Author and motivational speaker Tony Robbins made headlines last week at his seminar in Dallas after yet another botched “fire walk” that left dozens of attendees with burn injuries to their feet and lower extremities. This controversial portion of the event is advertised as a way to overcome unconscious fears.
Fear is defined as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined. Holding an imaginary or unreasonable fear can hinder one’s personal and professional success. For example, those who fear public speaking often have trouble demonstrating leadership qualities in large groups. Fear of real threats, on the other hand, is a healthy trait necessary for human safety and survival. An example of a healthy fear is – wait for it – the fear of making bodily contact with fire or burning objects.
The good news is that there are healthy alternatives to overcoming your inhibitions that don’t cost thousands and are unlikely to send you to the emergency room. The following are three proven and effective ways to take on your fears to grow as both a person and a professional.
Enroll in an acting or improv class
As a young child I loved being the center of attention. In elementary school, my friends and I would often perform funny skits and songs for our teachers and classmates. That changed during my teenage years when I developed a self-consciousness that prompted me to avoid heightened levels of attention that sometimes led to instances of fear and anxiety.
After high school, I knew it was time to break out of this newly formed shell, so I enrolled in a college acting course where each class began with an improv session. The first few sessions were brutally awkward and embarrassing, but each time my confidence grew and my fears faded away. That class taught me how to embrace the spotlight once again, and it has encouraged me to constantly look for new ways to get out of my comfort zone.
Join a sports league
Physical activity is one of the best ways to deal with stress and anxiety, two of the common byproducts of fear. Additionally, fitness can promote higher confidence levels that allow individuals to overcome certain instances of fear.
If you have trouble sticking to a regular exercise routine like I do, a sports league is a great solution because A) it’s usually more fun than a trip to the gym; and B) you’re compelled to go because your teammates depend on your attendance and participation. Many cities and towns have sports leagues geared towards young professionals, which provide exercise and networking all in one. Whether you’re interested in flag football, dodgeball, bowling or any other sport, joining a league will help you to stay active and shed your fears.
Take on a big project or initiative
After taking my acting class in college, which helped me overcome some social fears that surfaced in my teens, I decided to address another common fear: the fear of failure. I accepted an events manager role with a new student group, where I was responsible for planning and executing a series of events for the semester. I decided to take a big risk by planning a major music event to end the semester.
The all day, outdoor music festival took place at Independence Mall in Philadelphia, right across from the Liberty Bell, and featured 16 music acts throughout the day on two separate stages. At the time I had never organized an event of this scale, but once I had others committed to the event, I knew failure wasn’t an option. I learned that taking a leap and embracing risk can compel you to do amazing things. The event was a big success, and it propelled me into my career with a fearless attitude.
It doesn’t take a futile fire walk to conquer your fears; you can accomplish it through healthy and productive activities like the ones mentioned above. The key is to try new things, build confidence and, most importantly, get yourself out of your comfort zone.
Brian Hart is the founder and president of Flackable, a national financial public relations and digital marketing agency. Learn more at www.flackable.com.