Fear automatically creates a fight or flight response in our brain. Now this is very useful when we were being chased by lions or facing real mortal danger. But these days, the choking fear we feel is often not life threatening yet it holds us back and restricts our lives just as surely as if a lion were hot on our heels.
One of my goals is to become an international trainer. One tiny flaw with that grand plan. I am a nervous flyer. Recently, I was given the opportunity to fly to Bloemfontein to train a group of 100+ people. When I walked out onto the tarmac, there was a tiny little propeller plane waiting for me. I swallowed hard. Time to consider my options.
I figured if I took a few slow steps back towards the terminal and head back home to safety. (by the way, WHY do they call it terminal!? Not helpful to nervous flyers!)
Or I could take a step towards my fear.
In theory I know that when you are feeling crushing fear, just take a step. Theory and practice are often two different things. But I took a deep breath and took a step. My legs were trembling but I took a step. I thought I might vomit but I took a step. I decided I would hold my own hand and I took a step. Eventually, I got to the plane and just kept just taking a step to get to my seat...and what do you know, we arrived safely in Bloemfontein.
Suddenly the thought of training such a large group did not feel daunting at all. After all, I had just survived the flight. The nice thing about getting to the other side of fear is how liberating it is!
My mentor, Sean Thomson, told me that fear is all about managing the butterflies in your tummy. When you are about to do something that terrifies you – whether it is flying or public speaking – the butterflies will start swarming around in your tummy and up into your throat and pound in your head and you feel like you are choking, about to faint or vomit or both!
What do we do when we are feeling fear? Take a step. Do it anyway.
If you keep doing that which you fear, eventually the butterflies will feel a little less overwhelming. And if you do it some more, the butterflies will start to fly in formation.
One day, you’ll wake up and you’ll realise that the butterflies are gone.
One day you are finally free from that particular fear. Now that is true power!