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The systems approach to fear

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

The systems approach to fear

Scott Miker

Fear is something that everyone experiences at some point.  Sometimes fear is good.  It tells us that there might be danger and we should pay attention.

But most of the fears that we feel in our daily lives are misguided.  They are due to a pressure that we put on ourselves that magnifies a potential issue.

I use the example of the first time I tried to surf.  I had developed a fear of the ocean and sharks but also had this desire to learn how to surf. 

What I realized is that this fear had to be overcome before I could accomplish my goal.  The danger was real but exaggerated in my mind to a point where I felt it was guaranteed that a shark would attack me if I got in too deep.  Fear clouded my ability to analyze the potential danger accurately.   

But fear isn’t logical.  Fear doesn’t calculate using analytical tools.  Fear is an emotion.  And with most emotions, they aren’t based on logic.

I learned a great deal from my first experience trying to surf.  I overcame the fear and realized once I did that the pressure I felt almost completely disappeared. 

But it isn’t always as simple as just proceeding forward and convincing yourself you are doing the right thing.  Many times it takes a lot of small steps to overcome the fear that is holding us back.

The systems and habits approach to improvement is based on starting small.  We start with very small steps to slowly change our routines and habits.  Then, over time, they build up and form a solid foundation to continue improving. 

We can take the same, slow, step-by-step approach to overcoming fear.  We don’t have to overcome everything all at once.  We can do it by attacking a small piece first.  Then overcoming the next small piece.  Then the next.   

In The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, the author says, “If a fear is so big that it paralyzes you, scale down the amount of risk.  Take on smaller challenges and work your way up.  If you’re starting your first job in sales, call on prospects or customers you think will be the easiest to sell first.  If you’re asking for money for your business, practice on those lending sources whom you wouldn’t want to get a loan from anyway.  If you’re anxious about taking on new responsibilities at work, start by asking to do parts of a project you’re interested in.  If you’re learning a new sport, start at lower levels of skill.  Master those skills you need to learn, move through your fears, and then take on bigger challenges.” 

Whatever it is that you want to do in your life, understand that you have the power to do it.  But you will have to overcome your self-imposed fears first.  There will be real risk but you can’t let your fear combine with the risks to paralyze you.   

Instead start slowly and move methodically towards your goal.  As you build a few positive behaviors and realize the danger is exaggerated in your mind from fear, it will start to deteriorate.  As the fear starts to disappear you will have built up skills and experiences that will now help catapult you towards your idea of success.