Blog | Entrepreneurship

Breaking Barriers: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Fear (and Excuses)

To overcome your fears and chase your dreams, you need to move beyond your comfort zone

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Summary

  • Only when overcoming your fears can you actually become rich

  • Using fear to your advantage is a key step in becoming financially free

  • Fear is actually a powerful mobilizer, if used correctly


Have you ever looked at someone successful and felt overwhelmed with envy? The thoughts come rushing in: "I wish I could do that. But I can't because I'm not... talented enough, smart enough, rich enough, pretty enough, lucky enough..." You get the idea.

We often view those who have achieved success as being gifted with extraordinary powers or luck that we ourselves don't possess. If you find your thoughts traveling along this line of thinking, here's a quote to consider:

"Don't let life discourage you; everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was." -Richard Evans

Everyone starts out with challenges - even the successful people. Overcoming those challenges and reaching one's goals despite the odds stacked against them, is what propels some people to success. For those who buy into the excuses about why they can't achieve something, their thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But what fuels the excuses? What’s giving life to that nagging little voice in our subconscious that holds us back from taking the next step?

Introducing: Fear

It’s a four-letter word we let control us far too often, possibly without even realizing it: FEAR. Perhaps you are yearning to move to Italy, but keep pushing it off because you aren’t quite sure how you’ll make ends meet. That’s fear preventing you from making the move and trusting you’ll make all the details work.

Maybe you want to quit your miserable corporate accounting job to start that firm you’ve been daydreaming about but worry about the lack of stability and benefits. That’s fear, once again, rearing its ugly head.

Or perhaps you’ve been reading the Rich Dad teachings for years and want so badly to make your first real estate investment, but haven’t moved forward because your uncle’s neighbor’s barber once lost some money on a rental property. Yup, fear has a firm hold on you.

But have no fear (see what we did there?): Overcoming fear is absolutely within your power, especially when it’s tied to achieving financial freedom.

When you feel like you can’t overcome your fears

If any of these examples rings true, then you have to find a way to banish this dirty word from your vocabulary — and, more importantly, from your subconscious. Fear holds you back from reaching your financial dreams, from growing both personally and professionally, from reaching your true potential, and from living your best life.

Why do we give fear so much power and let it paralyze us from making changes and moving forward? Because most people are risk-averse, and want to avoid embarrassing mistakes or painful lessons. Sure, we get that, but a certain level of fear is normal — even helpful. But there’s a fine line you must straddle between being overly cautious and completely carefree.

Every successful business person takes risks and puts plans into action in order to reach the top. Sure, they were scared, but their desire to reach their goal surpassed that fear. There are so many opportunities available to you — especially in the world of investing and entrepreneurship — that once you let the fear go, you’ll wonder why you didn’t take action sooner.

3 tips for overcoming fear

Let’s explore a few tips for overcoming fear that leaves you unable to move forward with your dreams:

  1. Create a plan. While some people fly by the seat of their pants, most others need to have a detailed plan in place in order to make a major life change. Start by setting clear goals and then create a detailed strategy for how you will achieve those goals. Then, and here’s the kicker, you must take action.
    Start with an easy step — perhaps that’s signing up for a free investing class if owning rental property is your dream but you don’t know how to go about achieving it. Once you cross something — anything! — off your overwhelming to-do list, you’ll feel relieved. You’ll gain some traction and that momentum will make you excited to tackle the next item on your list.
    If you’re truly working on something you’re passionate about, you’ll be invigorated by the progress you’re making each day.
  2. Look fear in the eyes. If you’ve been living life smack dab in the center of your comfort zone, then you’re missing out on a whole world of opportunities. Whether it’s taking a hot air balloon ride, making a five-course dinner or simply taking a different route to the office, it’s exhilarating to break out of the box you’re stuck in. Once you’ve conquered tasks along those lines, it’ll be easier to tackle other fears. Being just a little uncomfortable is OK, and the courage you gain from the experience will help you break down future barriers.
  3. Adopt a mantra. If you find yourself backing down from your dreams because your inner critic is constantly planting seeds of negativity and doubt, it’s helpful to find ways to block out that noise. Read inspiring books or blogs from successful entrepreneurs who came from nothing, practice guided meditations that deliver powerfully positive messages, repeat mantras or affirmations throughout the day (or write them on sticky notes and put them in various places around your home and office). Your mind is powerful.

Overcome fear with a shift in your mindset

Ok, now this may seem to go against everything above, but there’s actually something to be said for learning to embrace your fear rather than focusing on overcoming it. In some ways, fear can be a good thing. So if you’re struggling with overcoming fear, try switching your approach to embracing it and using it to your advantage.

Here are three key functions fear plays along the path to success:

  1. Fear creates a decision point. Because fear is uncomfortable, no one wants to stay stuck in it. When you feel fear, you know you must make a decision. Either you’ll push through the fear and accomplish more than you ever expected, or you'll back down and return to what is comfortable. In either case, it forces you into a decision. The good news is that if you understand the dynamic of fear, you have power over it.
    When you realize that you are at a decision point, and that you, not the fear, are in control, you can choose to walk into your fear and discover what is on the other side.
  2. Fear stretches you further than you thought you could go. By nature, we’re creatures of comfort. The old adage, “stuck in a rut,” refers to how deer will take the same path to water from the woods over and over again, creating a rut over years. They don’t ever take a different way because the rut works just fine for them. But if they come to believe that path is now dangerous, they will find a new path. In the same way, we often get stuck in the rut of safety and security. When this happens, we don’t change and we don’t grow. Rather, we atrophy.
    If you want to grow to be more than you are, you need a little fear to shake things up and set you on a different path. Thankfully, it's exhilarating when this happens — if you're willing to embrace it. The best part? The more you grow, the broader your horizons get and the less likely you are to return to old ruts.
  3. Fear makes you feel alive.Thea Jourdan, writing for “Netdoctor,” shares some of the benefits of fear: “Fear actually does have a profound physiological effect on the body, which evolved to help us in a 'fight or flight' situation. In the first few seconds, adrenaline levels soar — leading to a state of heightened alertness and the muscles are primed for immediate action, explains Dr. Louise Selby, a GP based in Guildford, Surrey. The heartbeat quickens and the rate of breathing accelerates. As soon as the fear diminishes, it’s replaced by a sense of powerfulness and euphoria, which can be addictive.” Under the right conditions, fear makes you feel more alive. The sense of accomplishment that comes after facing down your fear is irreplaceable, and it makes you all the more ready to take down your next challenge. It really is addicting!

How to overcome fear in life

As you can see, fear can be a powerful force. Fear is natural. Our fearful instincts can help us avoid danger. But that doesn't mean we should let the fear be in charge. Fear may keep us alive, but it can also prevent us from truly living. So it’s a balancing act when it comes to overcoming fear, embracing fear, or learning to take control of fear.

Fortunately, we have been blessed with the ability to take back control from our fear. We can do this by moving beyond what we think we fear and digging down to the underlying reason for our fear.

Here's an example:

"I'm afraid of investing."

Why?

"Because I'm afraid to lose money."

Why?

"Because I'm afraid that if I lose money I won't be able to provide for myself and my family and we will end up homeless and destitute."

Ah-ha! Now we’ve arrived at the real underlying fear you need to face. Though most people would agree it’s a legitimate reason for concern, it’s an excuse (and, it’s holding you back).

So now the question is, how do we address the real fear so that this person feels safe to start investing so she can begin building his or her family’s financial future? Here are some possibilities:

  • They can set aside a nest egg that is for emergency purposes only — not for investing or regular spending. It might be three months’ worth of living expenses or more — whatever makes her feel comfortable.

  • They can secure (or maintain) a consistent stream of income from a job or other relatively reliable source that will provide for their family’s income needs while they plant passive income “seeds” for the future.

  • They can manage personal finances and bring in more money each month than they spend, so that they don’t acquire the burden of bad debt.

  • If they already have bad debt, they can set aside money each month to pay it down, using the simple method Robert and Kim Kiyosaki used to eliminate over $1 million in debt.

  • They can put aside a certain amount of money each month in a separate account that is just for investment purposes. They will think of this as “play money” or “gambling money” — in other words, money they can afford to lose. Their goal is to use this money to make more money (i.e., invest), but if they lose it, it’s not a big deal because they know they can build the account up to try again (and can rest easy because their emergency nest egg is safe).

Stop making excuses and take action

Think about it. If you are at the bottom financially (or not climbing as fast as you’d like), and find yourself stuck in that metaphorical rut we spoke of, you have nowhere to go but up. But if you continue to feel sorry for yourself, hope that others will support you or just wait for something to happen, you’re going to be waiting a long time for positive changes, if they happen at all.

It’s time to become stronger and demand more out of yourself and your life. Look at the Triple-A Triangle™ of Aspire, Acquire and Apply – Aspire to have the best life possible, get the information you need to make your goals a reality and then take action on that information.

No more excuses. It's time to push yourself to the next level!

Life is a never-ending workshop, and when you stop learning, you stop living. Yes, you will make mistakes, but that's how you learn. The important thing is to take action.

Put yourself in a position where you have to do something beyond what you think you can do.

Original publish date: November 05, 2009

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