This may come as a surprise to you and meet with some disbelief, which I would strongly encourage, but I am in “real” life very much like you see me here. The only difference is perhaps that you’d expect me to talk a lot more than I actually do.
Usually, I prefer to make a decision and take action.
One thing that sets me apart from other people is that I’m largely lacking in fear. Not just externally in my actions and appearance, but internally in how I feel.
Much of human action is motivated by fear, so you can begin to see why that can present a challenge sometimes. This fact is also why I’ve been learning how to deal with other people’s fears for many years. To deal with people is to deal with their fears.
I was not born this way. If I had to describe my childhood in one word, it would be fear. Not anxiety and not boredom, although they were definitely a problem.
Fracking freeze-you-in-your-tracks FEAR.
And I didn’t even grow up in one of those massively abusive families where everyone is a criminal or a junkie.
Today, I will share two techniques to deal with fear. One is more immediate and short-term, the other requires deeper inner work for decisive long-term results.
I developed the rapid-fire technique to help people with anxiety about their future. I had in mind especially ENTPs and ENFPs, whose nemesis function is Introverted Intuiting, which is about your personal future, your willpower and what you want from life.
(You can learn more about what cognitive functions here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/23220420
You may have to read it twice, but you will learn the basics of the Cognitive Type model in minutes.
Then check out the first in a series of Game of Thrones cognitive profiles here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/26296965)
Use this whenever you feel anxious about what comes next for you, whether that’s something specific (like a job interview) or abstract (like general anxiety about how your life will “turn out”).
This technique should work for anyone who is anxious about one’s personal future and what lies ahead for oneself. It won’t be as effective if you’re worried about your family or someone who is not you, but you can use it any time you’re unsettled for any reason.
It’s very simple and it takes less than 5 minutes, but it’s important that you follow the instructions very closely for maximum effect.
Close your eyes, preferably somewhere quiet where you can focus, and bring to mind a place or thing which you find peaceful and enjoyable.
Remember it has to include both: (1) somewhere you feel at peace and without worry and (2) must be something you deeply enjoy and admire – vaunt – for its beauty or whatever other reason.
Can be a beautiful beach, an art object or even a person. The point is that it must be something that gives you a great experience and something that you value apart from that.
In short, imagine your favorite place on the planet.
Take a minute or two to relax and imagine your vaunted place in depth and detail. Experience it as if you’re there, you can sense it directly – smell it, taste it, touch it, everything. Recall all the reasons why you love it so much.
Now remember this one thing.
Someday, not a single speck of dust will be left of it. For all its good, for all its glorious beauty, it will be gone and forgotten.
It will be gone forever, back into the nothingness from whence it came.
No-one will remember it.
First, people will forget it and then there simply won’t be anyone left alive to remember it.
Everyone you know will die and be forgotten. People who tell you they live to leave a legacy will die and be forgotten.
Imagine literally nothing. What you experienced before you were born. The heat death of the universe. That’s all that will be left of it. Literally nothing.
There’s nothing to fear.
Now, do you want to spend the rest of your day gripped by pointless fear or do you want to make something beautiful out of it?
This is all you should need to get results from the first technique.
The second technique is one I developed for my own purposes when I was younger and I was afraid of taking action. It’s main objective is to deal with attachment to the outcome or, in a more narrow sense, fear of failure.
It takes longer to produce the biggest payoffs because it works best when you snap into it by habit when necessary.
The ultimate purpose is to internalize the technique to a point where the attachment (and the fear it brings) never comes up. You crave action instead.
It’s also trickier because if you do it wrong you can end up imprinting a lot of negative neuroprogramming that you absolutely do NOT want in your head.
This is why you should be careful with the emotional content of your mind when you apply it. It’s also why I have explained in greater detail how the technique is supposed to work and provided some specific examples of fears you can use it to tackle.
People often do not take action because they are afraid of the results. I challenge you to come up with a more platitudinous statement. (Please don’t.)
In my youth, I was paralyzed by fear in everything of any significance that I had to do. Even things that I was really, really good at. Fear defined my existence in more than one way and more than it has for most people in their early years.
Use this technique every time you’re afraid of taking action because you’re actually afraid of the results.
To get the most out of it, understand that it is not intended as a one-off device to handle fear tactically. Internalize it to the point where you don’t need to use it at all, where fear doesn’t come up at all. You are just reminded of the technique and already getting into action before you even get to the fear bit.
Why does it work?
It’s based on a simple fact. Most fears are monumentally idiotic and self-defeating. Not taking action is usually the only choice that absolutely guarantees you that you won’t get what you want.
The realistic results of most things you do are nothing of any particular significance. Not getting the result you want is just not that big of a deal. Usually, the worst that can happen is that you end up where you started. You simply have to realize this (on a deep level, not just in empty words) and you get over most everyday fears.
But, but, but fear can be your friend?
Probably not. Fear is a crude instrument. Using fear to get most things done is akin to using an axe to do brain surgery.
Most people are afraid of being hit by a speeding truck. To get the benefit, though, you don’t necessarily need to fear the truck. All you have to do is take it seriously and avoid it. In fact, your fear of the truck can cause you to freeze in panic and actually increase your chances of getting hit.
How does it work?
It can be encapsulated in two questions:
1. What’s the worst that could happen?
2. So what if it did?
When you face an important decision or simply are afraid of doing what you already know you should do, you think of all the worst possible outcomes of taking action. Then, ask yourself the “so what?” question about all those “bad” outcomes. When you get specific, you find that none of those things is worth the existential dread you’re experiencing.
On a deeper level, you can focus on the motivation, not the outcome. Even if some of the potential outcomes are truly dreadful, if you don’t take action, you’ll never get what you want. So why the frack are you alive at all?
What are some specific examples of the technique at work?
As a kid and adolescent, I obviously had to take loads of exams. Usually, in subjects that I was very good at. That did not stop me from being gripped by fear before every important exam.
Because I was afraid, I procrastinated and often failed to prepare for them, which resulted in actual failure. Which could have been easily avoided had I not been paralyzed by fear.
We face many similar situations later in life – like job interviews or professional licensing. They all have a similar feel and dynamic about them.
If you’re about to take an exam or interview that’s important to you, write down all the worst things that could happen if you fail it. Be careful not to internalize them, so don’t imagine them in detail. Think of them only conceptually with some detachment.
For example: “If I don’t get my license, I might not get my promotion this year.”
Don’t actually imagine not getting your exam or promotion. You don’t want to affix that image in your head like a big fat target.
Next, ask yourself if this bad outcome is really something worth overdramatizing. This is the “so what” stage, which is critical.
You fail the licensing exam and don’t get the promotion. So what? What monumental impact would that have on your life? What’s the soonest you can retake the exam? What can else can you do to improve your chances of getting promoted? Think of all the things you can do even if you do fail. Does it really “matter” in the end?
Again, cover both aspects: think of the absolute worst consequences and also think of what you can do in each of those situations.
Getting through those scenarios calmly and specifically will help you inure yourself even if it does not reveal that you simply are hyperventilating over a big nothing.
A great example of this from my personal life: talking to women. It was absolutely petrifying to me. Even women talking to me turned me into a rock, and not in a good way. That’s what the expression “sinking feeling” was invented for.
But I learned to talk to women. To women I don’t know. To strangers in bars filled with other strangers. And enjoy the hell out of it.
I did that using the same technique in the form of a simple question: “If I talk to her right now, what’s the worst that could happen?”
And if things don’t work out, so what? You’re exactly where you started – strangers to each other. It’s slightly more complicated with people you know, but only slightly. The principle is the same: it’s no big deal.
From asking your professor for a redo of your exam to cold sales calls, there are endless examples of situations where people are genuinely petrified for no reason at all. Remember that the technique is not about convincing yourself with arguments. It’s about allowing it to go even deeper until you have the emotional shift.
When you use the technique often enough and persistently enough, you will get used to the realization that you simply have to make decisions and take action. Snappily. And be exhilarated about it.
It helps if you take action, too.
One action you can take right now is to become a supporter right here: https://www.patreon.com/join/startupdaemon