Deb Sofield

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The Emotion of Fear

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I am continuing with my series on emotions.

I started the series with the emotion of anger because anger is a cancer to your soul. So, to have any chance for a successful and happy life, friend, you have to let it go. Then I talked about the pain of personal shame. Shame is a Failure to Meet Your Own Standard of Behavior, and this emotion will wreck your life if you’re not careful. And I added in the thought that you should stop thinking that others have to accept your forgiveness for you to be forgiven. They don’t. Once you’ve done your part, you are now free, so walk away without the burden of shame. Then I spoke on jealousy, that green-eyed monster that will wreck your perfectly happy home and make you (a normal person) become insane with rage, keeping you up at night fretting over things you can’t control. Next was the emotion of worry, and I added that worry is a useless emotion because worry keeps your focus from real things. Two weeks ago I talked about scarcity, the idea of having less than you feel you need, and how that fear will affect your judgment in all areas of your life if you are not careful… because the world is full of opportunity, but too many people come to the fountain of life with a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. Last week I added the emotion of frustration to the list, because frustration will wear your life down to a thread if you let it; because if you have unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs you must step up and make a change for your better life.

Today I want to add the emotion of fear to the list because, although I have spoken about fear in other contexts, I want to focus on the damage fear can do to you if you’re not paying attention to the signs that fear is controlling your life.

Granted, I am in a business that most people tell me is their greatest fear, and that is public speaking. They fear how they are going to sound to other people; they also fear how they sound to themselves. It is an odd combination of internalized self-pride and nerves about failing in front of others.

But that is another theme altogether, and that is not my topic today, because in our time together I want to focus on the fear that has caused you to stop reaching for your goal.

That’s it. Which fear has caused you to stop reaching for your goal?

What I find interesting is that only you really know what fear is holding you back from doing what you know you’re called to do. It’s the discussion you’ve had with yourself a hundred times in the quiet of the night, and still you come up short because you are fearful of either the outcome or (for many the lack of income) if you truly set your fear aside to follow your dream.

When I touched on this topic last year, I had a number of people write to me and say that they had a certain dream to do xyz, but life didn’t afford them the opportunity to leave their family and start over…and then the discussion went into finding their own happiness vs. the responsibilities of those they promised to love and cherish. So, before you go off on that rabbit trail, let’s hold back and bring into consideration your responsibilities that you need to honor, and in that, still find a way to be fearless in creating your future (and that of your family’s).

When I’m working with clients, I like to ask them to imagine their future or encourage them to picture what could be down the road—so to speak—and, when I do that, I have to ask the basic question, “What is it that you are so afraid of that you have come to a stop in your life?” What could be so big that you have decided to either stop working or simply lay down your dreams and let them slip away?

I am not really talking about the physical reaction to fear of freezing—fight or flight—but the bigger idea that you are stopped from doing something because you are fearful of the outcome.

I don’t doubt that some fear is healthy, but when your fears slow you down and hold you back, that’s what worries me for so many good people who for some reason will not step out and do what they are born to do because of fear.

Out of all the fears I talk to people about, the fear of rejection is one of the most powerful personal fears that keeps people where they are and has put the kibosh on reaching for their once visualized goal.

Rejection comes in many ways and seems to hold people back, and allowing fear to creep in and force a stop in your life has caused you to stop reaching for your goals.

I don’t know what issue of rejection that you’ve encountered that has thrown you for a loop; I do know the best way to recover could be as simple as putting yourself back out there after a divorce or a death or if you’ve been fired from your dream job. Or if you’re tired and need a rest, goodness, go ahead and rest and recover and get going again.

Time is not on your side, my friends. You need to move and move while you can, to make the most of your opportunities that are being handed to you. Don’t live like life is over, live like life is precious and you are called, demanded, encouraged to live with joy. You can only do that when you cast off rejection and live life on your terms, and your terms do not allow fear in any way shape or form.

Another issue of fear that I see a lot is the lack of belief that you can do what you would like or are called to do. I’ll call that negativity—when you’ve set your heart and mind to do something …and just when you’ve begun to crack open the window of commitment to your cause, someone will say something negative like you can’t do that, and then that issue of self-fear rises up and causes you to stop reaching for your goal.

To that I have to ask, Really? Who have you given away your power to, so much so that they (by their mere words) have caused you to stop reaching for your goal and have put a bit of fear into your heart and soul and mind that you listened to them to the detriment of your future happiness?

I see this the most when someone threatens to withhold money or recognition unless the person does what they want them to do—that’s a hard one. But I contend that there is not enough money or recognition in the world to fill the empty hole of desire to do what your heart and mind and soul ask you to do. No doubt, that is a tough call, and in that case you need to weigh the risks and then make a decision, but always make a decision for your best interest and happiness. Living a half a life really isn’t living at all, because there are some things money and recognition can’t buy.

The third fearful issue that seems to crush the hopeful spirit of many is what I like to call the fear that causes one to do nothing—you fear everything, so you do nothing. It’s the fear of nothingness. It’s an odd combination of fear mixed with self doubt, sprinkled with a lack of self esteem and rolled into one self-absorbed hot mess.

Maybe you think a life of doing little to nothing is living; if so, we’re not on the same page, and if that’s all I’m going to get out of you—nothingness—then your fear has won, and I really don’t know what I can say that will win you back to living a full life.

Friend, pay attention: If you just live day-to-day without really living, you’ve allowed the fear of nothingness to have space in your life. Nothingness—just the word sounds bone-chilling boring! Talk about fear, that’s fear in its worst context—to do nothing but watch life pass you by because you are fearful. If you are so stymied that you do nothing, then your fear has caused you to stop reaching for your goal. Ah, friend, you need to find a way outan open door or window. Break something if you have to, but don’t wither and die on the vine of life because you’ve settled and allowed your fear to take your freedom. That would be heartbreaking.

So how do you live a life that is fearless so you can reach for your goal?

First, take control. Take control of your thoughts. Starting today, dust off the dreams you set aside—the ones that scared you—write them down, and figure out how to take the first step. Just focus on the first step; I guarantee the others steps will appear. And don’t let the rejection of others stop your progress.

Second, stop listening to negative people—they don’t want you to succeed; they want you to stay with them in their boring life. Don’t do it. Walk away! No, run away! Find new friends even if you have to be alone for a while. Get back out there! I’d rather have 4 quarters than 100 pennies. You don’t need many friends. You need the right friends.

Third, do something. Don’t let the fear of nothingness keep you comfortable. Remember the story of the boiling frog? Now there is a fascinating 19th century science experiment. As the story goes, if you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will (of course) frantically try to clamber out. But, if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and, before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death. Now let’s not argue about the scientific truth of the story, it’s a good metaphor for my point, if you allow fear to lull you into doing nothing… your ending isn’t going to look so pretty.

The emotion of fear comes in many ways, and today I focused on the fear that has caused you to stop reaching for your goal.

Life is what you make of it. You choose. Ah, friend, choose wisely, because your joy, your life and your future all depend on it.

Deb Sofield

Deb Sofield is a Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear – Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say and Encouragement For Your Life ~ Tough Love Memos to Help You Fight Your Battles and Change the World, Radio Talk Show Host in the Salem Network, Podcaster and President of her own Executive Speech Coaching Co., which trains women and men for success in speaking, crisis communications, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.

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