If "fear" didn't exist, what risks would you take?
The question may inspire endless fantasies (and please, spend some time relfecting), but it also points to some obstacles. Namely, that fear is actually a necessity. "Fear is a survival skill," says Susan Schorn, a self-defense and karate instructor, and author of "Smile At Strangers: And Other Lessons in the Art of Living Fearlessly."
In that sense, we can't expect to entirely rid fear from our lives. But we can manage fear, so it works to our advantage and doesn't hold us back. "[Fear is] very inefficient -- it will take a bigger bite our of your life than it should," Schorn tells The Huffington Post. Our brains are hardwired just as they were when our anscestors needed to know when to run from physical danger. But, danger has changed as we've evolved, so what and how we fear needs to change, too.
Below, find four tips for living less fearfully in the modern world. Implement these practices at home, at work and in your relationships, and you'll be better equipped to find more opportunities for success.
Practice Clear Communication
Being afraid to ask for what you really want is inefficient for many reasons, but mostly it's a waste of time and gets in the way of your needs. Rather than dance around a request with doubt-laced phrases like "Would you mind?" or "I was wondering if ..." choose to be direct. Often, we fear speaking bluntly will make us seem unsympathetic or callous. But, "being direct and clear doesn't have to be rude," Schorn says, and it will only lead to "less frustration."
Another aspect of communicating clearly is saying "no" and sticking to your guns. "So much of this is habitual," she says, so while rejecting someone or being direct may feel overwhelming at first, with practice you can make it work.
Educate Yourself About Risk
"There's a big difference between something that's scary and something that's dangerous," Schorn explains. This is a crucial concept to remember when you're deciding whether or not to follow through with something you're unsure of. Think back to the risks you've taken in the past -- was the exhilaration you felt after you followed through worth overcoming your initial fear? Probably. It could be wise, as Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote, to "Do one thing every day that scares you." Just make sure you evaluate the risk -- and assess the danger -- beforehand.
Let Go Of What You Can't Control
Unfortunately, certain dangers exist in this world that are beyond our control. The sooner you're able to accept this reality, the closer you'll be to fearlessness. You can't wish away rain, you can only prepare for the storm.
When you spend time trying to risk-proof a situation, you are missing out on potential wins. You're wasting an opportunity to put your energy toward something else, says Schorn, who explains that assessing what's in your power (and what's not) is a vital part of making progress. When feeling fearful, ask yourself what you can prevent, and what is out of your hands. Then, act accordingly.
Smile At Strangers
Schorn got her book's title from realizing how empowering it can be to make connections with others. "There are many ways to be safe and still interact with people," she says. When you feel it's appropriate, making the choice to be open with others can harvest great rewards.
For more on fearlessness, click here.