When fear takes over, it affects our lives and the realization of our dreams. It leads us to focus our attention on everything we want to avoid, rather than on what we want. As a result, we find ourselves living a life of mediocrity, rather than a life of abundance. In this post, I am going to share a Buddhist story that will show you how to defeat fear.
Next time you feel afraid you won’t be paralyzed by fear; instead, you’ll know what to do about it.
BUDDHIST STORY - THE WAY OUT OF FEAR
Once there was a young warrior.
Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear.
She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly.
But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle.
The day arrived.
The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other.
The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful.
They both had their weapons.
The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you”?
Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask for permission”.
Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?”
Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power”.
In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear.
Source: Pema Chödrön When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala; Anniversary edition, 2016) pages 33-34
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER
How often have you feared something that in the end never happened?
If you are anything like me, probably often!
You worried about something that could possibly occur, yet, the worst scenario you built up in your mind didn’t take place.
What we are afraid of hardly ever actually happens.
A research study by Cornell University revealed that about 85% of what people worried about never happened!
They also found that when it came to the 15% of worries that did happen, 79% of the time those worries were handled better than people expected, or they learned something useful from the experience.
The conclusion was that 97% of our worries are baseless and result from an unfounded pessimistic perception.
Just because of our nature and our survival instincts, we think negative thoughts about 80% of the time. Yes, you read correctly!
In 2005, the National Science Foundation published an article summarizing research on daily human thoughts.
It was found that the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day.
Of those thousands of thoughts, 80% were negative, and 95% were exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.
We can see that one of the tendencies of the mind is to focus on the negative and ‘play the same songs’ over and over again.
This is what has enabled our ancestors to survive throughout centuries.
Even if hundreds of years have gone by we're still working with the same hardware that kept our species alive, that kept us away from lions and from taking the unbeaten path - from everything that we needed to fear because of the potential, looming death.
However, in today’s society facing life-threatening fears is more unique than rare.
Yet, we build up our own irrational fears consistently!
“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice”. - Will Smith
FEAR - AN ALLY OR AN ENEMY
Our brain doesn't know the difference between “good” fear and “bad” fear.
Most people reading probably think that all fears are bad.
Yet, there are “bad” fears, which entail potential death, and “good” fears, any fear that is not life-threatening.
For example, if someone points a knife at you, a fear mechanism is triggered to get you to your fight or flight response, to either run or attack your opponent.
This happens to make sure you don't get killed.
That's what I call “bad” fear.
“Good” fears, on the other hand, tell us we're getting out of our comfort zone.
Here's the really important thing to realize.
Getting out of our comfort zone is ultimately the best thing we can ever do.
We need to get out of our comfort zone to grow, become better and achieve our goals.
So every time you feel fear, this is the signal you are about to get out of your comfort zone; that means that your feeling is not bad, it is actually positive.
Ultimately, you have two choices when you feel fear.
You can give in to fear or you can lean into it.
If you convince yourself that feeling frightened is positive - because it shows you that your growth and the achievement of your goals are on the other side of fear - your life will be completely different.
“When things fall apart or you feel fear, rather than feel you’re getting the short end of the stick, feel lucky. Only when you feel fear will you feel the opportunity to have the courage to grow. Being courageous and having a great life is all about being intimate with fear in a wise and graceful way. Feel the fear, and then do what needs to get done. Rather than being depressed about fear, lean into it, and see it as an opportunity to learn and grow”. - Pema Chödrön
WHY YOU NEED TO TAKE ACTION DESPITE FEAR
The number one reason is that we have programmed ourselves to lock up and give in to fear; we are used to listening to our fears telling us to not take action.
We've trained ourselves to do it for years, that’s why it’s so damn hard to lean into fear and act despite it.
We must re-train ourselves, when we feel fear we must take action.
You feel fear and you take action.
If you do this long enough in a conscious way and you keep doing it over and over and over again, fears won't hold you back anymore. You will become courageous. Courage is nothing but conquered fear!
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”. - Nelson Mandela
Accepting fear doesn't have to mean suffering from it, but rather, learning how to make good use of it.
Fears can turn into strengths and opportunities.
Ultimately, the choice is ours.
I have personally decided to lean into fear each time I feel it, I decided to feel the fear and act anyway.
So, even if I might be afraid to ask a woman out, speak in front of a big audience or share personal thoughts on social media, just to give you a few examples, I force myself to take action anyway.
I want to step out of my comfort zone since I know it’s the only place where positive change happens.
What about you?
Make a commitment to yourself today and don’t allow fear to hold you back from living your best life any longer.
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