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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Overcoming DreamBusters Part II: Six Ways To Free Your Dreams From Fear

Thought for the Day: Sometimes we let fear stop us from reaching for our dreams. When we do, our dreams become prisoners of our fears.  What dreams are you allowing your fears to hold hostage? If you tend to let your fear hold you back, here are some ways to conquer your fears & set your dreams free.

When I asked people on facebook, twitter, google+ & tumbler what their biggest DreamBusters were, fear was one of the recurring themes. (My 1st blog in this series looked how money impacts on our dreams & taught ways to dream on a dime.) Fears can be camouflaged in many ways. At times, fears take control & have a paralyzing effect on our lives. When that happens, phobias & panic attacks are so overwhelming that clients come to me for help. However, the impact of fears is often more subtle. Many people do not even notice that they are procrastinating or stuck in the pursuit of their dreams due to unspoken fears. When fears make them lose sight of their dreams, they may feel dissatisfied  with their lives, but may ignore the feelings & assume that their dreams are simply unattainable. Here are some practical tools to help you break free from the tyranny of fear to move towards your dreams:

1) Don't let fear control your knowledge.
Psychological studies have proven that when people are afraid, their perception is distorted. wrote a blog entitled: FEAR - False Evidence Appearing Real. In it she wrote, "Somebody left these four words as a comment on Alanis Morissette's Facebook page in response to an interview she had posted with the singer." The author "looked at the words for a minute then spelled out the acronym: F.E.A.R. Oh, yes. Yes yes yes. Fear is certainly False Evidence Appearing Real." (Article Source:
Psychologists have studied the impact of fear on our perception for many years. We know that when we are anxious or afraid we tend to distort reality. Eye witness testimonies from bank robberies & other crimes are often inaccurate.  In the book, Eyewitness Testimony, Elizabeth Loftus puts the psychological evidence against eye witness testimony on trial.  She examines "factors, such as expectations, biases, & personal stereotypes." Witnesses, who by nature of the experience are stressed & afraid, describe the same robber as tall, short, with red, brown or blond hair. Even the clothes the robber was wearing will be remembered as different to witnesses of the same crime. (For an in depth look at the case against eye witness testimony take a look at the CBS 60 Minutes video  with Leslie Stahl on the fragility of memory & eyewitness testimony, which is beyond the scope of this article.)
     If you are afraid that you are not capable of accomplishing your dreams, your perception of yourself & your abilities may be distorted.  If knowledge is power, distorted knowledge is debilitating. Before you rule out a dream, run it by a few people who's opinion you trust. See if they think you have the skills to accomplish your dream or if they can suggest ways to build the skill sets that you may need.

2) Put your fear under a spotlight. If you don't know what it is you are afraid of, you may be afraid for no reason. Many children are afraid of the dark. For generations parents have helped their children overcome their fears with night lights or by showing children that the world remains the same even when the lights go out.
     Many fears lose their hold when you shine a spotlight on them. You can do this by asking yourself, "What is my worst fear? What is the worst thing that I can imagine might happen if I pursued my dream?" Often you will find that your worst fear might not be so bad & it will free you to go ahead & try.

3) Fear is temporary. Regret is forever.  One way to overcome the fear of trying to move towards your dream is to remind yourself that if you don't try you may regret it forever. If you try & then realize that it is not what you want, you will not be carrying the regrets for life. Another way of saying this tip was best said by Babe Ruth, "Don't let the fear of striking out hold you back."

4) Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity.  Have you ever seen a touching exhibit in the reptile section of a zoo. They have mastered the art of replacing fear of the unknown with curiosity. Many children have not learned to be afraid & are naturally curious & fearlessly touch the snakes or lizards. Adults, on the other hand, may let their fears get the better of them. If you are afraid to try to accomplish a dream, try researching it with curiosity. Once you know more about what it may take to accomplish your dream, it may not seem as difficult or scary.

5) Beware of fear of success it can be as paralyzing as fear of failure. The Peanut's cartoon says this DreamBuster really well. Most people are cognizant of their fear of failure, but many do not realize that they may be avoiding their dreams due to fear of success. Many people let what psychologists call "magical thinking" like Charlie Brown's fear of happiness stop them from reaching for their dreams. Bad things happen, but they do not happen because we are happy. Alanis Morisette appears to be fully aware of this kind of fear & expresses it well in the song, "Fear of Bliss." With close to 2 million fans on facebook, most people would assume that Alanis Morisette would be blissful, but even success can be frightening. Here are some of the lyrics from the song:
Fear of Bliss
      Alanis Morissette
Fear of bliss and fear of joyitude  
Fear of bigness and ensuing solitude  
I've tried to be small, 
I've tried to be stunted   
I've tried roadblocks 
and all my happy endings are prevented  
Sometimes I feel this is too good to be true   
I sabotage myself 
for fear of what my joy could do      
       If you are successful at many things, in addition to fearing that your success could magically jinx things for you, you may also be afraid that you will let people down if you are not on the top of your game in everything you attempt. You may fear that you will disappoint your family, friends or yourself. To overcome this type of perfectionism, remind yourself that no one is perfect or even outstanding in everything & that no one expects you to be. In addition, every expert was a beginner. (See earlier post on this topic.)  Give yourself permission to be a beginner when you start to pursue your dream & to make mistakes or be average at many things. The old adage, "Practice makes perfect," is misleading. Practice makes as close to perfect as human beings can be, don't strive for perfection, strive to do your best as you move towards your dreams.

6. Don't let fear of change stop you from exploring new territories.  In every beginning, there is an ending. In every ending there is a beginning. To find happiness, pay attention to both the beginnings and endings.  In the photo to the left, I tried to illustrate a basic fact of life that leads to many people fearing trying something new, even if it is their dream. Change is a continuous part of life that we often pretend does not exist. Even when we are dissatisfied with parts of our lives, we are often afraid to change what we are doing. We are afraid to venture out and leave the familiar.  Whether we take control of the changes or not, we are changing. It is important to cherish the things from the past but to move on & embrace the new challenges & dreams in your future.

Many of these short tips may lead to longer more in depth articles in the future. I'd love to hear how they have helped you to overcome some of your fears. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. If you have additional suggestions of ways to overcome fears that have helped you, please share them. Or if there are other types of fears that may be bothering you, let me know.


Del Hickson said...

Thank you Dr. Lavi for a very insightful article!

I once gave a talk & mentioned that F.E.A.R. could also stand for:
Failure Expected Action Required.

Del Hickson

Barbara Lavi said...

Thanks Del,
I am glad you found the article to be helpful.
Your acronym for F.E.A.R. also fits. In most situations, it is inaction in face of fear that leads to failure. If your fear arises when facing a lion, inaction makes sense, unless you know what you are doing! Most of the dreams that we fear to try to accomplish in life are not lions & are therefore stymied by inaction. The only way to accomplish a dream is to start taking action.
Thanks for sharing & feel free to share whenever you like.