You are more than the behaviors your fears created. The number of times you hit snooze last year does not define you. The number of times you cancelled plans because you had social anxiety does not define you. The number of blinking cursors you’ve stared at for screenplays or books or songs you wanted to write but couldn’t says NOTHING about who you are.
Here’s the thing: Both the hero and the coward feel the same fear.
They are both anxious. They are both uncertain. Those feelings are human. So don’t you DARE tell me you can’t accomplish your goal because you’re scared. Don’t you DARE lie to me and say because you’ve backed down 100 times so the same will happen the 101st time.
You are not your feelings – you are your actions.
And you still have time to choose different actions. That’s what turns a coward into a hero. They both feel fear when they are about to walk on stage, but the hero picks up the mic while her hands are shaking. They both feel anxious before going to an event where they don’t know anyone, but the hero introduces herself while her heart is racing. They are both human. Only one lets fear control them.
Here’s another dirty secret: We can all learn the bravery of a hero. It’s a skill. You just have to develop a tolerance for fear, this isn’t something most people are born with. It’s a muscle you can build. And you’re not broken or worthless or damaged just because you’ve worked that muscle less than some other people.
The craziest thing is that this is a muscle you can build one atom at a time. You can do one tiny fear-push up a day at first. Take the smallest steps imaginable. I call them Fear Vitamins. Make a list of all the things you want to do but you’re uncomfortable, or make you anxious. The phone calls you need to make or the emails you need to send or the appointments/reservations you need to book, the sentence of a book you want to write or the first walk/workout of a weightloss journey you want to take. I mean the absolute smallest iota. The absolute smallest thing that still moves you closer to your goal.
Then I want you to take that Fear Vitamin and swallow it. Just pull the trigger, don’t think about it, just do it. We’re starting incredibly small here, and if it’s still too scary then you just have to start smaller. If a workout is too big, then take a walk. If writing a page of your book is too big, write one sentence. If calling to make a therapy appointment is too overwhelming, just make your bed. I’m serious. Do the absolute smallest thing that constitutes progress and give yourself a win. That’s it.
This is the point I’m making: I don’t care if your fears held you back before. I don’t care if things looked too intimidating and you quit a thousand times. I do not care what things you think are impossible or seem too far away right now. You have no idea what you’re capable of – it’s time to stop hiding behind fear.
You can take one Fear Vitamin. You can take one tiny step. We all feel the weight of fear, but today it won’t control you. Today I want you to work on that muscle. I want you to take one tiny Fear Vitamin every day. Because here’s the thing: tiny pushups still make a muscle stronger. Tiny steps still move you forward.
At the end of the day, fear does not actually limit you. Choosing actions based on fear limits you. And today you’re going to choose courage. Today you’re going to choose one tiny Fear Vitamin. Today you’re going to get a win. Your fear does not define you, your actions define you. What Fear Vitamin will you choose?
Everyone feels fear. You are not alone. We all feel fear and we’re all making it up as we go along. But if you want to be a hero all you have to do is take the tiniest possible step forward. And do the same thing tomorrow. And the day after that. There’s an incredible momentum here. Right now there’s a lot of things that seem scary because you haven’t tried them. But when we start small and start racking up victories….that perception will change. After a week you will have taken 7 steps forward. After a week you’ll have 7 things behind you that you were once scared of. They’ll be crossed off your list. Gone. No longer hanging over your head. How much better will you feel once all these fears you have start disappearing?
You will realize that once you pick something small and commit to it, you can knock it out. Your muscle will be stronger after a week. Now some things are less scary. Now you can take on more things without being intimidated. Now you can look at bigger Fear Vitamins because you know you can handle them. Now you are not a coward because fear is not controlling you. For the last time: fear is never going to go completely away there is nothing wrong with you because you feel fear. You only have to make decisions independently of fear to be a hero.
Mike Tyson had extreme anxiety attacks before every fight. Warren Buffet was terrified of public speaking. Adele is terrified of her own audiences. That’s the kind of success you can have despite fear when it doesn’t control you.
Take a Fear Vitamin today, and every day after that. Swing at the pitch that makes you nervous and your chance of hitting it isn’t 0% anymore. Swing at one every day and you’ll start hitting them. You are the sum of all the actions you took and decisions you made and lessons you learned. You are bigger than fear and stronger than fear and it doesn’t matter where you are starting.
You are more than the habits your fear created.
Further Reading: If this resonated with you and you feel like fear is holding you back, I highly recommend a tool called Fear Setting made by Tim Ferriss (you can find his TED Talk or blog on it). In a few words it helps you unpack what the worst case scenarios are for your fears. A lot of fears hold us back because we assume the world will end if things go badly. Put a magnifying glass on your fear. Study it. There’s a good chance that either the world won’t end or you can mitigate your risk. This puts you back in control of your decision, not just fear.
Great read, Matthew. If we let it, fear will control our lives and dictate what progress we make. We can either fear everything and run or we can face everything and rise. Thank you for the motivational boost!
So glad it was helpful for you! Every day we get a chance to be brave, and each time we beat fear it gets a little easier.