A thought experiment to help you face your fears
Pretty much every worthwhile thing I’ve done, from traveling the world, to falling in love, to starting Ignited Leadership, scared the shit out of me before I did it. But I refuse to be ruled by my fears. You should too. Life is too short.
There are a wide variety of methods to boost your confidence. I’ve written about a few of them here, and here, and will be releasing a comprehensive guide to confidence later this year. But for now, I want to share a confidence boosting trick that I normally reserve for seminar participants, one that leverages both thoughts and feelings to catapult you into taking action.
This technique can be used if you need a generic shot of confidence, but it is most powerful when you need to overcome a big barrier that is preventing you from leading the life of your dreams.
Step 1: Create the right atmosphere and focus on your dream life
You’re going to need 10-20 minutes, and a quiet, relaxing space for this to work. Create an atmosphere where you’re going to be able to let your imagination run wild for a bit. Personally, I like to dim the lights in my bedroom, lie down, and turn on soft music.
Start off by thinking about whatever it is you dream of doing but lack the confidence to pursue. Doesn’t matter what it is specifically, it just has to be true to you. Lets say you want to quit your office job to become a documentary filmmaker but you’re afraid of the uncertainty that changing paths may bring.
Step 2: image that you lived your life ruled by your fears
Now imagine that you’re at the end of your life and you’re reviewing the bigger decisions you made. You wanted to ask a cute stranger out on a date, you wanted to hop on a jet and learn to surf in Costa Rica, and you wanted to quit your boring office job to become a documentarian.
But you didn’t do any of that stuff because it was too scary for you to face. You were afraid of rejection, afraid of leaving the beaten path, and afraid of taking a risk.
As you look back across your life, you’ll be plagued by the haunting sensation that you didn’t live to the fullest of your ability.
Step 3: imagine that you led your life ruled by your passions and dreams
Once again, imagine that you’re at the end of your life and you’re reviewing the bigger decisions you made. You wanted to ask a cute stranger out, you wanted to hop on a jet and learn to surf in Costa Rica, and you wanted to quit your boring office job to pursue something more creative.
And you did it! You acknowledged your fear and acted on your desires anyways.
You were afraid of rejection, but you asked the cute stranger out anyways. You thought it might be crazy to run off to Costa Rica just to learn to surf, but you still got on the jet. You wanted to leave your cushy office job to pursue something creative, and you took the leap.
And imagine it all going amazingly. Imagine that you created a stunning life for yourself.
As you look back you’ll feel the energy of having led a life that was true to your desires and made the most out of your limited time on this planet. You’ll be sad that the ride is ending, but content knowing that you lived it to the fullest.
Step 4: Logic it out
At this point you’ve imagined a life led by fear. Inevitably that life ends with regret and remorse because it wasn’t fully lived. You’ve also imagined a life led by passion and dreams. Inevitably that life ends on a note of beauty and vivacity.
The life led from a place of passion trumps the life led from a place of fear every single time. There are no exceptions to this.
Step 5: Remind yourself of two truths about the human experience
Truth 1: the human experience ends.
Regardless of how well or how poorly you live, one thing is for sure: you die. It’s as essential, and as human as drinking water, sleeping, and eating. Though we don’t tend to discuss death and dying in Western societies, it’s still an integral part of life.
Truth 2: we don’t actually know what happens after death.
Some of us believe that there is a form of afterlife – heaven, hell, reincarnation, or some sort of non-corporeal existence. For all I know, that’s entirely possible.
Some of us believe that there is no form of afterlife whatsoever. Our flame is extinguished and that’s that. For all I know, that’s entirely possible.
Truthfully, I’m not smart enough to know what happens after death.
In fact, none of us know what happens after death. It is a complete and total mystery. At best we have a strong belief about what happens next, but it’s nothing more than that, a belief. Nobody knows what happens after this.
Your best bet is to make this one count by being true to yourself, and that means facing your fears when they prevent you from achieving your dreams.
So, will this process make you fearless?
Nope. We’ll always feel fear to some degree. That’s inevitable. The point is not to become fearless (which is basically impossible) but to learn to bring yourself to the tipping point, to that place of being at least 51% “hell yeah I’m going to do it!”
This exercise will help you get to (and beyond) that magic 51% mark so you can take action.
The last step
Once you’ve gone through this exercise and tipped the scales in favor of engaging with a life of passion instead of fear, the last step is to take a deep breath, connect to the human experience, and begin building your dreams. When you find the courage to face your fear and act on your dreams you inevitably create an abundance of beauty.
There is nothing left to do besides act.