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Is Fear Holding You Back?

Parachuitist Life CoachI’ve read a few ridiculous posts on self development in my time, a few of them were even my own. But probably the most asinine was by a guy (and I genuinely forget who it was now) writing about fear.

He explained that we should all just let fear go, that there was no need for it in our lives.

If that wasn’t incredible enough in its own right he followed up with the coup de grace:

I know that sounds like it’s easier said then done, but it isn’t. It really is that easy

I didn’t leave a comment because I was laughing too hard to type. And anyway, what can you say to a person that has just dismissed thousands of years of human evolution and hard wiring with one trite sentence?

The fact is we all have fears. Fear is an important and necessary part of our life. We need it to stop ourselves acting recklessly as well as helping us perform optimally.

It’s what keeps you from wondering into the wrong end of town at night. It’s also what stops you following four men in balaclavas carrying holdalls into a Miami bank in July, and telling the 350lb drunk in the bar that he’s making a fool of himself brandishing that loaded gun.

On the other hand we all tend to have at least some fears that are largely, if not entirely irrational, and don’t serve any useful purpose.

As a Life Coach and using certain NLP and hypnotherapy techniques I’ve helped numerous clients overcome fears such as flying (on several occasions including on an actual flight to Denver), needles, doctors (often called white coat syndrome) and public speaking.

Note: My book Don’t Panic whilst looking largely at social anxiety also covers a number of the techniques I use for helping people overcome fears.

But I still have fears myself. I still get apprehensive before getting up to talk to a group of people and I still get a tad nervous before doing interviews, especially TV and radio.

The thing is however, even though I get nervous I still do it. Otherwise I’d feel like I was letting myself down and missing out on opportunities.

And that is the key to not necessarily beating fear, because I think that’s impossible, but managing it and not allowing it to beat you.

Fear is the serial killer of dreams.

Fear stops more people fulfilling their hopes and dreams than lack of ability, money, education and luck combined.

I’m going to tell you a fear I still have that is holding me back from doing something I really want to do.

It’s one I have admitted to very few people because hey, I’m a Life Coach, and I help people eradicate fears, I don’t confess to having them.

“Physician heal thyself” do I hear you say?

Well yeh quite, and it does piss me off that some of the techniques I use with clients will not work on myself.

But that’s the name of the game, so I’m looking for another way to skin this particular cat.

And that other way is to admit my fear in in to the public and thus diminish it (maybe), but more importantly, make me look a complete hypocrite if I still the don’t push through.

I’m adopting the approach I spoke about in my post A Ridiculously Easy Way To Hit Your Goals

Because I have to be honest and say if I don’t do this, I’ll be really disappointed in myself in the years to come.

What’s The Goal?

The cartoon was a bit of a give away because for as long as I can remember I have wanted to do a parachute jump.

However, the thought of the lead up to it makes me feel physically nauseous.

In fact, reading this post back as I just did, created a certain sense of unease and I’m not joking when I say my palms are sweating.

I’m 50 next year and I’ve been promising myself that I’ll do it before then. But that’s the only person I’ve been promising, and my Achilles heal is not always sticking to  promises I make to myself.

I’m great at sticking to promises I make other people and that is why I’m pondering making this commitment public.

So here’s the deal.

If 10 people agree in the comments to do something that is scarey to them, but also something that they know they really want to do, then I’ll commit to doing the jump before I hit 50.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything dare-devilish, it can be doing some public speaking, hitting the phones for some dreaded cold calling or even telling your boss you want a well deserved rise.

As long as it drags you waaaay out of your comfort zone, that’s good enough for me.

So come on then, are you up for some sheer unadulterated terror, or are you a bigger wuss than me?

60 comments to Is Fear Holding You Back?

  • Vic

    Not only is fear a serial killer, but also a mass murder. This best thing to do fear is to look it in eye and face it. You have no other choice unless you want live life as a slave to it.

  • I’m a certified Level 2 ski instructor in Canada and I still have a fear of going on the bumps (moguls). So next winter, I’m going to force myself to get on them each ski day except when they are super icy and everyone avoids them. I just turned 50 this year so I have an excuse not to reinjure my ACLs. Now, as far as another big fear I have — marriage — that’s another issue!

  • Best line I’ve ever read anywhere: “Fear is the serial killer of dreams.

    • And you’re a brilliant example of somebody that pushed through their doubts and fears. I may have you stuffed and hung on my office wall as a reminder to reluctant clients.

      If that’s ok of course.

    • You stole the words from my mouth, Alisa! Or should I say ‘text away from my fingers?’ :)

      Either way, I couldn’t agree more. We all have goals and dreams but fear can prevent us from accomplishing them – in a rather abrupt manner…

      The only thing that really scares me is holding a tarantula. I would freak out if I did. I have no desire to do so. Yes, this makes me a wuss. Oh well. More tarantulas for you to hold!

      Enjoy your jump! Definitely on my bucket-list! (be sure to post the vid!)

  • Rob Collins

    Good for you! Can I suggest a brown jumpsuit rather than the white one pictured – it’ll hide the stains better.

  • I practice this often.. if it gives me butterflies and makes me queasy, I generally know I’m on the right track. I am terrified of heights, and sky-dived.. and then enjoyed it enough to do it again 3 more times! I was scared of leaving my comfy job, and so I decided to start my own business coaching (Thanks Tim!) and every time I face my fears, I get a feeling of power. This time, I’m being stumped by something far more asinine.. I’m having a yard sale. Of my mom’s things (she was killed 2 months ago). Inviting strangers to my mom’s house. After spending the last two months dealing with strangers in my face (I’m a very private person, generally), I’m feeling terror at making myself vulnerable to having my mom’s things (my stuff now) being evaluated by strangers, friends and such. I’m doing it on Saturday.. and almost had a panic attack after putting it on Facebook.
    That said, it will be great to have cleared the things that I’m not going to use, and to reclaim the space for myself… will let you know how it REALLY turns out.. I suspect that it will end up being a lot more positive than I think, and if it doesn’t, that I’ll still feel better for having put myself through the process :)

    • I do think that falls into a whole different category Janet so go easy on yourself. The yard sale has other emotional implications involved that stepping out of a perfectly good airplane doesn’t.

      Deep breaths ;-)

  • Alex Geoghegan


    I’ve recently restarted public speaking, which I hate the anticipation of, but I know the reality is never that bad, so I can’t use that as a commitment.

    Also I put aside some time to meditate this morning (facing a fear I mentioned in my comment on a previous post) so that’s out.

    However I have spent the last week failing to compete in my first sprint triathlon (which was scheduled for 8am on Sunday morning). I pulled out on Saturday lunchtime, under much pressure from Martyn, my ever worried boyfriend, when the annoying sore throat that I’d been nursing all week turned into a nasty cough and I started coughing up green stuff. Having said all that I had been getting very nervouse about the event over the last 10 days or so, at one point a week ago saying “I wish I hadn’t signed up for it”. Which makes me wonder if my mind and body worked together to give me a cast iron excuse not to compete (if so can it stop now please cos I still feel pretty ill). I’d also managed to wait for the last local triathlon of the series to sign up (through no concious decision) so the earliest I could now reasonably do a sprint triathlon (without significant travel) would be next year. So I need some motivation to actually do one on 2012, ideally the first local one. So that’s my commitment. The dates are not published yet, but as soon as they are I want to sign up and actually do it this time.

    Good luck with the parachute jump, you know the reality will be less scary than your fears.


    • Well I certainly agree that your body could have been conspiring against you. But equally it may just have been bad luck Alex.

      Obviously you’re not likely to die doing a triathlon, so what causes the nerves, just the fear of performing badly?

      You should read Don’t Panic, if you haven’t ;-)

      • Alex Geoghegan

        yes Martyn reckons it’s just bad luck, and maybe it is but I know I was very releived when I had a good excuse not to do it, and it was reminicent of times in the past when I’ve become ill jusy before I was supposed to do something I was stressed about.
        You are right that the chance of dying is insignificant. My fears range from the extreme – falling off my bike and hospitalising myself (as my best friend did in Februray, dislocating his shoulder and fracturing his arm in four places), to the mundane of getting a puncture and not finishing.

        • Alex Geoghegan

          and I’ve just read Don’t Panic (thanks has been on my to do list for a while). Definitely good stuff in there, some I knew but was good to be reminded of and some new – thanks

        • You can fall off your bike anytime.

          I woke up this morning with a really painful shoulder and I have no idea why. I mean wtf happened in the night???

          Glad you enjoyed Don’t Panic.

  • Hi Tim,

    I bet the parachute jump will be amazing, just think of the exhilaration and the feelings afterward! Although, yep you will probably feel sick until you jump!

    I work p/t managing a clinic and have been saying for ages I will quit to concentrate fully on everything else I do. Leaving behind that security is daunting but if you jump, I will leave by the end of the year. Phew, I am nervous just thinking about it.

    I have also just persuaded my other half to go to the dentist, which terrifies him, so that counts as 2!!

    Good luck, make sure you film it and post the video:)

    • I love how everybody is using presuppositions that it’s a done deal when I said I wanted 10 commitments. Having said that, it almost certainly will happen, I just need somebody to come with me that’s as shit scared as I am :-(

      And no you can’t have 2 because he’d have had to go to the dentist at some stage, that really isn’t an option!

  • I’m not sure if this counts, but I committed to creating my blog and did it. Now I write as often as possible. I’ve dove head first into the blogging community. So now you should dive head first out of an airplane. :)

  • Jacquie

    I’m petrified of public speaking. I suffer anxiety attacks and physically shake when up in front of a crowd. Although I have done it before, it’s the last thing on my to do list.
    Guess that doesn’t help your skydive decision. ;)

  • Christian

    Hi Tim. Just a suggestion. Have you thought about trying indoor skydiving (in a wind tunnel) as a first, less scary step towards your goal of a parachute jump?

    I haven’t done the latter (yet), but did the former a couple of times. In my (non-parachute jumping yet) mind, indoor skydiving does as good job as possible (given you don’t take a plane) of replicating what I imagine the feel of parachute jumping is. At least, there nothing but a very thin grid and a whole lot of air rushing by between you and a few stories down.

    And yes, the grid is thin enough that you can very clearly see that there’s nothing else underneath for a few stories down. (If that previous sentence had you sweating a bit, then it would definitely be a good idea. :-) )

  • I have been wanting to write a book. An ebook and a regular book and I keep getting stopped even writing it because I don’t know what to really do with it after. It’s the fear of it not being good enough, or writing it and not getting it out there.

    And yes I want to do this.

  • I want to ask my CEO if I can go part time so that I can focus on getting my business fully off the ground and get some of my evenings and weekends back.

    The idea of asking terrifys me as he can be kind of stubborn and extremely dismissive. The idea of losing a big chunk of my income scares me just as much. Followed closely by the fact that I’ll really have to get on with it once I have the time I’m going to ask for.

    So far I put it off for all sorts of reasons that I convince myself are legitimate but I’m ready to committ to doing it at the end of next month.

    And then you have to jump too.

  • Hi Tim,
    Great post as usual.I’m not going to voluntarily jump out of a plane… go for it. I have wanted for some time to promote myself better by creating and posting video content on my blog, Facebook etc, and also to do some video conferencing. I just haven’t taken that next step. I have ‘crept up” on it and now that I am reading this post I commit to getting it done. Thank you.
    be good to yourself

  • OK Tim, I will do some public speaking! I did a parachute jump in 1985 and to this day I have to say I have never been as scared as I was going up in that plane. Pure terror in it’s rawest form.
    You’ll love it – afterwards!

    • Thanks so much for telling me that 26 years after the event that fear is still etched in your mind. That makes me feel much, much, better.

      As punishment I expect you to go and sit in the Gallowgate end in a Sunderland shirt.

  • Fearful

    I’m a naturally cautious kind of guy. I came across a business opportunity a couple of years ago. My initial reaction was to hang back and let it pass on by, but another part of me said “Don’t let fear run your life. Stick your neck out for once.”

    I jumped in. The “business opportunity” turned out to be a scam and I lost nearly $50k.

    Sometimes fear is what keeps you alive.

  • I was scared to leave this comment in case of a typo, but did it anyway… Do the jump! I did one many years ago and the anticipation can be nerve-racking. My advice (not that you asked for it) is to make the effort to pick a location with stunning scenery. That way, on the journey up you can enjoy the view rather than worry about what’s coming next. Plus, once you’re out you’ll have a few minutes of beauty to enjoy on the way down. You’ll love it. I know you’ll do it. My challenge to you is to land without falling over… It looks way cooler.

  • Nice one Tim the Conqueror! I think beating fear seems to be everywhere right now and few bloggers and coaches, if any (ok you), admit they still have a fear always writing as if they’ve been the big bad fear buster beating it into submission. Well I’m not so sure. For me,I still fear falling in love and letting another hold my heart to adore it yet also potentially destroy it. Which is why I just wrote a love note to a girl I love because it’s time to break out. Chiefly beacuse my #1 fear is being alone as I get older. Fears, be honest and admit them, they’re better out than in. Safe jumping Tim ;)

  • Hi Tim!

    This post reminded me again of the Litany Against Fear:

    I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.

    I remember also posting this to your best self-development quotes thingy quite a few months ago. Have you gotten yourself around to reading the Dune series yet? ;)


  • Love that you said, “Fear is the serial killer of dreams” What a powerful message and great sentence.

    I’ve too many fears, some justified, others not. But somehow you have to just keep making choices and moving forward (or what you think is forward), right?

  • Barbara Huebl

    I will speak to as many people as possible about my new business. I’ve always been somewhat fearful of presenting my own interests to people I know. I believe 100% in what I’m doing now and I have to overcome my fears in order to turn the potential into reality. Funny how I never had a problem while working for others. Yes, there is definitely a bit of self-doubt at work here. I’m trying very hard to conquer it. I do not want to be the victim of my own fear! Really enjoyed the post, by the way.

  • Thanks Barbara and best of luck with your business!

  • 4th December 2011. i will be playing piano at a carol service for maybe 200-300 people. Fear doesn’t come close – undiluted terror is more like it. Get your best feature out of that plane, Tim, and good luck!

  • Sara

    There’s lots of stuff I don’t want to do and get very squeamish about. None of it could lead to my death however – not that I want to bring that up….. Is there not a difference between the fear of public speaking (potential humiliation?) and jumping out of an aeroplane (potential death). I get it that people fear humiliation more – issues of shame and dishonour – but where does that come from?? I don’t feel the need to endanger my life in any way – is that a ‘mom’ thing or am I just a wuss?!

    • No you’re not a wuss.

      Technically the fears are both fight or flight and thus the same. Just because at a conscious level you know a fear of speaking is irrational, your unconscious isn’t listening and will create the same emotions as if you were about to jump out of an aircraft.

      It comes from hundreds of thousands of years evolution when danger was lurking on every corner. It’s not like that now, but our brains haven’t caught up yet.

  • I’ve 2 kids and a husband who doesn’t contribute financially and I have stupidly invested in a business that lost me $30K now I have fear trying to pay off the loans I took.

    If only I had listened to my fears.

  • It may be wisdom rather than fear that’s keeping you grounded. Not everyone was meant to take a parachute jump. Very different than the fear of not taking an action step which would further one’s ultimate life purpose/goals. Most of the action steps for goals won’t get us killed — they may be very much out of our comfort zone, but we’re not likely to die from them. I have several things I need to commit to which are fearfully paralyzing, but certainly don’t want my fear of getting a “no” to be what pushes you to undertake something that’s physically very dangerous. Proceed with caution and allow wisdom to prevail :)

  • When I feel (irrational) fear about something, like public speaking, I find opportunities to do it in hopes I’ll get over the fear (at least bring it from a 10 to a 2!). When the fear is rational – like jumping out of a plane – I don’t go there unless it’s something I really want to do.

  • someone said that FEAR = False Evidence Appearing to be True