“Thinking will not overcome fear — but action will.” – W. Clement Stone

Interesting Person, Boring LifeThose who have ever felt paralyzed by fear can take comfort in the knowledge that there is a proactive way to overcome it. The solution involves a willingness to act — to make some kind, almost any kind, of action.

The problem, however, is that the mere saying that acting will help overcome fear is difficult to absorb. There are so many preconceived and misinformed notions that keep us from fully comprehending and believing that we have the power to do something about the fear that has held us in its clutches — perhaps for far too long.

A little-known but very applicable concept is that each of us has the power within us to shape our lives. Whether we find ourselves in the grip of fear, or we are determined to overcome the knot of anxiety and the cold clutch of confusion in the face of it, is purely our decision.

We can allow fear to take over. In fact, many people do. They are the ones who never seem to find the courage to move beyond this self-destructive emotion. Others, however, acknowledge the fear but refuse to give fear the power to control them. It isn’t easy, by any means, but you can overcome fear and take back the power this negative emotion stole from you.

What kind of action serves to reduce or eliminate fear? This will depend on the situation, your current mental, physical and/or emotional state. It is different for everybody. What motivates me to move past fear may be a hurdle too great to climb or not enough to sufficiently galvanize someone else.

For example, I’ve always been afraid of strange noises in the dark. That stems from a childhood experience when there was a window peeper in the neighborhood and I was alone in the house at night while my mother worked late. I complained that there was somebody outside, that I felt someone looking at me, but my fears were dismissed as an overactive imagination. However, when I insisted that night after night there were strange noises outside our big picture window, my mother investigated and found a man’s footprints in the soil between the shrubs. She contacted police and they started patrolling the neighborhood, eventually nabbing the culprit – who’d been doing this for months.

How did I get past this fear? The fact that the police caught the guy was a huge step. My mother then put extra locks on the doors and installed light-blocking window coverings and closed the drapes at sunset. I stopped hiding in the closet and resumed watching TV and doing my homework in the living room. I told myself that all necessary precautions had been taken and I was safe.

I may still be a bit rattled by unusual noises in the night and/or dark places – like deep in the forest when walking a mountain trail – but I keep vigilant, travel with companions, and have a cell phone handy to call for help if needed.

It’s important to stress that each of us has a wealth of internal motivators to push us forward – even when we’re scared to do so. It could be time, as in there’s only X-amount of time before a deadline passes and if we want to take advantage of an opportunity, we need to take some sort of action now.

It could be the encouragement of friends, family, loved ones and co-workers who see qualities and capabilities in us and strongly support our taking a certain course of action that we might have discussed or intimated.

Maybe it’s the knowledge that we have overcome such fears in the past. This helps to bolster our resolve and fuel the courage we need to move ahead and act.

As to the more general recommendations about acting to overcome fear, it needn’t be a large and sweeping action. Small active steps often suffice to begin to chip away at the fear that holds us back. Keep in mind that little successes add up, resulting in a growing reserve of self-confidence that can be drawn upon later. Maybe some technique, tactic, tip or strategy worked well in one instance of overcoming fear and that may prove useful the next time we are faced with a situation that causes fear to rise and choke us off again.

Keep in mind that each of us is in control of the direction we want our lives to take. Never relinquish control to fear. Be active and keep moving toward goals we deem necessary, life-affirming and worthwhile.