The FBI Academy taught me how to face my fears. By the time I graduated, this was my thinking: Drop me into the middle of any squad or any situation, anywhere, anytime. Heck, throw me into the middle of a swimming pool with a gun (one of our physical fitness tests!) I will not be scared because I am confident I will succeed wherever I am.
I became mentally stronger by facing my fears. If my coaches weren’t pushing me into a discomfort zone, they weren’t doing their job.
Your success depends upon your ability to face your fears when confronted with stiff competition, adversity, economic downturns, and other sources of stress. Setbacks are a part of any business endeavor. If you react to them productively, you’re game-ready for whatever comes your way.
Here are 6 ways to face your fears:
1. GET BACK IN THE SADDLE
My shetland pony bucked me off when I was 6 years old. I started to cry and walk away but my dad made me get right back on. And it had to be right then and there, not later when I’d plucked up enough resolve to have another go at riding the pony.
Research shows that new memories remain unstable for a short period of time after the event. During the unstable period, memories are being coded and consolidated into your consciousness.
We can erase our fear if we can alter our memory of it, and the best time to do that is during the unstable period. If we can interrupt the coding and consolidating, we can change our memory about an unpleasant event.
How To Make It Work For You: If you experience a terrifying event or situation, the best thing you can do is replace that memory with a better one—right away. Take the opportunity to update and transform your memory. It is important, however, that you make sure your environment is safe before trying to extinguish your fear-conditioned memory.
2. ACCEPT YOUR FEAR
Fear can be a great way to alert you to a dangerous situation. Moderate amounts of fear can sharpen your focus and decision-making skills.
It can also keep you on your toes because when we become complacent, mistakes can start to happen.
How To Make It Work For You: When you face your fears, you can keep them manageable. Accept that some fear can work for you and learn to distinguish the healthy fear from that which paralyzes you or produces unhealthy doses of stress. Don’t let it get so big that it turns into panic.
3. STAND UP TO STRESS
Whether you hang tough or give up often depends upon your ability to adapt to stress. A resilient person is not someone who avoids stress; it is someone who learns how to nip it in the bud.
Researchers have discovered that the neural circuits that govern fear interact with the ones that govern reward. As a result of these connections, how you face your fears is related to your ability to remain upbeat under stress.
How To Make It Work For You: The area of the brain that is producing anxiety and fear overlaps with the area of the brain responsible for positive emotions. This is one of the reasons it’s hard to be stressed out and happy or content at the same time. Strengthen the positive emotions so they can tampen down your fear.
4. FOCUS ON THE GOAL
When we focus our attention on our fear, or on the negative, precious energy is being wasted fretting about our situation. One of the best ways to face your fears is to starve them of attention.
Instead, think of the bigger goal at stake. As Simon Sinek suggests, focus on your why. It’s important that your mission and goals be important to you. When the goal has value and meaning for you, you have only one choice: either back down and fail, or forge ahead.
How To Make It Work For You: When you are afraid, turn your attention away from the thing that is creating the fear. Instead, focus on your goal.
5. ACQUIRE LOTS OF INFORMATION
Much of our fear is associated with embracing the unknown. We fear what we don’t know.
FBI agents making arrests face the unknown because they can’t predict how an individual will react when arrested. To alleviate the fear they may experience, they do several things.
First, they practice arrest scenarios with red handled guns that do not have firing pins. This provides them with experience in difference situations so they are exposed to as many potential arrest scenarios as possible. This helps them from being surprised by the unknown.
Second, they collect as much information about the person to be arrested as possible. The agents can prepare if they have reason to believe the suspect might be armed and dangerous.
Third, agents qualify in firearms 4 times a year so they are constantly fine-tuning their skills. By the time they actually make an arrest, they do not need to think about what to do because they’ve done it before so many times.
How To Make It Work For You: Find out as much as possible about what you fear. Practice how you can overcome this fear until it becomes second nature to you.
6. FIND YOUR TRIBE
When you are a member of a tribe, you have an acute sense of belonging—you feel accepted and safe when things go wrong.
During my first 3 weeks of the FBI Academy, new agents like myself were not allowed to leave the Marine Corp base. We spent 24 hours a day with each other—building the trust and familiarity that creates a tribe.
How To Make It Work For You: In times of stress and anxiety, it’s easy to feel neglected. It’s impossible to instantly create deep bonds of familiarity and trust. Don’t wait until things go wrong to start finding your tribe. Start now.
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