How to Develop Zero Tolerance for Fear

Is it even possible? And if so, how do you enforce it?

This morning I heard a startling statement on the radio.

“I’ve developed a zero tolerance policy for the fear in my life.”

That made my brain spin.

Zero tolerance? I’ve heard that applied to drugs in the workplace, sexual harassment, and other bad behaviors. But fear? This was a first.

Fear will come anyway.

In the 1990s, Nancy Reagan led a campaign against drugs that encouraged young people to “Just Say No.”

This assumes that they will face pressure from their peers to give drugs a try. They frame it as harmless, with words like:

  • “All the cool kids are doing it.” If you want to be cool, this is appealing. If the cool kids treated you like pond scum, you’ll say no to be different than them.
  • “Nobody will ever know.” If you get drunk and you can stay away from home for 6 or 8 hours, maybe. But if you stumble in at half past midnight on a school night smelling like a brewery, your dad will catch you.
  • “It’s not going to hurt anything.” Sure, if you do it once and don’t have a head-on collision on the way home. But if you enjoy the experience so much it becomes a habit, you’ll run into trouble.

You can’t keep fear from coming. It rears its ugly head when you try something new. It taunts you when you have an idea that could change the world and ruffle people’s feathers. It screams at you through the voices of your well-meaning friends, your family, and your colleagues who just want to protect you.

Your best move is to get ready to fight.

What do you expect?

Fear is fed by expectation.

Something bad is going to happen. You just know it will. That thought fills your mind with dread and halts your actions with every distraction imaginable.

Rather than face what you fear, you check your email, scan your Facebook feed, or drink another cup of coffee. Maybe you watch one more episode of Game of Thrones or Golden Girls. It’s only half an hour, you tell yourself.

30 minutes turns to an hour. Then two. Then a day. A week. A year.

That’s a lifetime of running.

Bad stuff will come. No one is immune. Will you fight or flee?

The choice is yours.

I can’t take it anymore.

Tolerance is an allowance.

When you make space for fear, life fills it. Guaranteed.

Zero tolerance means you take away the fear allowance. There’s no grace period. No second chances. No do-overs.

When you’re fed up, you fund your life with a new allowance. Tired of being afraid? Then you need to invest in a courage account.

Like a bank account, wherever you invest will grow. The more you give in to fear, the more you’ll feel afraid. The more you stand up to fear with courage, the braver you’ll feel.

In his bestselling book The Magic of Thinking Big, Dr. David Schwartz teaches that ACTION CURES FEAR.

When you freeze and do nothing, fear grows. When you face it, fear shrinks and sometimes even disappears.

Now let’s look at some strategies you can use to develop your own Zero Tolerance Fear Policy.

Talk back to the voices in your head.

We have an internal conversation going on all the time.

Maybe you hear the voices of your parents giving you reasons why you’re going to blow it today. Or maybe it’s the jeers of your friends when they say, “Who, you? A bestselling author? Yeah, right.”

If you hear this enough, you’ll start telling it to yourself.

When that happens, don’t just sit there and take it.

Fight back with facts.

Okay, so maybe you’re not a bestselling author yet. Does that mean it’s impossible?

Not necessarily.

You can learn how to write and market a winning book. You can learn how to build a massive social media following. You can choose to persevere until you succeed.

It’s up to you.

Ask yourself, “Do my friends know what it takes to be a bestselling author? Have they done it? What makes them experts?”

If they don’t know what they’re talking about, don’t listen to them.

When you hear these voices in your head, challenge them with the truth. You’re not helpless. You don’t have to let people run over you. Experiment. Fail. Learn. Grow.

Then prove all your critics wrong.

Is this a threat?

Fear grips us when we expect something will go wrong.

  • You’ll look silly, and people will laugh.
  • You won’t be able to deliver what you promised, and no one will ever give you another chance to do anything.
  • Nothing will go the way you expect, and you are a fool for thinking this will work.

All of these are lies.

So what if you look silly? Babies don’t care if we laugh when they crawl.

So you don’t deliver as expected. Will you never find work in this town again? That’s pretty extreme, because everyone is good at something.

Sure, something can go wrong. But it can go right, too.

If it’s not a bear charging at you, why are you afraid? Just do the best you can where you are, and wave goodbye to fear as it runs toward the horizon.

What will I lose?

We’re more motivated by losing something than we are to get something.

The status quo is our comfort zone. It requires no extra effort, no unexpected work. We can coast along, doing what’s easy, and everything will be fine.

Take our security away, and we give in to fear like a drunk taking one more drink.

Ask yourself when fear comes, “What will I really lose if I do this?”

If it’s your job, you’ll feel better if you have leverage.

If it’s money, you’ll be braver if you have some to spare.

If it’s friendship, remember you can always make more friends.

Sometimes just knowing the ramifications is enough. No surprises ahead. I’ve thought this through. I know what I’m doing, I think. Here goes.

Don’t let keeping something trap you into the status quo. If you can do better, you’ll adjust to the change.

And later, you’ll thank yourself.

Are you lying?

People lie all the time.

You lie when you say you can’t, when you really can. You just don’t want to, so why not say so?

People lie to themselves when they predict the future. Why? Because nobody knows what the future holds. However, a funny thing happens when you believe a lie long enough. You start acting as if it’s true, and it becomes true.

That’s powerful.

Act as if you can, and you’ll punch fear in the face.

You can either do it yourself, or you can find someone who can to help. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is you’re taking action to influence events. You’re taking chaos and turning it into cohesion. You’re taking thought and turning it into reality.

Fear wishes while faith acts.

Trade fear for faith.

Here’s an old English Proverb you should carry with you everywhere.

“Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there.”

Faith moves mountains, and it moves fear away.

If you want zero tolerance for fear, answer with faith whenever fear knocks at your door. Expect it. Prepare for it. Take regular action to build faith and destroy fear.

Your life depends on it.

Do this every day and you can make any dream come true in time.

Writer. Teacher. Bestselling Author. Shy Kid turned Fear Fighter. I write about communication, business, and personal growth.

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