The only ones who like change are babies with wet diapers—and that’s because they know what to expect. The rest of us are left trying to understand how to cope with the unexpected in life and the fear that change produces.
Psychologists explain that victims of domestic violence are often so afraid of changing the status quo that they stay in abusive relationships rather than risk the unknown. People prefer to stay within their safety zones because of fear. It’s why people don’t start new businesses and stop looking for love.
As an FBI agent, I have found myself in many situations where I felt genuine fear. Every time I pulled my gun when making an arrest, I had to be prepared to shoot to kill if the situation warranted it. I had to mentally prepare myself for the worse and lean on the training I’d received at Quantico.
COPING WITH FEAR OF CHANGE
Did I conquer the fear? No. Did I control it? Yes.
Where did the strength and courage come from? Sometimes it came from the knees that refused to buckle, the breathing that slowed down as I looked down the barrel of my gun and took aim, or the mind that stayed focused on the situation. At the risk of calling arrest situations a “perfect meditation,” I learned how to remain absolutely present in the moment. Seconds, even minutes, could go by without losing attention or thoughts wandering.
There was fear, but I learned how to control it because something very important was on the line—the safety of not only myself, but others as well. I won’t pretend I wasn’t scared because I was. But this is the thing: I did it anyway. Why? Because this is what I was trained to do at the FBI Academy.
Training is valuable because it forces you to do something over and over again. As a result, you build muscle memory. This allows you to react without thinking about how you’d react. Put yourself in a practice situation enough times and you’ll find that when confronted with the real thing, you’ll react exactly the way you practiced it. Ultimately, proper training shows that you can do this thing—whatever it is. Training is about building confidence, and confidence is a formidable tool against fear.
This is how strong minds are formed. You and I both have far more potential than we give ourselves credit for.
CONTROL YOUR FEAR
The only way to control fear is to face it. Mark Twain once said, “Courage is resistance to fear, not absence of fear.”
Here are some tips to help you control your fear:
1) Identify your fears.
Take out a piece of paper and make four columns. In the first column, make a list of things that you fear. In the second column, for each one of those fears, write down what would be the absolute worst thing that could happen if that fear came true. In the third column, write down how that fear is holding you back. In the last column, for each fear that you named, write down a way that you can face it.
Let’s take an example. If you’re afraid of public speaking, break it down into bite-size issues that can be addressed one at a time. Is it fear of stammering? Forgetting what to say? Fumbling words? Hyperventilating? Sweating? Take the time to list all your fears and write them down.
2) Build a relationship with your fear.
Decide how you can attack each fear on the list. Create a strategy for the fourth column. If your fear is extemporaneous speaking, read newspapers or on-line articles on various topics and then find a friend who is willing to ask you a question about one of them. Stand up when you give your response. Practice! A good friend will offer advice and good feedback.
3) Persistence is the key to overcoming fear.
The discipline of training creates persistence, which in turn, produces confidence. If you persist in achieving a goal, confidence in yourself will grow out of it. Once you confront your fear, it begins to lose its power over you.
What would you like to change in your life? What fears are holding you back? What will you do about it?
LaRae Quy is a former FBI and founder of Your Best Adventure. She writes and speaks about what she learned as an FBI agent catching Russian spies in Silicon Valley. Follow her adventures at www.LaRaeQuy.com/blog/