Fear, in one of its many facets is what has kept us in stuck in stifling jobs, soul-devouring mediocrity, suffocating relationships—in “lives of quiet desperation,” as Thoreau wrote. The issue of fear and how to transcend it almost always comes up with clients and during retreats.

Contrary to what many believe, fearlessness does not mean the absence of fear; it means that we no longer give fear the power to hold us back. How do we do that?

I have always had a sense of mission, and knew that I had to overcome my incapacitating fear of public speaking if there was any chance that I was going to fulfill it. Reclaiming my power in this area became an imperative.

The first thing that needed to happen was a shift in my own values. The vital importance I attributed to my sense of mission had to become a more powerful driver than the disabling fear I felt, in order for me to override it and be able to stand in front of a group.  We can surmise that underneath the fear of rejection, failing or ridicule I might experience when speaking in public was a need for acceptance. Therefore the need to express my mission had to be valued more than the need for acceptance.

Secondly, I made a choice and, based on that choice, took action. I signed up for a course in public speaking. Hated it! Come Monday night I was already dreading Thursday, because for fourteen weeks that night I had to get up and deliver three two-minute talks. Yet, the more I did it the less of a big deal it became.

Years later I was exposed to Susan Jeffers’ book, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” Her model is a series of concentric circles, the central one representing our original zone of comfort—the level at which we are presently comfortable communicating with others and being in the world. Every time we take a step—no matter how small—out of that zone of comfort, we stretch those boundaries and become established at the next zone of comfort.

It is that simple. If we are willing to place ourselves in slight discomfort, undertaking small actions–even baby steps–each week, picking up the phone and making a call or whatever the case may be, at the end of the year we are established way beyond our original comfort zone. And the good news is we never go back to that original comfort zone.

In effect, we are saying “No!” to fear. No longer are we willing to be held back by anything. This willingness to delve deep and face our own inner demons results in dramatic growth. By implementing these simple techniques I transformed my incapacitating fear into self-empowerment.

These days I frequently speak to large groups. I am actually a professional speaker who gets paid well for doing so! I still have to deal with the occasional butterflies in the stomach prior to getting on stage, but once I am off and running everything is OK. I am even able to enjoy myself! More importantly, I know that through my words real human lives are being impacted.

I am living my mission.

How about you?

What would you be doing if fear was not a factor?

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