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3 Questions to Ask When Facing Fear [And Why Wobbly Courage Is Enough]

FearA few weeks ago I asked readers of ProBlogger to tell us about the fears that they’ve faced and overcome as bloggers.

The response was fantastic with some honest sharing – thanks to those who commented – your comments not only helped me prepare for a talk I was giving on the topic at our event but also helped me to overcome a fear I was facing on that very day.

My Paralysing Fear

The day I published that post I did very little else because I almost let fear grind my activity to a halt.

We were just over 3 weeks out from our ProBlogger Training Event and I was letting fear get the better of me. While I normally am able to use Fear as a motivating factor (I wrote about that here) on this particular day I was feeling quite overwhelmed.

With the event 3 weeks away I was fearful of a number of things (some were rational and some were not) including:

  • that our international speakers might all be unable to fly in due to some unforeseen disaster that grounded flights out of the US
  • that last minute negotiations with sponsors might fall through leaving us financially in trouble
  • that a weather event would cause us to cancel our outside evening event
  • that I wouldn’t have anything useful to say in my keynotes
  • that we’d have some disaster with the venue or food or the staging or…. (this list went on quite long)

I actually had a much longer list than that – but I’m sure you get the picture!

I’ve felt all of these fears before in the lead up to other events – but on this particular day they all got a little too much for me and I paced around my office imagining the worst and letting my fears distract me from doing much at all.

3 Questions to Get You Moving When Fearful

Fear

Thankfully I didn’t let fear overwhelm me completely – not for too long anyway. After a day of it I decided I needed to find a way to get myself moving again.

To do so I asked myself 3 questions (questions that I actually spoke about in my opening keynote for PBEVENT):

  1. What is the worst thing that could happen to me?
  2. How would I recover if that happened?
  3. What is the best thing that could happen to me?

Note: these are not ‘my’ questions. I’ve heard many people speak about them (or variations of them) over the years.

By tackling each of these questions I think you put fear into perspective but also put yourself in a better position to face that fear in a better way.

What is the worst thing that could happen to me?

Question 1 is all about getting perspective. Sometimes simply by asking it you realise that the worst thing that could happen isn’t that bad at all.

How would I recover if that happened?

However sometimes the worst thing is pretty bad. This is where Question 2 is essential. It allows you to make a decision to either avoid the situation (sometimes fear is a signal that you’re about to do something stupid and you shouldn’t do it) or to come up with a contingency plan.

So in the case of our event by asking ‘how would I recover’ I suddenly realised that we needed to come up with some contingency plans. For example we decided to come up with some plans for if our international speakers were late or unable to get there. As a result we were better prepared and the fear melted away.

What is the best thing that could happen to me?

The Question 3 is all about focusing not only on the worst case scenario but also motivating yourself with the best case. The reality is that the worst case scenarios in my head on that day did not happen. While we had a few hiccups during the event the some amazing things did happen as a result of the event.

Even Wobbly Courage is Still Courage

I was going to title this post ‘how to smash fear’ or ‘how to eliminate fear’ but the reality is that I don’t think I’ve ever completely eliminated fear.

While I did get myself moving again in the example above I still felt a little fearful about the event and I’m not so sure that that is a bad thing.

Fear is a signal that something important is going to happen. It is a signal to pay attention and it can actually give you the shot of adrenaline you need to face that important situation.

The reality is that when we face important life changing things that we will almost always feel a little… or a lot… wobbly. But as a friend once said to my wife… ‘even wobbly courage is still courage’n (thanks Jessica for sharing that – it’s helped a lot of people).

Courage is courage – even if you only have a little bit of it.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Without fear, there is no courage. Doing something that doesn’t scare you isn’t courageous, being scared and doing it anyway is.
    It’s refreshing to hear a professional blogger talk so openly about fear – too many self-appointed experts give off an air of infallibility which just doesn’t ring true and puts people off even trying to emulate them.
    Some of the world’s biggest musicians still get stage fright after decades of performing and many sports stars go through elaborate pre-game rituals to calm their nerves.
    I’m glad the event went well (at least I assume it did).

  2. When i face any kind of fear , i usually think of the consequences it could leave on me and i try to prepare my mind for any upcoming challenge.

  3. Kate Kutny says:

    Darren,

    Great post! Yes I have had times I was afraid as well. Many times actually. So I can really relate to you and how you felt. When I got the courage and faced my fear, It actually made me feel better about myself. My confidence in myself grew and I was not afraid of that thing anymore. Its amazing how we can be so afraid of something, but once we face it, its not that bad! Thanks again for your honest and helpful post!

  4. Pst Bless says:

    Darren, this indeed is a great post. the power of fear is as strong as death, it has ruined many destinies and careers.

  5. Kashif says:

    The Litany Against Fear from the Bene Gesserit goes:

    “I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing……Only I will remain.”

    From the Dune Universe :)

  6. As far as I’m concerned you always have plan b,c and d in case something happens, so I’m surprised you didn’t have a plan ready to go in case the speakers couldn’t turn up for some reason. If you had a plan that would not have been one of your fears.

  7. Darren Ebona says:

    Fear is only a result of something that we don’t know YET. We are afraid because we don’t know what the outcome will be, if it is going to be not what we’ve expected. I had also experienced fear when I first drove a car, ‘what ifs’ bombarded my mind but when I got the hang of it, driving was a breeze. I didn’t know what will happen that is why I’m afraid. Such a nice (off-topic) inspiring post. Kudos Darren, oh wait, I’m also Darren. LOL.

  8. Carlos says:

    Hey Darren, great post!

    I am an anxiety therpist, (when i´m not blogging) ;) , and That is one of the questions we use when treating Panic Attacks, or extreme anxiety levels… “What is the worse that can happen”… Also another thing that is good to tackle anxiety is to use Percentages % … For example, if you think you will lose it, and act crazy, or that you might fall or have a nervous breakdown, you should ask yourself:” What percentage of true is this affirmation?” Your mind, has trouble to understand percentages, and makes your brain to actually think rationally, and to not overreact to what is actually happening, or to what you think is happening.

    I have a very cool post on How to Stop Panic Attacks, and I actually used it for an exercise you did on list Posts… the one that were 80 something posts… Well anyway, if you or someone else want to check it out, just click my name..

  9. Edson Hale says:

    Fear is natural feeling and we cannot ignore it nor we can be free of it. Yes we can overcome it with our positive mindset. Fear is mostly linked to unknown so our every step for any future event must be perfect enough to make us least afraid of unknown things.

  10. eric Holmes says:

    Do not just be a spectator, the most important is the real action if you do not want to lag behind the others.

  11. Shaun says:

    Great post. I think often inaction is a result of fear. If you dream of making a living out of blogging, by actually writing and publishing a post you have to accept the possibility of getting criticism, which may lead you to the realisation that the dream was never meant to be. But, by playing it safe and not writing the post, instead finding other tasks to occupy yourself with, you are never putting that dream on the line, so you can always cling onto it with a hope of a better tomorrow.

    Of course this is a catch 22. Never taking action will result in you never achieving your dream anyway…

  12. ken murika says:

    Fear is actually the opposite of faith, while faith pushes you to to try something with alot of optimism, fear bars us from trying to venture into the unknown, fear can really cripple anybody as it doesn’tsee anything positive in a situation. I do overcome fear by trying to weigh on what is the worst thing and the best thing that can happen.

  13. I like the third question the most – it gets you focused on something positive. While I don’t think there are ways to eliminate fear altogether, perhaps that’s a good thing?

    A good healthy dose of fear every now and then to check I’m still alive is often good for me I find!

  14. Darren – Thank you for sharing this.

    No matter how many times I write about fear and encourage others to break out of their comfort zones I still struggle with fear and need to be reminded that people I admire are battling those giants too!

    I love this quote, “even wobbly courage is still courage.”

  15. Another question I’d add: What happens if you DON’T face your fear?

    I’m a big believer in facing one fear every day. It doesn’t have to be a big one. Just one fear a day. While the process of facing fear gets easier, mainly because I have a lot of practice, you’re right, my fear never entirely goes away.

    I’ve just launched a new business via my website. I’ve been blogging for years, but only recently decided that I actually want to make my living from it. I feel fear every single time i send out a pitch or market myself. I figure, though, what is my alternative?

  16. I know that it’s not just me who has taken away your (wife’s friend’s) message of “wobbly courage” from PBevent, I’ve seen it being quoted all over the place, and it’s such a great message. Also, nice to see that no matter how far along you get in business you still have these fears (I’d like to think that presidents and prime ministers do too – I guess it’s probably risky for them to say so though!). And even better, none of those fears came true for you in this case. My bigger fear at the outdoor event (more than rain) was that the python would turn vicious.

  17. Amanda says:

    Thanks for writing this. I think #3, “What is the best thing that could happen to me?” is the most important. Because after you’ve been thinking about the bad stuff, you can redeem your mood with a positive affirmation. :)

  18. Maxwell Ivey says:

    Hello; This was an excellent post. We are all afraid. The difference is some people have learned how to gather up their courage and face their fears anyway. on the back of my business card it says never be afraid to ask. if you don’t ask they can’t say yes. This is one of the ways I focus more on the best case than worst. And yesterday I was watching the new tv show the crazy ones with my family. Robin williams character keeps saying that he only knows one way to be. he leaps believing the net will appear. You still have to have those contingency plans, but being positive will keep you from over planning or over complicating things. Thanks again and take care, Max

  19. I’m so dedicated to the spread of courage that I just have to give props to this post. It’s encouraging to see that highly successful bloggers still have fears, but have learned to “feel the fear but do it anyway.” It’s so true that without fear, there can be no courage, so bravo!

  20. Marko Saric says:

    Great motivational post! There’s definitely nothing to lose and nothing to fear but it does take a bit of time for most of us to get used to that idea. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and click on that publish button. Nothing bad will happen.

  21. Arbaz Khan says:

    Great post Darren,
    There are times when everyone faces fear but that’s just a stepping stone and overcoming fear will only make you successful.

  22. I guess we really can’t ever get rid of fear, but we can decided not to let it overcome us.

  23. kazi says:

    For me , it is the combination of the first and the third question . Your approach have to hover in between these two. Thinking too cautious or too positive will ruin your scenario. Thanks as always, Darren.

  24. Hello Darren,

    I’d recommend reading “How to stop worrying and start living” by Dale Carnegie. Has helped me through a lot :-)

    Best,
    Anders

  25. Kate says:

    Recently heard that fear is contagious but so is hope. Fear only has as much power as we allow. Those 3 questions are a great and easy way to halt fear when it sneaks up on us! Thanks!

  26. Roger says:

    Ha Ha….Interesting topic. In my experience, people must think about “Behind The Scenes” if they afraid about something. And yes, we have to motivate ourself in that case.

  27. I definitely ask myself these questions. The most fun (and challenging) things happen outside of our comfort zones. What’s the worst that could happen? Right? :)

  28. Interesting read… I am sure every one of us has some kind of fear. And I think most of times if people asked the question “what is the worst that could happen?” the answer would be “not much”.

  29. Jawbone Up says:

    The older you are, the less fear you’ll face. To me, nothing much is going to happen, and I usually take things lightly. So fear doesn’t really matter me much.

    What I care are my family, friends, and business. The rest aren’t much of a concern.