How I Conquered My Biggest Fear

The mind can play funny tricks on a guy… especially when it comes to fear.

Mastering those tricks is the key to success that so many folks are never lucky enough to uncover.

The simple but unique process of getting over our fears builds confidence, keeps our brains sharp and allows us to master new skills.

All it takes is Know-How.

Let us explain…

Every good farm needs outbuildings. We have a few already, but we need another. With our plans in hand and a supply of material on the driveway, we grabbed our hammer and got to work.

First step… clear a patch of land.

The footprint for our new building sits along the edge of one of our lower pastures. The area is overgrown with brush, saplings and one big, dead tree.

It’s the tree that had us so concerned. It’s not that the wood was old and starting to rot. Getting the tree to fall where we wanted it wasn’t an issue.

No, it’s the fact the tree was covered in decades-old poison ivy that had us so concerned. Multiple vines chocked off the tree, some as thick and round as a soup can.

The tree, at least in our mind, was covered in a week’s worth of misery… or worse.

The Painful Past

It’s an old fear of ours. Our disdain for poison ivy goes deep.

As a young kid, we twice got ourselves covered with the stuff so bad that we laid in bed for a week… eyes swollen shut, with our face barely recognizable.

It was hell.

We’re still not sure how we got it. Did we blaze a path through the stuff? Did our beloved dog bring it to us clinging to his fur?

At that age, it seemed like voodoo. We went to bed just fine… and woke up two times our normal size.

For decades, we fretted, worried and cursed anytime we were near a plant with three leaves. It’s not a good look for a guy who thrives in the outdoors.

But then came that damned old tree.

The poison ivy on it was so thick and mature, the vines created a tree of their own. The host tree long ago lost its leaves and its limbs. Now, as we looked up, all we could see was a canopy of trouble – hundreds of feet of poisonous plant.

But yet… the tree had to go.


Getting It Right

We stared at the problem for way too long. We came up with all sorts of excuses.

We could let it stand and put our building somewhere else.

We could hook a chain to it and hope the tractor holds.

Or, the idea we thought about the most seriously, we could pay somebody to take it down and haul it away.

But that notion caused us to rub our head and think some more. The folks we would pay to cut the tree… Why weren’t they too afraid to cut it? Why didn’t they worry about suffering in bed for a week, staring at the ceiling through the tiny slits in their swollen, oozing eyes?

It took us a while to believe the truth. Fears are stubborn that way.

But once we boiled away the emotion, our old pal Know-How shined through the poison-entangled trees.

The truth is, yes, poison ivy is extremely dangerous. It can kill.

But with a bit of knowledge, the pain, the itching and the swelling can be entirely avoided.

We took an hour to learn all the facts, took the proper protections and grabbed the saw.

Now the tree is gone, the poison ivy is eradicated and we don’t itch a bit.

It’s all because we filled in the gaps in our mind. We used Know-How to learn the true threats, the true causes and the true cures.

Unlike when we were a kid and would “mysteriously” awaken to pain and swelling… now we know how poison ivy really works.

We conquered the fear. It feels good.

It’s yet another victory for our old pal Know-How.

Fear and Arousal

Of course, we’re not picking up the pen this morning to tell readers how to rip out some poison ivy.

No. We reckon you don’t really care.

But we bet you’ve got some fears of your own.

Doing what we do, we hear about the fear of investing a lot. We hear about the fear of trying out a new job or career. And we hear about the oh-so-common fear of retiring to a lonely existence.

They’re all natural feelings.

They lurk around in our mind not out of rational history… but because they’re mysterious.

They’re unknown.

Psychologists tell us the first step in overcoming these fears is to learn as much as you can about them.

In other words, learn all you can about investing. Learn the risks, the rewards and the many, many ways you can lower or eliminate your risk.

Take time to study a new career path. Talk to folks who are in the trenches. Learn everything you can about their routine, their challenges and what gets them excited.

With retirement, talk to successful retirees (yes, there are many unsuccessful retirees). Learn how they cope. And find out what they’d do differently.

Again, Know-How is critical.

But we don’t just fear the big stuff in our life.

We may fear going to a new store because we don’t know its layout. We may fear getting a new car because we might be upsold something we don’t want. We may even skip going to the doc because we fear we’ll be told something we don’t want to hear.

That’s okay. But the docs who study this stuff are quick to point out that trying new and fearful things is not just good for our personal growth… it’s also quite good for our physical and social health.

For instance, psychologists tell us that doing new things “dishabituates” our nervous system. In fact, research shows it actually triggers our arousal system.

It’s why therapists working with disengaged couples often tell their patients to try something new in the bedroom. It breaks the normal routine and arouses things in more than one way.

By breaking old fear-based habits, it brings them back to a healthy and exciting relationship.

Our battle with poison ivy may not have been quite so stimulating… but we won, and it feels good.

All it took was some Know-How.

 

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