One of my favorite aspects to Fear Experiment℠ (FE) was the parade of parents post-show coming up to me in the lobby and sending me notes, spewing words wrapped in loving awe and joy for their babies. Who happen to be 25, 37, 55 years old. This past FE was no exception, from Mom who flew in from South Carolina to Dad who penned the sweetest Thank You about empowering his child to grow in courage, self-confidence, and community.
Today’s Guest Post is by one of those parents, Sean Cox, whose daughter Amanda did improv in FE11. She initially wanted to do storytelling but was placed in improv because storytelling was full (and I had a feeling she would really benefit from the stretching that improv requires). At age 21, she was the wee one of the forty+ participants, some of them 20, 30 years older than her. Yet she didn’t let disappointment or difference stop her from jumping in. And not only did she jump into the art-form, she jumped into embracing her fears and struggles, sharing her journey with mental illness on Day 1 in a room full of strangers and then again at the show in a room full of loved ones and strangers. I wish I had that courage at age 21! Can’t wait to see the continuation of her steps into and through adulthood.
Thanks to both Amanda and Sean for voicing your voices.
Quick Summary: the only way to conquer your fear is to walk directly into it.
This week we’re talking for a quick minute about conquering your fear. This won’t resonate with everyone because not everyone struggles with fear. Keep reading anyway–there may still be an idea or two that’s helpful and applies to some part of your life.
I’m reminded of this after watching my daughter Mandy take part in something called The Fear Experiment, and having her fellow “Fear Experimenters” give their performances recently at a concert hall, to an audience of over 700 (by the way, great job Mandy, facing your fear–you were awesome :).
You can look up this amazing program online, and read about founder Saya’s purpose and vision.
In summary, people sign up and practice for a few months (and ultimately perform) one of the following performance arts: improv, dance, a capella singing, or story-telling.
You must fulfill two criteria to join: you have to join by yourself (so you and your buddy don’t isolate yourselves in a corner), and you have to be afraid to perform the performance art that you’ll be studying.
As I watched these wonderful, inspiring folks perform last night, and as I’ve listened to my daughter’s experiences over these weeks of practice and preparation, I’m reminded of a few things about fear:
1) Fear is only conquered by action. If left unchallenged, fear causes us to shrink, avoid, and become even more fearful. Fear only dissipates when we “walk into” that very thing we fear.
2) By the way, this “walking into the fear” is called courage. Many think courage is something people have who are NOT afraid. Quite the contrary–fear is an essential ingredient of courage. Otherwise, without the fear, the action may be noble, admirable, etc., but it can’t be called courageous.
3) Having a safe and supportive community there for you when you’re walking into the fear is ideal, and even essential, for our major fears. There’s strength in numbers.
When famous tightrope walker Nick Wallenda goes to perform one of his mind-boggling tightrope walks–whether it’s walking across the Grand Canyon or between two Chicago skyscrapers (blindfolded), he’s got his support team present–his family, his pastor, etc.
When the Fear Experimenters performed last night, I’m guessing it was encouraging and emboldening to have their fellow performers all pulling for them, in addition to family and friends in the audience, and quite frankly, the entire audience. All the performers were cheered on by everyone.
4) Life’s too short to live in fear. We miss out on growth, opportunity, and a lot of cool experiences and people when we remain in fear. That’s what I mean when I say that we live “shrunken lives”.
5) Most of the things we’re afraid of aren’t really “all that”. Remember that scary monster in your bedroom when you were a kid? Oh yeah, it was only a shadow from your Scooby Doo lamp.
6) Showing courage and facing our fear can “spill over” into being courageous in other areas of our lives, creating a ripple effect, and giving us momentum in this area of boldness. Success breeds success. Build on this momentum (see #7).
7) It’s important to practice courage and develop the “skill” and steadfast mindset of hardening your will, looking fear squarely in the eye, and staring it down. We only get good at this by consistent practice and strengthening our “courage muscle”.
It becomes easier to practice courage once you have some positive experiences under your belt.
8) Be patient with yourself. Some people have deep-seated fears due to horrible past events. It’s gonna take time to work through that kind of fear.
“Yeah, but I didn’t have anything horrible happen to me, and I’m still immobilized by fear”. The cause of chronic fear can be a complicated mix of temperament, your childhood experience with your family of origin (and others), and learned behavior/conditioning. Just be patient, don’t judge yourself, and keep pushing against the fear. Seek improvement, not perfection. You can conquer fear, no matter who you are or what you’ve experienced. I promise.
9) When I say “conquer” fear, I mean push against it and do the thing you’re afraid of. It doesn’t need to look pretty. It’ll get easier. There will be times you don’t feel much like a conqueror. Again, progress not perfection. It may not always feel very “conquering”, but be proud of yourself for having the guts anytime you face your fear.
10) There is something called “healthy fear”. For goodness sake, listen to it. We SHOULD avoid some people, places, and things because they’re not safe or will lead to hazardous outcomes.
What about you? What are you currently dealing with that causes you some fear? Any areas of chronic fear?
I’d like to challenge you today to do what these Fear Experimenters have done, and take action on your fear.
I don’t know what that means for you, but I’m guessing you do.
And if you don’t? Give me a call and I’d be honored to help you figure it out.
In case you’re interested in reading more, here’s a quick article about fear that I wrote a few years ago. Check it out.
Until we meet again, keep showing courage!
Sean is a Peak Performance Coach who helps “everyday people” achieve High-Impact Goals. For his free e-book and e-course “7 Simple Essentials for Strong Success”, visit Sean at www.YourExtraordinaryFuture.co