“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.” – Mahatma Gandhi
I jolted awake in a cold sweat. It wasn’t subtle; it was the violent, heart pounding kind of awake. And it wasn’t the first time either. I had already woken up four times in the last six hours; each time a full-on bladder emergency. My tinnitus blared like a siren.
It was a week after my Meniere’s diagnosis, and I had finally taken the diuretic and corticosteroid my doctor had prescribed. But it wasn’t going well. My symptoms hadn’t improved at all. I relieved my bladder and got back in bed. I knew I should probably just get up, but I was so afraid. My mind raced as a terrifying thought bounced around my brain…‘My life is over.’ I stayed at home for days, too paralyzed by fear to participate in life.
Fear can destroy you. But far more often, it simply keeps you from achieving your goals. Most people have at least a vague sense of what they want from life; their dreams and aspirations of business, travel, love, and family. But fear has a way of wedging itself between you and your plans. Everyone suffers this fate to some degree.
Throw a chronic illness like Meniere’s disease into the mix and you have a whole new set of challenges. If left unaddressed, your fear can make it much more difficult to get better.
But fear can be a useful tool. When wielded properly, fear can bring clarity into your life. The problem is that most of the time our fears are undefined. We rarely stop to take a close look at our fear and bring it into focus. It’s the uncertainty that drives our anxiety.
In his best-selling book, “The Four Hour Workweek”, author and human performance guru Tim Ferriss describes his approach to conquering fear.
“To do or not to do? To try or not to try? Most people will vote no, whether they consider themselves brave or not. Uncertainty and the prospect of failure can be very scary noises in the shadows. Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.”
Tim argues that by clearly defining your fear in explicit detail, you can reach your goals and achieve your dreams, whether in health, business, life or otherwise. If you find you’re afraid to take action, Tim offers up a simple exercise to try called Fear Setting.
Fear Setting Exercise:
Grab a pen and a piece paper and divide the paper into three equal columns.
In the first column, write down everything that could possibly go wrong if you were to take the action you’re considering. Be explicit. Define the worst possible scenario in as much detail as possible.
In the second column, list all the ways you can prevent each item in the first column from happening. What steps can you take ahead of time to eliminate negative outcomes?
Finally in the third column, describe how you could recover from each scenario you described in the first column. If your worst fears came true, how could you bounce back? Could you turn it to your advantage? At the very least, describe how you could move forward with your life.
To take it a step further, an interesting twist on this exercise is to face your fear with an expectation of failure. Assume that everything will go wrong and decide what your next move will be. Given these new circumstances, what steps can you take to make sure you will still live a life of satisfaction and purpose? Make a concrete plan of what you will do after it inevitably blows up in your face.
If you take this approach, you will always have a positive outcome. If nothing goes wrong, then you will have far exceeded your expectations. Otherwise, everything will have gone according to plan and you will know exactly what to do next.
By bringing your fears into focus, you will start achieving your goals and drastically reduce your anxiety. Also, remember that disappointment is transient. Our lives are an endless cycle of ups and downs. No matter how bad things may seem, no matter how afraid you are, things will eventually improve. But by defining your fears, you can start to take action sooner rather than later.
You can take steps, right now, to improve your health. You can choose to face your fear. You can decide today to fight for your health and never give up. Thomas Edison once said, “When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.” There is always so much hope. Meniere’s disease cannot and will not ever be bigger than your dreams.