How To #BeFearless in 2017

As we race breathlessly through January, energized by our resolutions, we may find ourselves sliding rather rapidly into February. Where did the month go? More importantly where are we in relation to all those resolutions? You know, the fitness programme, the commitment to eat no sugar, the giant wall of sticky notes promising more productivity. 

I am one of those people who believes in resolutions. Yes, I know there is plenty of evidence that they don’t work, and certainly when I have asked around these last couple of days, there seems to be a huge number of people who have already broken their resolution. The fact remains, resolutions can work, and often offer us a much needed moment to reflect on what we want in our life.

Life is so busy, especially in the building years of our careers. The vertical ladder intersects oh so inconveniently with our child raising years. I think most of us can relate to being on the hamster wheel and not quite knowing how to get off.  Resolutions are an invitation to stop the wheel for a moment, look inward and ask ourselves some bigger questions.  What would make me happy in this upcoming year, what is missing from my life, what can I do to challenge my fears and help me overcome them?

I have been working with this last question intimately over the past month, coaching individuals as part of the Samsung #BeFearless campaign. #BeFearless is an immersive Galaxy GS7 and Gear VR virtual reality experience designed to help participants reach their full potential by mastering two of the most common fears - heights and public speaking. #BeFearless was designed by Samsung to help people face their fears head-on. It is a gamified VR experience designed to help users gradually face typical situations in a controlled environment. (The #BeFearless VR experiences are available for free download on the Oculus Gear VR store.)

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Imagine that you are terrified of speaking in a group, and you have the opportunity to practice in front of other people without any possibility of negative feedback. This is exactly what happens using the #BeFearless app, and I have to tell you, it’s so realistic that I found myself sweating when I faced an auditorium of people. As I work with these people and this technology, helping them master their fear of heights or public speaking, I can’t help but ask, how often is fear the thing that is really holding us back from doing the things that will make us healthier, happier and more fulfilled.

I believe fear, not laziness or apathy, keeps most of us from realizing our resolutions, or for that matter, our dreams. We don’t go to the gym, because at some level we are intimidated by the equipment. We make up stories about what people are thinking about us. We tell ourselves that it wont make a big difference in our life anyway. That is fear talking. Understanding that fear is repeatedly the emotion behind our self-sabotaging behaviors is an important step to overcoming it. 

I learned early in my life that fear shrinks our world. At one point in my rowing career I became so afraid of making a mistake, that racing became a terrible chore. By the time I had reached the world championships that year, I didn’t even want to race and considered quitting the sport altogether. Fear had begun to overtake me and the only way I could fight back was to get out there and row. I would row terrified, row scared, but I would row until I got frustrated enough, until I got angry enough to work through the fear. If I had kept indulging the fear, it would have overtaken me and ended my rowing career. However, I got so fed up with being afraid, I got mad instead. I found my fight and battled my way down that rowing course. It wasn’t pretty, but I pushed back against that fear until it no longer controlled me.

We need to pay attention to the little ways that fear is creeping into our life and be diligent about pushing against these fears. Whether it is a fear that starts with not wanting to put your hand up in class, to not wanting to ever speak up in a group to an overall fear of public speaking - When we feed fear it can be terribly destructive in our life.

My New Years resolution this year was simple. I vowed to look for the ways that fear was shrinking my life and chose to master that fear. I've discovered some surprising things that revealed some interesting truths; not all of them entirely welcome. I have learned that fear is dominating some of my behavior around my kids, I have learned that fear has made me lower my expectations of myself in my business. Interesting stuff. 

My work with the Samsung Canada group as part of #BeFearless is exciting as it highlights how technology can play a part in changing our behaviour. I find it even more interesting, from the perspective of how fear can shrink our world and what we can do to push against this. If you find yourself sliding into February wondering why you have not stuck to your New Years resolution, laziness is probably not to blame - It may well be fear telling you to play small. I say, look it in the eye, and do the very thing that you are afraid of. A few months later you may be asking yourself what all the fuss was about. 

What I know for sure is, some of the very best things that I've done in my life, I was initially afraid of doing. I had to master my fear and push myself in order to experience these great joys and accomplishments. I feel it's all the more rewarding this way.