Build you courage muscles by designing small experiments.
Fear is a strange word. I, like many others, have a complicated relationship with fear. Admitting that “I’m afraid” was the easiest way to get out of doing many things in life when we were growing up. I’m afraid of swimming, of bugs, of the dark, of playing with other kids, of losing a game, of failing an exam, of freezing on stage… We got out of doing a lot of things by just saying we were afraid of them. As we grew up we no longer had to convince our parents but rather convince ourselves that the situation was scary and so we should avoid it.
As adults, we justify our decisions by labeling them as too risky. I’m afraid of getting hurt and so I will not allow myself to be vulnerable. Most of us reading this article have had at least 1 situation in the past year where we chose a path that was less risky (deliberately or not).
Today, I want to share a way to strengthen your courage muscles. First by finding what are you afraid of and then designing small experiments to face them.
Step 1) Find Your Avoidance Behaviour
This is pretty simple. What do you usually do to avoid certain situations or to avoid thinking about someone or something? Things like online shopping, excessive eating, watching too much TV, or passing on work opportunities because you’re afraid of not being good enough.
Make a list of things you do to avoid people, situations or thoughts. A good way to confirm this list is asking your close friends because your avoidance behaviour is very clear to the people close to you. You will be able to find what you’re afraid of by first finding how you avoid facing your fears.
Step 2) Find & Label Your Fear(s)
We tend to use avoidance to protect ourselves from what we think is dangerous, or what we fear. We allow fear to hold us back from following our passions just because we are afraid of failing.
How can we expect ourselves to be happy if we don’t move forward? I mean let’s not forget that “happiness is the Joy we feel striving towards our potential”.
Make a list of your fears (big or small). Be honest because you’re the only person who’s going to see this list.
Here is an example list of fears:
- I’m afraid of living alone
- I’m afraid of losing a loved one
-I’m afraid of rejection
- I’m afraid of letting someone into my life
- I’m afraid of checking my bank account
Step 3) Ask “what if” questions
By asking these “what if” questions, you’re just imagining a life where the avoidance behaviour didn’t exist and where you had to face your fear. What if you asked someone out for coffee? What if you went on that blind date?Something that’s great about “what if” questions is that it helps you visualize the worst case scenario, but also the best case scenario. So in front of your fear, ask a “what if” question and respond with a positive and negative scenario.You’re not trying to fix the situation, you’re just imagining what would happen if you changed your behaviour towards the situation.
Here is an example:
What if I couldn’t do any online shopping for a month?
Negative scenario: I would panic and call my ex.
Positive scenario: I could save enough money to signup for Spanish lessons.
Step 4) Design an experiment
You can’t just decide to lift 50kgs and be able to do it on your first try. You have to build your strength by gradually lifting more weight each day. Facing your biggest fear is the same. You have to start by building your courage muscles and one day you’ll face your biggest fear.
In this step, I invite you to design an experiment where you face one of your fears. Look at the list you made in step 2. Choose one of the fears and design an experiment where you actually implement the “what if” that you asked in the last step.
Here is an example of how you can do this:
Step 1& 2) I watch too much TV because I’m afraid of feeling lonely.
Step 3) What if you cancel your Netflix subscription today?
Positive scenario: I get 10 hours a week that I can use to meet new people.
Negative scenario: I will think about how lonely I am and become more anxious.
Step 4) I’m going to cancel my subscription (or temporary sign out of Netflix on all my devices and ask a close friend to change the password) for 2 weeks.
Step 5) Journal the process
While you’re going through the experiment write down how you are feeling daily.Every night write the following 3 things down:
- How do you feel today?
- What are you most proud of today?
- What did you accomplish today?
I believe in your ability to face your fears and conquer them one by one. Just give yourself time to build your courage muscles and remember, you can’t build strength without regular practice and discipline! That applies to every part of life.