Four Secrets to Becoming Fearless
Editor's Note: In Honor of Veterans Day, this Monday post is published earlier in celebration of tomorrow. I'd like to thank the brave men and women who protect and keep America safe. You honor us with your courage, and from you, we hope to learn to slay our own private dragons.
Think of your favorite comic book superheroes. Chances are you like them for their unique brand of supernatural abilities. In each storyline, think of the climactic scene between the super villain and the superhero. It usually involves a showdown where the villain exposes and weakens the hero’s superpower. Nearing defeat, the hero is forced to dig deep within himself. There he finds his courage, and against all odds, he triumphs over the villain.
Courage is not something you need to be a superhero to have; it is not a supernatural ability. People like you and me draw on our courage every day. Because life demands it of us every day.
For those of you who don’t believe you are courageous, want to know the secret to becoming fearless? I discovered four.
1. Your Desire Must be Greater than Your Fear
According to Bill Cosby, “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”
Time and time again, I found this to be true. I often intentionally backed myself into a corner where the consequence of failure was so dire that the only option was to succeed. Rather than paralyzing me, it energized me to push hard for results.
Auditioning for a play, asking someone out, going after a promotion – in all these instances, you were probably deathly terrified. But despite being afraid, you went for it. You succeeded because your desire outweighed all else.
Despite desire, people have a tendency to avoid losses, especially when it involves money. According to Scientific American, this type of behavior is known as loss-aversion. The study suggests that a primitive part of your brain, known as the amygdala, is responsible.
So then how does something become less frightening?
2. Draw On Past Experiences
Experience builds up your risk tolerance. Most people can’t imagine being bombed out of their homes. Ask any war survivor. Once you went through this experience and came out unscathed, you feel a bit invincible. Ask anyone who survived a divorce and came out stronger. Courage is earned through tough experiences.
3. Narrow the Gap
But what if you are up against something for the first time, and you have no past experiences to draw from? The answer is mind the gap. More specifically, you need to narrow the gap. To remove what your brain perceives as danger, narrow the gap between where you are and where you want to be. In the industry, this is called risk mitigation. Reduce the danger down to the degree within your risk tolerance level.
4. Gradual Exposure
Another way to lessen danger is gradual exposure to it. Mountain climbers understand this better than anyone else. To build up their lungs to adapt to the increasingly thin air, they gradually exposed their body to different elevations before attempting to reach the top. No intelligent person decides one day to Climb Mount Everest, gets off a plane, straps his gear on and goes. Even for the most seasoned climbers, there is still need for specialized training.
Same can be said about risk taking. Even if you count yourself among the bold, each new situation will present you with a new challenge, requiring from you a newer set of skills, and an even greater risk tolerance.
But like your superhero, you must dig deep within yourself. There you will find your courage, and against all odds, you will triumph.