11/24/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Manage Fear So It Doesn't Manage You

Fear is one of the biggest barriers to living a joyful and fulfilling life. If you're living life from a place of fear, you're not free to take risks or pursue your dreams. If your energy is expended in avoiding failure or rejection, then that energy is used to stay safe, instead of being available to create the life you envision.

Through evolution, we're hard-wired to respond to fear with intensity. For our evolutionary precursors, the fight-or-flight response was a valuable survival mechanism. It's not as useful when triggered by modern-day fears. In addition to affecting the autonomic nervous system, the hormone cortisol is released in higher quantities than normal. Cortisol helps the system react and normalize once the threat has passed. However, chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels have adverse effects, including impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood-sugar imbalances, higher blood pressure, and increased abdominal fat. It can also compromise your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness.

Most fears are not even based on our current reality. They are the product of imagined fears conjured up in our minds -- the product of our own fantasies. Of course, if you're walking alone in a dark parking lot at 2 A.M., you may have every reason to experience fear. That fear is going to propel you to your car, key at the ready, as fast you can move. However, the other kind of fear -- the fear that has no basis in reality -- is one of the biggest things that keeps people from pursuing the life they desire. Fear of meeting new people or trying something new. Fear of success or of failure. Fear of leaving a job you hate, getting out of a bad relationship, or moving to a new city. Fear of defying convention. Fear of change.

Fear rears its head when people attempt to move beyond their comfort zones. These are the situations and circumstances that we know, that give us a sense of security because they represent what's familiar. Staying within your comfort zone doesn't necessarily mean you're happy there. It's just what you're used to. Your willingness to expand your comfort zone allows you greater experiences and freedom. To move outside your comfort zone, you have to be able to manage fear. Below are four steps to move beyond the shackles of fear, and create the experiences and circumstances to which you aspire.

  1. Instead of resisting it, acknowledge your fear. For example, "I'm afraid I will fail" or "I'm afraid I'll be rejected" or "I'm afraid I won't make enough money."

  • Identify the "gloom and doom" movie you're running in your mind. Ask yourself, "What am I imagining will happen?"
  • Do a reality check. Figure out if your fears have any real basis in fact. Be as methodical as you need to be.
  • Replace the gloom and doom movie with one that supports your goals--focus on the movie of the future state you want to achieve.

  • Lauren Mackler is the author of the international bestseller,
    Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life. She is a life, career, and relationship coach, psychotherapist, and host of the weekly Life Keys radio show on You can follow her on Twitter, watch her videos on YouTube, become a fan on Facebook, and read her Live Boldly blog You can contact her through her web site at