10 Jun The Art of Fearlessness
‘Now that I’m older I can see everyone was my teacher.’
Mike Tyson is undoubtedly one of my most favourite redemption stories (type 8). One of the most
formidable and feared heavy weight boxing champions of all time now spends every opportunity
talking about how he used to be scared inside and that is what made him “un-human”. His wisdom
is inspiring because he talks, as a healthy type 8, about the courage it takes to embrace and love
every aspect of ourselves. I feel that it’s not by accident that the above quote came into my
Facebook feed this morning. Last night, the eve of my 50 th birthday, I decided that my theme for this
next year was fearlessness – because through fear we grow and therefore every fearful event
provides a fabulous teacher.
Being Level 50 (as I like to think of it!), means that I’ve got some pretty good learnings to reflect on.
To me, our purpose in life is to evolve, grow, love and have fun – otherwise what’s the point.
Looking back and reflecting on the journey so far, I can see that the challenges that once filled me
with absolute dread, are now the very same ones that I conduct with ease and flow. This clearly
shows me that I’ve grown as a person and I had to have those events to happen for me to evolve as
If I was to sum up my life, it would really be about overcoming fear to be the real and authentic
version of me.
Why we fear
Fear is often seen as a negative emotion – but fear serves a very real positive purpose. As human
beings we’re wired to be fearful because it saves us in dangerous situations. Back in caveman days,
if we rounded the corner and saw a sabre-tooth tiger our brain would recognise danger, and our fear
response would be activated. In other words, we would go into ‘fight or flight.’ Our bodies would
be flooded with adrenaline, which would enable us to run faster than we’ve ever ran, or stand and
fight with more strength than we’ve ever had. Then once we escaped the danger, our bodies would
return to normal and we’d feel an enormous drain, or adrenaline dump, sitting in the safety of our
Thankfully, we no longer have sabre-tooth tigers roaming the earth, but we do have our thoughts.
And our brain can’t distinguish between what’s a ‘real’ thought or a ‘false’ thought. Our brain simply
activates the fear response depending on what stimuli we provide it.
Truth or Fear – It’s Our Choice
Most of the time our responses to thoughts are based on false premises or beliefs that we have. In
other words, the story we tell ourselves about something can dictate whether we feel fear or not. In
our work at The Whitehaven Clinic™ one of the processes we teach clients is how to challenge their
thoughts to see if what they are believing is real … or not. And then to see the thought from
different perspectives. What is astonishing is how quickly someone’s extreme anxiety can be calmed
by simply seeing the truth of a false belief. Releasing the story of fear, and recognising truth, is
pivotal to growth.
Using Fear for Growth
Almost all fear is based on a false premise. So, when I think about growth, anything pushing against
our beliefs is going to feel uncomfortable before there’s an ease to it.
Overcoming fear is really about expanding our comfort zone which is why we ‘level up’ as we grow. I
recently watched Harry Garside ( harry_garside ), Australia’s Olympian boxer recently turned
professional (type 7 for those in the know!), talk about how he challenges himself each month to
expand his comfort zone. He credits his success in the ring with learning to take on uncomfortable
challenges and working through the discomfort and anxiety each challenge produces. He explained
his process when asked why he was wearing nail polish at the Olympics (as if actually doing the
Olympics wasn’t fear inducing enough!), and the latest one was being a car window washer at the
lights (check it out on his Instagram account). Funnily enough my partner asked me if Harry Garside
was gay because of his nail polish – I laughed and explained Harry’s experiment and commented that
this was exactly what he was challenging within himself. If he wears nail polish, what judgement
does that produce in himself, and in the eyes of others? And should it even matter? My partner
liked that idea so much that he suggested we do a similar monthly challenge.
Using Fear For Growth
Harry’s experiment got me thinking … how much do we challenge ourselves to explore outside of
our comfort zone? And how often do we face a challenge and then fold because we fear judgement
or fear not being enough to overcome it?
Fundamentally, every fear we have is based on our personality type. We all have personality based
triggers that, without awareness, will govern every move we make – and not always in a way that
will get us what we truly want. When we understand what our underlying fear is, it helps us to
evolve and grow beyond it. That sounds very cryptic I know, but the truth is that understanding who
you are and why you do what you do has massive advantages. That is what we help clients learn in
the work we do with them at The Whitehaven Clinic™.
Fear is the warning sign that you’re about to do something uncomfortable. We can either learn
strategies to embrace the uncomfortableness, or we can step back from it. And it’s not about
throwing yourself into the deep end. It’s about step-by-step strategies so that we can expand your
comfort zone without traumatising yourself!
The first step is to review our thoughts about the situation and then ask ourselves a couple of
- Is it true?
- Can I absolutely, 100%, know that it’s true?
- Who would I be with that thought?
- Who would I be without the thought?
For example, if my challenge is to eat dinner by myself at a restaurant, my thought might be “people
will judge me and they will think I’m a loser”. By asking the above questions, we will quickly see that
we have no idea what people will think about it – we’re simply guessing. And even if they did think
that, does it matter? Does it really impact me? Is there the possibility that they think I’m brave or
Using Byron Katie’s turnaround process helps us to further gain insight into the situation by looking
at different perspectives. Her work is available free of charge at www.thework.com.
Following Byron Katie’s formula, we would turn the above thought around to:
- The Self: I will judge me and I will think I’m a loser. How is that true?
- The Other: I will judge them and I will think they’re a loser. How is that true?
- The Opposite: People won’t judge me and they will think I’m a winner. How is that true?
Fear also helps to expand our comfort zone by consciously moving us into a state of anxiousness and then enacting strategies to overcome that fear. If you think about the elite special forces throughout the world, they will constantly put their teams through high-stress situations so that their comfort zone expands, in the aim of their responses become instinctive instead of reactive. They do this because it saves lives – in our case it can help us to embrace life.
The challenge for this month
Imagine who you would be without fear? What would you be capable of? How would it change how you feel about yourself? About others?
So, what is one thing that you can do this month to embrace fear and expand your comfort zone? Write it down and then see what your thoughts are about it. Then work through using the example above.
Once you have done this … then it’s time to take the challenge on. As one great author said many years ago, “feel the fear and do it anyway!” It can only ever benefit you! And of course, let me know how you go!