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  • Writer's pictureBrian Reaves

Don't Let Fear Hold You Back

Have you ever been afraid of anything? I'll bet you probably have. The question is: Has that fear ever caused you to miss out on an opportunity?

 Fear is an emotion. At some point in the past, we learned to fear whatever we fear. Some people fear crowds, clowns, dogs, spiders, and many other things. And there is usually something that triggered it. Perhaps you were frightened as a child by a big dog, so now you naturally fear all of them. Maybe you fell out of a tree as a kid, so now you fear heights passionately.

I do not remember anything about the morning of Monday, January 18, 2016. All I know is I woke up that afternoon in a hospital bed with a brace on my neck and my family at my bedside. The wall clock read 3:06, and my wife was saying, "Brian, you're going to be ok. Everything is going to be ok." Imagine for just a moment the utter confusion and fear you'd have at waking up to that moment with no recollection of how you got there.

I was told later that I had been running some network cables through the ceiling at my church and had fallen off a ladder headfirst onto a tile floor. My oldest son had been there at the time and saw it happen, and he told me later he thought I was dead. In truth, I apparently had a concussion. I was whisked away by ambulance to the hospital, where I kept asking the same questions over and over again until I finally woke up to the moment I mentioned earlier.

For years after that (and sometimes even now, if I'm honest), I had an abject fear of ladders. I couldn't remember falling, but some primal part of my brain had associated them with that fear I felt waking up in the hospital. I'll tell you how I overcame the fear in a minute, but for now, let me say it took me a very long time to ever go up a ladder again without having someone right there just in case I fell.

Our natural reaction to the things we fear is to avoid them. Sometimes, that's a good thing (snakes should never be trusted), but the best way to overcome fear is to face it.

Every time you allow fear to lead you to avoidance, you are reinforcing that fear in your life. On the other hand, every time you take a step forward despite that fear, you decrease its hold on your life and expose it for the liar and fraud it is. You also begin to reprogram your fear response in a healthier way.

I have a friend who is afraid of heights, so he avoids flying at all costs. As a result, he's missed out on two overseas trips he could have taken to countries he's always wanted to visit. I know someone else with a crippling fear of public speaking, so she turned down a promotion simply because it would require her to lead a few meetings during the year.

Here are a few important steps toward overcoming whatever has been holding you back:

1) Think of the smallest step you can take to step into your fear. If you are afraid of public speaking, could you stand up in front of three people and do a short presentation? If you are afraid of making wrong choices all the time, what minor choice could you make that would begin to build your confidence in your decision-making abilities?

2) Take that step as often as possible. The first time will be hard and feel impossible. After you succeed the first time, the next time won't be as bad. After a few repetitions of this, you'll begin to overcome it.

3) Think of slightly bigger steps you can take as you become more comfortable. Always try to stay just on the edge of your comfort zone so you don't get too comfortable.

4) Make a list of every time you step forward into your fear. It's easy to forget those little victories sometimes. Keep them in front of you. Watching that list grow will continue to build your confidence in yourself.

5) Make a list of every time you allow fear to lead you to avoid or miss out on something. When you see what your fears rob you of sometimes, it will anger you. Missed opportunities will become something you can no longer tolerate.

The first of my steps was simply standing in a chair. It's a small and insignificant thing to most people, but to me, it was a milestone. After doing that for a while, I gradually made my way back to ladders. Those days I spent in the hospital were not going to hold me back for the rest of my life. I learned a few important safety lessons, but I still got back out there.

Start with whatever feelings you have right now. Step forward toward your fear, and new feelings will follow.


What would you try if you knew you could not fail? It's time to stop missing out on opportunities you really want to take!

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