Fear and Excitement – How “Nice Fears” Can Expand Your Life
Fear and excitement are closely linked. We often feel both feelings at once. It’s easier to do something that scares you if you’re excited about it as well.
Fear can be split up into 2 groups.
Group number 1: A fear that fills us with dread and makes us feel sick and anxious. For many people, this might be public speaking.
Group number 2: A fear that excites us. We feel anxious but there is something inside that wants to do something so much we’ll do it anyway. For many people, this might travel to a new place or country. Group 2 fears are what I like to think of as nice fears. For me, some nice fears are how I feel when I go to a new exercise class or meet up with a new person. I may feel apprehensive but the excitement means fear won’t stop me.
Is it possible we can get over all our fears by exploring only our nice fears? Perhaps we can just face the fears we feel excited about and not the ones that fill us with dread.
Examples of nice fears :
going on a date
starting a job / business we’re really excited about
learning and trying a new hobby
going on vacation to a new place
walking a route we’ve never walked before
going to a new restaurant.
spending a larger amount of money than is usual on an item.
The nice fears don’t have to be big like visiting a new country. They can also be small, such as visiting the next town.
If we practice facing the nice fears, then the things that fill us with dread might not seem as scary. The practice of overcoming nice fears strengthens our fear muscle which makes it easier to overcome all kinds of other fears too.
People who are very good at getting out of their comfort zone are more excited than scared. Think about somebody like Will Smith. He talks a lot about getting out of his comfort zone and overcoming fears. There’s a great video of him talking about the fear he felt when he did a skydive. Listen when he talks. He’s very excited. He’s energised. This is Will Smith all over. When you feel excitement like he does, it’s difficult to let fear stop you.
Do we make expanding our comfort zone scarier than it needs to be?
In the past, I’ve always pushed myself to do things that scared me. I’ve literally “felt the fear and did it anyway” and no doubt this worked. I’ve used this strategy among others to get me over my fear of public speaking, to travel to another country, to drive to new places, to try new gym classes and start up new hobbies.
However, doing this has also led to feeling very uncomfortable at times. It takes willpower and determination. You need to push yourself.
What if you don’t need to do it this way. What if leaning into “nice fears” is an easier and better way to expand your life?
For example, if you have a fear of making phone calls, why not make a telephone call about something that excites you (such as planning a trip). Surely this is easier than pushing yourself to make any old phone calls to overcome the fear. If you start using the telephone for more exciting things it will make it easier to use the phone on calls that aren’t your highest excitement as well.
How to find the fears that excite us to build our fear muscle.
Make a list of all the things that scare you but are also excited about. Work through your list. List small things as well as big things to gain momentum.
If you have children, this is a nice way to help them to step out of their comfort zone too. Can they make a list of things that scare them but are still excited to do?
You can also ask yourself which fears excite your inner child? Take a trip inside and ask your inner child to make a list too.
One thing to bear in mind is that you may feel different levels of fear and excitement about an activity on different days. Some days the excitement is high whereas on other days the excitement won’t be there and you feel dread instead.
Take action on the days you feel excited. The idea of using fear and excitement is that the excitement pulls you through. If you’re not feeling excited on a particular day, come back to it at another time.
How to use excitement to diminish the fear.
When we are both excited and scared about something, we often obsess over the fear and ignore the excitement. This leads us to stay in our comfort zone. Make sure you have space for the excitement as well as the fear. Don’t let the fear take over.
For example, perhaps you want to start up a business. Your business idea excites you but you have many fears as well. Ramp up the excitement. Get present for everything that you want to do.
When the doubts and fearful thoughts arise (which they will), observe and accept them, but make sure there is also space for the excitement too. Let doubts pass through. Acknowledge that they are there but also see the positives. Sit with your excitement as well as your fear.
What can rob us of excitement:
We’ve established that levels of fear and excitement vary. It’s also worth observing why this is. Here are 3 things that lower my levels of excitement.
Lack of energy – excitement is an energised emotion. If you’re tired, feeling excited can feel draining. Sometimes, it’s good to face fears early in the morning, as we are more energised and are more likely to feel excited and motivated.
Too much to do – it’s hard to feel excited about something when you’re overwhelmed. Clear your diary to tackle the exciting fears.
Not living in the moment – it’s important to tackle your “excited fears” in the moment. Sometimes you can feel excited about something that is a long way off in the future but by the time you actually tackle your fear, the excitement has waned. Tackle your fears in the same moment you feel the excitement.
For example, you may be excited to book a trip to a new place but a little nervous as well. At the time you feel excited, book that trip online or make arrangements to have time off work. Take steps in the present moment when you feel excited and the rest will follow.
Change Your Fear Into Excitement
Some people say that the feeling of fear and excitement is not just similar but exactly the same. The same bodily responses happen when you feel fear and excitement (a raised heart rate, sweaty palms, butterflies in your tummy etc). The only difference between the two emotions is the thoughts you apply to each one.
Therefore when you feel scared, try telling yourself that you are excited rather than scared. Just changing your perspective and your thoughts when you feel fear can make more excited rather than scared.
Have a play with this idea. Try feeling excited about the experience rather than scared. What are the good things that come out of your experience? Get curious about what you may experience and what may happen.