How to Use Fear to Your Advantage
I’d like to give you a new perspective on fear. What is it exactly? Does it hold you back? Does it energize you? Is it half empty or half full? At its core, what is fear?
The answer? It’s all of the above and even more. It can energize you, protect you, give you perspective, control you, and hold you back.
Have you ever heard this expression that defines fear as this acronym— False Evidence Appearing Real?
Take a moment and really ponder this phrase for a moment. False Evidence Appearing Real. When people say “I’m not succeeding,” “I’m not successful,” “I can’t,” or “I don’t,” they are actually telling you about their fears.
If you ask them, “Why are you not successful,” or “Why don’t you give it a shot,” they will tell you, “Well, I’m afraid of failing,” “I’m afraid of success,” and “I’m afraid of rejection.”
But, 99 percent of the time, those reasons are not the real source of their inner conflict. There’s always something else lurking deep behind those superficial fears.
Here’s what is really going on…
People create these explanations because they are even more afraid they will not be able to solve their real conflict. Their deeper fears are, “Will I be able to have control over my life,” “Will the people I love still care about and respect me if I fail,” and “Will I be enough?”
I’m going to ask you to look at your fears through a new lens. I want you take them on as The Inevitable You® so you can be strong enough to see what’s really happening. There is a reason why you are still holding onto them, and here’s a clue—how do your fears benefit you?
Many successful clients will show up for a session and tell me, “Bill, I’m afraid of failure.” To which I respond, “What have you ever failed at?” And they say, “Well, um, well… I’ve never failed at anything.”
I then ask, “Are you really afraid of failure, or do you use fear of failure as a form of motivational energy that drives you?” This will usually create a look of confusion followed by one of understanding on their faces.
Because here’s the truth—fear always serves a purpose. There is always a benefit. Otherwise, you wouldn’t invite it into your life. In fact, the real fear is using the gift of your imagination to create things you don’t want. You don’t actually fear failure; you fear your creative vision of what failure could bring, but in doing so, you are forgetting that in order to be great, you have to fail. With great success comes great failure.
I will also admit—sometimes fear can be smart and righteous. Sometimes it is completely appropriate. When gold‐medal skier Picabo Street gets on top of an icy triple black‐diamond Olympic run with four years of training on the line—it’s completely appropriate for her to feel fear. When Picabo stares down at that snowy, stark incline, of course she is afraid. However, instead of cowering to the fear, she actually uses it in that moment to her advantage. That’s what makes her different. That’s what champions do.
They look at fear as an opportunity to mark the edge. They turn the “empty” side of fear into “full” by accessing the power it provides. In that defining moment of release, fear becomes a co‐creator in life. It declares, “Oh, you better be afraid; you’d better be firing on all cylinders right now; you’d better be 100 percent alive.”
In this sense, fear is actually the adrenaline of life, the fuel of courage, and the nectar of greatness. But, in order to get there, you can’t fall back. The precise moment when you feel fear is exactly when you need to gather the best of everything you’ve got to charge forward.
Martial artists understand this principle. When faced with an opponent rushing towards him, a skilled martial artist will not shield himself, scream, or push back. Instead, he will artfully embrace his opponent. He will understand and abide by this universal law—what you push in life, pushes back. The more you resist that which you don’t want, the more it persists.
By embracing an opponent, a martial artist can deflect his energy and send it in a more advantageous direction. He will actually embrace his opponents, align with them, bring them closer, deflect them, and then send them in the opposite direction.
Maybe you already know this. But, even if you already “get” this concept and have great intentions about embracing your fears, when you are tested in a new way that personally challenges you, it’s really hard to find your greatness. You will have to focus on putting it into practice when it really matters. And, that will be exactly the moment when you have the opportunity to do something remarkable. That is your moment to seize and conquer what’s standing in your way.
The key is to embrace your challenges and to see the opportunity behind them. If you resist, push away, or fight them, you’ll only give your fear more power.
Instead, be grateful for how fear serves you. See it as a signal to step up, a call to action, and an invitation to fully experience life. Fear is such a phenomenal place from which to grow, but in order to use your fear to your advantage, you need to learn how to redirect it.