Elle Forest

Are fears running your life?

“Survey’s show that the #1 fear of Americans is public speaking. #2 is death. That means that at a funeral, the average American would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.” –Jerry Seinfeld

If facing your fears is holding you back in your life and career, then look no further than the armed forces for insight. They have been specializing in training others how to overcome their fears for centuries. You might assume that since you aren’t going into battle that none of these methods would apply to you-you would be wrong. The armed forces and specialty units have a plethora of scientifically proven training methods to overcome fear in the individual that can easily be adapted for use in daily life.

1. Face your fears — on a grand scale.

Whether your fear is speaking in front of people or suggesting an improvement in sales methods, this military method can be a game changer. The first thing you need to do is imagine yourself in the fearful situation. So, imagine you are getting up to speak in front of a room filled with VIP clients and you are petrified. Once you imagine how that feels—stay with the fear—don’t bail out here!

Now, take it up a notch and imagine the situation getting worse. Really imagine that everything that can go wrong is going wrong. Maybe your microphone isn’t working, your PowerPoint presentation isn’t loading, the A/C in the room has died. You are in a total panic! Don’t stop there. Make it worse. In addition to all that, you bent over to pick up the notes you had and your pants just split open and they are all laughing at you. You are humiliated. Keep it going. Keep building the fear, really push yourself to the worst-case scenario you can. Take it to the ultimate level of fear. As you reach for your computer to try and get the slideshow working, you knock over the cappuccino on the podium and it flies into the front row and spills onto the company CEO. You are mortified and start crying in front of all of these important clients.

Now, breathe! Let go of the terrifying image you just endured and focus on your breathing. Allowing yourself to calm and slow your breathing until you feel comfortable again. Believe it or not, regularly engaging in this process of facing your most terrifying fears while expanding upon them will significantly reduce them.

2. Practice makes perfect.

Practice might not make everything perfect but it will drastically reduce your fears in situations. Another tactic that the military use to reduce fear is repetitive practice. When an unknown situation is what you are walking into, the best way to overcome that fear is to practice. The Navy SEALS are an elite team of military personnel who spend most of their time practicing! According to Former SEAL Platoon Commander James Waters, the Navy SEALS spend approximately 75% of their time preparing for situations that they may be deployed into, versus only 25% of their time actually deployed. NASA has also used the science behind this intensive repetitive practice in preparing astronauts to launch into space.

Go through the motions—over and over and over again. Go through the presentation, the sales pitch or the upcoming interview. Go through it, again and again, until you’ve prepared for it so perfectly that it feels as if you’ve already done it. By having practiced it so many times, you have given yourself an almost automatic response to the situation and significantly reduced the amount of fear associated with the upcoming event. You’ve got this—and by now you know it!

3. Change for the better.

Regularly engaging in practices designed to overcome fears will help you in all aspects of your life. Everyone has fear, and everyone can significantly reduce the impact fear has on controlling their own decisions. So many choices are base off of irrational fears, that by beginning a practice of overcoming fears you greatly improve the quality of your life and the power and confidence you have to make choices from a different mental space.