Ever since my youngest daughter was born seven years ago I wake up from time to time with a reoccurring dream. Somehow, I’m backing over my little girl with the car that I’m driving.
In my dream, I’m not paying attention, while she is doing something cute and not noticing that I’m leaving — and I do the unthinkable.
It’s the same dream. The same nightmare. Like a bad movie that you’re forced to sit through.
When I start having this dream, something in the back of my brain tells the crazy part of my head that it knows that I’m dreaming. And sometimes I’ll even wake myself up halfway through the dream.
But when I go back to sleep that night I have that dream all over again. It’s a weird, psychological bit of craziness that usually indicates I’m stressed out.
It’s a pretty good sign that there are things inside my head that I need to work out.
Fear does that to you. It forces you to think. It forces you to stop.
No matter how fast you’re moving or how determined you are to get to where you want to be, fear has the power to paralyze you in an instant.
In some ways, that’s a good thing — because it stops you from doing some really incredibly foolish things. It protects you. And keeps you alive. But left unchecked, fear will destroy every good thing in your life.
It will make you paranoid and skeptical, bitter, angry, and without hope for a better future.
Fear is the single most powerful poison to ever infect your dreams.
Infect. Then effect.
In truth, we are all afraid of a lot of things. And at different levels of intensity.
And sometimes those fears compete against each other.
There is a part of you that is afraid of sticking out and getting noticed — and maybe being called weird. There is another part of you that is deeply afraid of not being noticed at all.
Your fear isn’t exactly rational or reasonable. But it’s a head game that is all too real though. And if you can’t learn to handle it, you’ll end paralyzed, underperforming, and lost in a whirlwind of regret.
So what’s the secret to handling fear? What can you do when all you feel is panic and dread and fear — deeply overwhelmed by life, and more importantly your current situation?
Here are a few ways to win the game of fear:
- Admit the power that fear has over you. — Recognize that you are powerless on your own to fix this problem. You haven’t been able to beat it in the past and the only way to fix it going forward is to do something different this time around. You need to do something different if you want to feel better. If you want to achieve something better.
- Believe that you are on this earth to do something uniquely possible for someone of your abilities. — You have a higher purpose — a noble calling. You were meant to be amazing. Fear does not have to hold you captive. And if don’t do what only you can do, some part of the universe is incomplete. You have a reason
- Search yourself honestly. — How much of your fear right now is caused by poor choices you made in past? This isn’t a brand new situation for you. You already know why fear has such a grip over your soul. It’s time for the most honest conversation of your life.
- Clean out your past skeletons. — Apologize to people you have wronged. Confront people who have hurt you deeply. Apologize to those you harbor bitterness for. Confront your demons head-on. Fight for your future by cleaning up your past. You can run forward towards a bright future when you and handcuffed to your secrets from the past.
- Accept responsibility for every feeling, thought, and choice you make from this moment forward. — Today is a clean slate. As of this very moment, nothing needs to hold you captive any longer. So act like it. Try something new. Most importantly, own your results. And when you start to feel that panic rise up in the back of your throat, immediately start talking yourself down. This is on you
- Spend time healing each day. — Whether it’s meditation, prayer, exercise, or yoga — spend time keeping your head straight. Invest in activities and habits that build your endurance for doing the hard work to beat your addiction. Go running. Read a book. Talk to a mentor. Do things that are physically tasking.
- Take inventory of your progress each day. — You’re going to have good days and bad days. To win you need to be deliberate and honest about your behaviors — and the thoughts that you battle each day. Improve each day in small ways. Maybe you should journal what you feel each day and remind yourself that not every day is bad.
- Help someone else beat their addiction to fear. — The best learning you’ll ever do is to teach someone else. The best healing you’ll experience is to help someone else get better themselves. Pay it forward. Be a mentor. Help someone else get past the obstacles standing in their way. What you feel in you is what they feel in them. Can you help them break free? Probably.
I can’t tell you why it happens exactly. But every time I run an ultra-marathon I feel my stomach contort itself into a thousand possible shapes and sizes in the days and hours before the gun goes off.
I feel like I’m going to throw up. And then I feel like I have to go to the bathroom. Then I’m nervous.
Behind it all is a simple fear that underlies what will be the most honest of reckonings.
In the race that will follow, all pretense will be stripped bare. All excuses will become clear. What I will do or don’t do is about to become crystal clear to everyone there, most importantly me.
That’s scary. That’s a moment full of raw panic. And yet, when the gun goes off and the idea of the race turns into the actual race itself, I find comfort that the path from fear to greatness is simply a series of next steps. A decision to plant one foot in front of the other — whether at a sprint or a jog or a crawl.
Success is simply a matter of choice. And fear, when battled back with activity, is nothing more than an empty illusion.
So, no matter how you handle your fear, remember that fear itself can survive for long in an environment where activity and effort, intensity, purpose, and clarity are the rules for living.