There has never been a better time to face your fears. In today’s episode, Commander Divine provides a step-by-step process for you to be aware of your fears and to successfully conquer them with courage.
- When you fear failure, you are essentially fearing success—afraid of the risk of moving away from the status quo
- Your ego is holding you back with its resistance to the unknown—your heart knows there is something more important beyond that
- The first step for overcoming fear and moving toward courage is self-awareness—identity exactly what you’re afraid of
Listen to this episode to hear about all the steps, so you can effectively confront your fears and be courageous during these VUCA times.
During these times we’re all experiencing unprecedented stress and many of us will also be having sleep difficulties. To help decompress, Mark recommends the BiOptimizer magnesium supplement. Magnesium is a major component of body chemistry and is responsible for many biochemical reactions. So you can supplement with Magnesium Breakthrough, the supplement from BiOptimizer. You can use it for 10% off because you are a listener. Go to https://magbreakthrough/unbeatable and use the code unbeatable10 at checkout.
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This is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Welcome back. Thanks so much for joining me today. Appreciate your time and your attention.
Today, I’ve got a solo cast and gonna have a short riff on the subject of fear. You may have heard the following quote from Nelson Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear.”
Franklin Roosevelt was quoted as saying, “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
I like that. I would add that courage is not the absence of fear but doing the right thing in spite of fear. A lot of people asked me over the years, “how is it that navy seals teach you not to experience fear?”
And I said, “they don’t teach you not to experience fear. They teach you how to act in spite of fear. They teach you how to recontextualize fear, how to create a new relationship with it.”
So what are some of the most common types of fear or experiences of fear? Well, obviously there’s the fear of loss of life and limb. Bodily fear or harm.
There’s the more insidious fear of criticism or judgment projected toward you. We want to be liked and so it’s uncomfortable when we’re not liked.
You see this in social media having such an adverse effect on our culture. People approach that from a state of fear that they’re not going to be perfect or seen as perfect. Or they’re not going to be liked.
And so they fear criticism. And so, they create these pretend lives. That’s fear.
And then fear of failure. So, if you fear failure means you’re fearing the risk or the impact – the potential adverse consequences of the risk… and therefore, what you’re really saying is you’re fearing success, but you’re not willing to take the risk necessary to move beyond where you are right now. Or move beyond your status quo.
So fear of success and fear of failure are very, very similar. I think they’re almost the same thing.
And then there’s all sorts of really deeply patterned subconscious fears based upon self-esteem or self-worth issues that are rooted in a very young age. And those fears oftentimes show up in an “opposite day” effect of aggrandizement, perfectionism or brashness.
Or arrogance. That’s another one. So fear can be masked as arrogance or rashness, where you overly risk-up and you make dumb decisions. So those are also based upon subconscious fear of not being enough, of not measuring up. Of not feeling worthy.
So in a way to really simplify this, you could look at fear really as your ego’s attempt to hold on to a reality that it understands and that is comfortable for it. It’s worked out and it doesn’t want to change. It resists change.
And so anytime that change is presented as an opportunity, it will feel fearful. It’ll turn away from it. It’ll shy from it.
So the opportunities to change can come in the form of the opportunity to give a speech, or to go for a new promotion, or to launch a new project, or to take on a really bold mission like become a navy seal. Or when you’re in the seals, to take a shot at tier one training, or your first free fall jump at night, or your first combat mission.
So, no matter what level of training you are, you’re going to have resistance. Your ego is going to have resistance to the unknown. That next thing, that next level… because you don’t have the confidence – you haven’t been there and done that yet.
So, I’m obviously pointing to a few ways that we can overcome fear. But I’ll come to those in a minute.
So, back to this idea fear is your ego’s attempt to hold on to the past to hold on to the status quo. Courage is your heart’s attempt or desire to open up and become more expansive. So fear is in the head, it’s the ego, it’s your personality that wants to hold on to your identity of the past. What’s worked and who you think you are.
Even if you think it’s flawed or not perfect, you’re going to resist change. It’s fear.
The root of courage is “coeur” which means heart in French. That’s from the heart.
So, courage is again not the absence of fear, but it’s your heart knowing that there’s something more important than your ego’s desire to stay in its comfort zone. Fear is negative, and a decision made out of fear will have negative consequences.
Courage is positive. Decisions made out of courage will have positive consequences. It may take a little finessing to see the positive consequences out of a courageous act that doesn’t work out. But when you compare it to the fearful act you would have taken had you taken the fearful path, you’d be able to see the stark difference between the negative result of the negative path and the positive result of the positive path.
The path of courage always wins out in the long run. As I’ve said – the path of truth will always win out in the long run. Even if it’s got painful consequences in the short term. So you may feel fear, the resistance to stepping out of your comfort zone to shed light on a truth that is uncomfortable – in your organization, in your family – in your own life, in someone else’s life – when it comes to social justice or whatever…
And you may receive stark criticism and judgment showered upon you for stepping out. Speaking your truth.
But the path of truth – spoken from the heart – or an action taken from the heart will always have a positive consequence in the long run. We can look at exemplars like Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Teresa as great examples of that. Their courageous actions and their truth led to significant benefit for a lot of people, even though the short-term or the medium-term consequences were painful for those individuals.
So, fear is negative. The opposite of fear or the absence of fear – which is courageous action, doing the right thing in spite of the fear – is positive. Doesn’t mean it’s going to be more comfortable though.
So we have to distinguish the difference between comfort and courage and discomfort and fear. So comfort and discomfort are just feelings. It’s just a bodily psychological and physiological reaction to the level of stress and unknown that you’re allowing into your life.
So when you become aware that you’re fearful of something – let’s say giving a big speech – you can start to feel a lot of discomfort with that. Because facing that unknown and the potential criticism and the potential for failure, it creates almost an existential energy that you’re going to die. Part of your ego is going to die. And it’s extremely uncomfortable.
And you get that pit in your stomach, and you have fight or flight symptoms start to come on. And you might freeze, and your actions might be to run the other way, to flee back into your comfort zone.
So it’s platitudinous to say, “well, just buck up and find the courage to do the right thing.” In rare cases, someone can step up and be courageous out of a place of cowering and fear, but that’s very rare.
The reality is there’s a process to getting comfortable with fear. And the feeling states the psychological and physical feelings that come from fear. And this is how the seals train you to be courageous, not to overcome fear, but to get comfortable with the psychological and physical feeling that fear brings up. And then to re-purpose that, recontextualize that.
And to get out of your head and your ego, and into your heart. And take that courageous action that is important for your team, for your mission, for your country, for yourself…
So, if you’re facing something or a series of things in your life that you’re afraid of and you want to step into a bigger version of yourself with courage, then first step is to recognize or become aware of that which is causing the fear.
This is no small thing… a lot of people are either in denial or they’re ignorant of actually what they’re fearful of. They’re just fearful. And so they go through their life contracting into something less and clinging to the past.
And the reason for this, is they won’t take the time to really self-assess… become self-aware of what it is in their subconscious. And their background of obviousness that is causing the states of fear that arise. It’s not always as obvious as, “oh man, I’m afraid of heights, so I don’t want to step close to the edge of this building.”
I mean, that’s pretty obvious. And that’s normal, and you can deal with that type of phobia. But, like I said, the less obvious are like the fears of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of being shamed…
And those come from conditioning from childhood traumas – or doesn’t have to be childhood – but traumas…
So, self-awareness really is the first step to overcoming fear and moving toward courage – training courage. We become self-aware of that which it is that we need to rectify or to move the dial on.
And step number two, is to de-identify with that. So once you become aware of your fear – let’s say it’s fear of rejection, and you tie that to an incident or series of incidents in your youth where you were rejected, and you didn’t have the tools to handle it.
So self-awareness is step one, “oh man, I have this great fear of rejection so therefore I don’t step into social circles. And I’m kind of a loner as a result of that.” Congratulations – self-awareness. Step one, check Mark that one off.
Step two now, is to de-identify from that as part of who you are, so you are not that. That is something else. You make it an “it.” You objectify it.
This part of you – this broken part of you that says that you’re not good enough, because you’re going to be rejected, right? You need to then grab that hold of it psychologically and turn it into an object.
You can even mentally create an object like a block of wood, or a stone… and then in your mind’s eye you’re going to take that object like out of your body, and you’re going to look at it. And you’re going to speak to it, and you’re going to say, “I see you. You are what I fear. But you are not me.”
So, you stop identifying with the fear or the energy of the fear. You stop identifying. You’re not denying that it makes you uncomfortable – it does – and you’re not trying to change your comfort level with it yet… this is just step two. Step two is to just stop identifying that as who you are, because it’s not true. You at your most essential nature is not that. It’s much bigger than that. Much more positive.
So step one, become self-aware. Step two is name it, objectify it, and then bring it outside your sense of self. And talk to it as an it. Not as you.
And so now what we’re dealing with is you’ve got something concrete – you’ve concretized this issue in your life. And we can work with something that we find concrete. We can wrap our psychological hands around it – our mental hands around… like, “okay, I can work with this.”
Now so step three, then, is essentially moving toward it. So you become aware, and you’ve identified it, and now you face it as an object. So you face the fear, and many people say, “stop there.” And say, “face your fear.”
It’s great that we’ve faced it, we’ve objectified it. And we’re not identifying as it, anymore. We could start to work with it now.
What we can do is start to move toward it. Now, when this object is outside of you it might seem like a long ways away, and there might even be a huge dark canyon between you. And any fear that you have you might think, “there’s no way I can just move toward it and it’s going to go away.”
I said that’s true. That’s why we use the crawl, walk, run model, right? So, we take some baby steps toward that fear – toward that object – what does this mean?
It means you’re going to do things small – micro-goal, incremental things that have a flavor or a taste or an aspect of that which you fear. This is just how you’re going to form any habit or do anything in life. You first got to try it, but you don’t want to go all the way in.
Like, if you’re afraid of heights I would not say, “strap on a parachute and go jump out of an airplane.” We didn’t do that in our navy seal parachute training. We went to army airborne school, and we learned how to start by jumping off a small box into a pit with sawdust. And then we jumped off of a larger box, and then we jumped off a table. And next thing, we were jumping out of a tower like a bungee jump. And then we were jumping out of a airplane with a static line parachute from not very high, right?
So we crawl, walk, run… and then come back to seal training, and now we’re doing free fall jumping out of an airplane at 17 000 feet.
But even that training had its crawl, walk, run approach to it. So you move with micro-goals toward that which you fear. Which you’ve objectified and become self-aware of by just creating little challenges for yourself. And then you overcome that challenge, and you learn from it, and you grow, and you apply all the skills we’ve taught here at Unbeatable Mind.
We breathe into it using breath control training. We talk to ourselves positively – feeding the courage wolf. We visualize ourselves doing it, succeeding at it, and we link our targets or our goals in these very, very small incremental steps moving relentlessly closer and closer toward our goal.
Which is to do that which we fear with courage.
That is what we call desensitization training. So every time you take another step toward, and you accomplish a task and you’re like, “that wasn’t so bad. I learned from that. I can grow from that. I can do that now.” You’re creating mental representations and physiological representations in your body/mind of what that feels like and you.
And you’re saying to yourself, “I can do that, it’s not that bad.”
So you begin to reinforce a positive psychosomatic loop around the doing of that which you were very uncomfortable with. Which you formerly identified as fearful. And now you’re turning it into a courageous act in this way.
Courage is learned. So, you can go back to the original definition – courage is not the absence of fear, it’s learning and embodying actions that overcome the psychosomatic feelings of fear that you formerly held. Desensitizing yourself to whatever that was that caused this discomfort.
We say you’ve got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The reality is, you’re just changing your characterization of what comfort is. And so you get out there and you do that hard thing and it used to be terrifying for you and extraordinarily uncomfortable, and now it’s exciting for you.
The level of actual work involved is the same, but the energy you put in – and the energy it sucked out of you before, when it was a negative association, as fear – versus your positive association, as a courageous act that you’re excited about. That you’re willful about, and you know it’s the right thing to do.
The energy is extraordinarily different, and so you have all this positive energy which is geometrically greater than the negative energy from the fear state. And it leaves you emboldened, empowered – it leaves you feeling really good about yourself. Strengthens you at all levels.
So, in this way you started out crippled or paralyzed by something, and you named it as fear. And you owned it, and you said that that was you, when you became aware of it. And then objectified it and split that off from being you to an object or an “it.”
That then you can move toward. You can face it. And then you move toward it with micro-goals in a crawl, walk, run manner.
Each time, you take a courageous act – doing something that has elements or aspects of that which you fear. Until eventually you’re doing it multiple times.
Back to the speech example – you’re giving speeches multiple times in front of an audience. And you’re just like, “holy cow, I’ve conquered this. I own this, now. There is nothing to fear.”
And now any time you prepare for a speech, you feel those sensations that you formally identify with fear – they come up and you say to yourself, “wow, that’s normal. That’s excitement, that’s anticipation.”
And you use that as determination. You use it to energize your performance, and you can help use it to unlock flow as well. Because there’s a lot of energy, when you bring a positive mindset to those somatic felt experiences. Especially when danger is involved.
Danger doesn’t have to be physical danger to life and limb, but it could be danger to our reputation – like putting yourself out there boldly, or joining that social situation, or that club, or that team. Or that martial art.
And the fear goes away, replaced by courage. And you own it.
So think about this in the context of your own life. Imagine if you had nothing holding you back, no fears whatsoever… what would you do? What could you do? Who could you be? Who would you be? Who would you serve? How would you serve?
Recognize that that’s all possible. You get to create your own reality here. The only thing holding you back is you. There’s no victims here. You’re only a victim if you choose to be a victim.
You may think, “well, that’s not true, Mark. I am a victim of a, b, c or d. I’m a victim of abuse, I’m a victim of the system, I’m a victim of my color. I’m victim of my social class. I’m a victim of an accident which took a limb from me.”
And I get all that. I’m talking about it’s a choice as to whether to stay a victim – psychologically trapped in fear and in limitation. You have the choice. You have the choice to identify what’s holding you back, to name it and face it, and then to remove it from your personality as an aspect of you. So that you can go dominate and crush it. And own that with courage.
And then you do it with the next thing that is fearful about your life, or that’s holding you back. And every time you do this, you’re releasing an enormous amount of positive energy – of potential that you can apply toward the next thing.
Do this two or three times and then suddenly you find yourself unbeatable. Unstoppable. Uncommon.
So, what do you say? There’s a lot of fear in our society, there’s a lot of negativity, there’s a lot of bullshit.
How about we stare down those fear wolves? Stoke our courage wolf? Do the right thing in spite of the discomfort? Embrace the suck. Eradicate the limitations and limiting beliefs and the negativity that’s holding us back.
Live with courage and pay it forward through your example. I’m right there with you. I’ll lead the way. Hooyah. Thanks for listening.
See you next time.