Doing the thing that scares you can provide benefit way beyond the present moment.
Think about the last time you faced a fear that was no longer serving you. How did you feel in the moments and days that followed?
It makes sense that you might feel more powerful in the present moment. After all — you moved forward into your fear instead of backing away. But the benefit can be more far-reaching than that.
Whether you know it or not, one of your brain’s activities is basically acting like a mini-attorney. It runs around collecting evidence for its case. And when you face a fear, that gives it powerful evidence for the case that you have courage, strength, confidence, etc..
When your brain collects new evidence it can begin challenging some of its old opposing beliefs.
For example, say that for years your brain has carried the story that you are terrified of heights. However, you decide to ride a Ferris wheel.
Once you get off the Ferris wheel, your brain suddenly has new evidence that you are willing and able to let your feet leave the ground. That doesn’t really support that old terrified of heights story, does it? Therefore there’s now a chip in the old story.
From here, it can expand. Continuing with the above example, say a couple days after the trip to the amusement park, you realize you need a dish from the top shelf in your pantry. Since it requires a ladder to reach — it’s not something you normally do on your own.
However, now there’s been a shift. Your brain already has evidence that you have some courage around heights because you went on the Ferris wheel. That makes it easier to say YES to climbing the ladder and getting the dish yourself. And if you go through with it, now your brain has even more evidence of courage in the face of heights. The “terrified” belief takes another hit.
If you continue building on each action and creating more evidence that disproves the old belief — eventually that old belief crumbles and is replaced with the new one. You have that power!
My Fear of Radio
This post was sparked by my own experience. Last week I had the opportunity to be interviewed about my work, on the radio — for an hour. As I I’d spent years spinning the story that I’m afraid of “live” broadcasts, this was way out of my comfort zone.
I had so many stories around why I couldn’t do live interviews. One of them was: “What if I don’t know what to say?”
I’ve turned down opportunities in the past because of this fear. In fact, I was actually in the process of turning this one down too. I was responding to the request via email and had typed all the words. I was ready to hit SEND.
Then I re-read my message. As I did, my heart dropped. I saw through every excuse to what it really was. Fear.
I sat with that fear for a few minutes, breathing into it and allowing myself to truly feel it.
I didn’t like this feeling. What at one time maybe felt safe, now felt constricting. I wanted to feel something else. As I became more centered, I knew I was finally ready…
Slowly I backspaced through every fear-based word I’d written in the email. I took one more deep breath and changed my response to, “I’ll do it.” Before I could change my mind, I pressed SEND.
I’m happy to report the interview went well. But what happened next was even better.
The afternoon after the interview I knew I needed to make a difficult phone call. I thought about putting it off, but then a little voice inside me said, “Are you kidding me with this? You just talked on the radio in front of perhaps thousands of people — and you’re going to stall on calling this one person? You know what to say. You can do this.”
I smiled to myself over how silly it sounded. Then I made the call. (It went well too, by the way.)
That’s how one moment of facing a fear can create a momentum that keeps going.
We create evidence for our brain with every action we take. Take advantage of this by creating evidence for the beliefs you want to embody.
What You Focus On Grows
One last point I’d like to make: Celebrate. When you notice you’ve done something that challenges your brain’s old beliefs toward something that feels better to you now — celebrate the accomplishment. It’s another way to create momentum to keep the evidence coming. Remember: What you focus on grows.