So January 2014 is going to be the month in which I Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. The first time I read this book I was 24 (so 12 years ago). I was in a job I hated and drinking cheap white wine in All Bar One with a friend.
She pulled a copy of Susan Jeffer’s book out of her bag and told me I had to read it. ‘It just makes you want to go out and DO stuff,’ she said. I couldn’t see what exactly it made her want to go out and do other than get drunk with me, but her enthusiasm was contagious. The next day I popped out in my lunch hour and entered the brave new world of the ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’ aisle of Waterstone’s.
From the first page, I was hooked. There was something about the shouty exclamation marks, the American positivity that was strangely exhilarating.
Susan Jeffers basic premise is that if we sit around waiting for the day we feel brave enough, pretty enough, clever enough or strong enough to do the things we want to do, we’ll never do anything. The secret of successful people is not that they get less scared by things, but that they Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. She says that actually we should all be scared every day because it’s a sign that we’re pushing ourselves and moving forward.
At the time the book had such an effect on me that I quit the PR job I hated a month after reading it. I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing but a couple of months later I heard that a friend of a friend was working at a newspaper and I offered to make tea for free. That was the start of my journalism career. The risk paid off.
Since then I’ve been good at taking bold risks – leaving jobs, moving countries – but I’m still crippled by more vague fears every day: fear of failure, fear or rejection, fear of looking stupid, fear of not being good enough. I’m scared of stupid things such as parallel parking, my bank statements, smiling at a handsome man.
Jeffers believes that that what’s driving all our fears is the belief that we will not be able to handle what life throws at us. For example, we won’t able to cope with the feeling of failure if our business fails or we will never get over the rejection if the hot guy doesn’t smile back.
Her message is: ‘YOU’LL HANDLE IT’. She says to ‘Put signs in your home that say ‘So what? I’ll handle it!’
From what I can see, in practical terms Jeffers recommends the following:
Do one scary thing a day
So the only way to conquer your fears is to face them – one at a time. This can be anything from facing small fears – opening bank statements, saying ‘no’ to a friend – to more major ones – leaving a job, ending a relationship. Each time you face a fear, you’ll feel stronger. Avoiding risks, on the other hand, makes us feel weak and scared all the time.
Remember there’s no such thing as a bad decisions
Instead of being paralysed what’s the right or wrong thing to do – accept that whatever decision you’ll make will end up in a learning experience.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes
To use an American analogy – Jeffers says that even the best baseball hitters miss six out of ten times. Lighten up about your mistakes and be happy that you’ve had the experience.
In the same way we have to exercise regularly to stay fit, so we need to practice positive thinking every single day. This means repeating positive affirmations throughout the day – I am strong! I love my work! etc – and celebrating our achievements in a diary. Building up our positivity apparently gives us more strength to face our fears.
So these are the four things I’ll do every day for the next month:
- Do one scary thing a day
- Keep ‘a book of abundance’ to jot down positive achievements
- Repeat positive affirmations – such as ‘Everything is going perfectly’
- Remember that whatever happens ‘I’ll handle it’
I must go now, to find something terrifying to do…