I was watching an interview recently with Jeremy Renner (the star of the latest Mission Impossible movie). The interviewer asked about Jeremy’s process with facing his fears. I loved his response. He said that when he was young, he noticed that fear was the most powerful of all his emotions. He made a decision that he didn’t want to let fear run his life, so from age 22-32, he tried to do one thing each day that he was afraid of.
It seems simple (just do what you are afraid of), but it’s hard to do in practice. But I really do think it’s the most effective way to conquer your fears. If left unchecked, fear leads to avoidance. If we are scared of something (e.g., flying on an airplane), we avoid flying. We feel a sense of relief, because we avoided the thing we were afraid of (e.g., crashing and dying).
However, even though we feel relief from our avoidance, our fear actually becomes stronger. The flip side of our relief is the belief that if we would not have avoided the thing we fear, something terrible might have happened. Even though we feel relief from avoiding the plane, in the back of our mind we think that if we had gone on the plane, we might have crashed and died. Our fear actually becomes stronger each time we avoid the thing that makes us scared.
The only way to conquer our fears is to do the thing we are afraid of. Jeremy Renner was right. It’s great advice to do one thing each day you are afraid of. Little by little, we will conquer our fears until we are truly brave.
Discussion: What is one thing you are afraid of today? What is one step you could take toward engaging your fear, rather than avoiding it?