end up walking in late, feeling embarrassed as well as drenched with perspiration.

    For months, I would either conveniently wake with a migraine or back out of going altogether.

    Just last month, I faced the fear by leaving earlier and driving a longer, less trafficy route. I managed to get there on time and the panic was gone.

    1. What should I keep doing? Going to the meetings by way of the longer route.
    2. What should I stop doing? I should probably stop avoiding the traffic, but one thing at a time.
    3. What should and have started doing? Getting up earlier and meditating for 5 minutes before leaving for the meeting. And it has helped.

    I’m so glad that you beat your fear and followed your dream. It’s tough to step out of the supposed comfort zone, but it feels so freeing when you just take a charge and do it. Take care. :)

    • Vonnie this is great.

      I think the most important thing you did was ask the right questions. After that you came up with answers and took action.

      Dealing with our fears often starts by asking the right questions.

  5. I’ve learned that the majority of the times, my fears are unfounded. I build them up so much in my head, I make them 10 times worse that what the actually worse-case scenario is. I have to remind myself to think rationally and that helps me overcome the fear.

    • What’s up Don :).

      Yeah, I agree. I think that as humans we all have this tendency to allow our fears to be much bigger than they actually are. It’s a mental challenge.

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