Book Review: Feel the fear and do it anyway, by Susan Jeffers

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Feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

It seems I have been reading great books as of late. This is no exception, with easy to understand concepts that anyone could integrate into their lives ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ is another one for the list. With a feel-good attitude and many relevant stories and student testimonials at the end of each chapter, it is a phenomenal classic. Susan Jeffers states something in the introduction that I knew but did not think about till I read the words on the page. “Fear seems to be an epidemic in our society.” Everyone is so fearful of doing anything these days, me included, others and myself would say I can’t do that because of X, Y or Z. Of course, we would use excuses as reasons to hide behind. I won’t start Jiu-jitsu because I am not sure if I will like it, or I won’t defer my studies because I might upset my father. When really those excuses are just fears that can be overcome, like any obstacle in life fear can be turned into fuel. Jeffers gives readers tools and insights into fear and will improve the ability to fight and triumph over fear. Transitioning readers from a place of pain, suffering, and paralysis to one of power, love, and excitement.

Jeffers opens by asking ‘what are you afraid of.. and why?’ She relays the events of a new class of people wanting to learn from her in her now well-established course, Feel the fear and do it anyway, Asking each person the same question. ‘What are you afraid of.. and why?’ They answer each in situations different from the last but sound all too familiar. I want to leave my husband of 15 years, I want to leave my job and pursue my passion, I want to take the leap to the next step in growing my business. All are stories that can be related to, and every person is looking for the same thing that You and I picked up this book. We want to overcome something and grow. Jeffers breaks fear down into 3 levels, from ones that are the surface story ones like fear of change, death, illness, and others that happen to us. And ones like fear of making decisions, ending or beginning a relationship, public speaking, and others that require action from us. These are level one fears. Level 2 fears are fears that are feelings from the person, not exterior situations like those in level 1. Level 2 fears are fears of, rejection, helplessness, failure. These are more general, fears that affect multiple areas of your life. Level 3 would seem that it will be something massive in terms of fear, but Jeffers simply puts it as the fear of not being able to handle it. That you can’t handle what is going on around you, that you can’t handle the world as you are viewing it. As she puts it:

“The truth is:

If you knew you could handle anything that came your way, what would you possibly have to fear?

                The answer is: NOTHING!”

Knowing that you can handle anything that comes your way is a big deal, it isn’t about tricking yourself into thinking anything. It’s about knowing that life is a journey that will have ups and downs and that it is up to us to develop trust in our own ability to handle each situation. Take on the responsibility of handling it and not backing down from fear.

Jeffers gives readers her five truths of fear as described below:

  1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow.
  2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.
  3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out… and do it.
  4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.
  5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness. (My favorite)

With each truth, she gives her reasoning, which I found solidified what I already knew from other books and material I have digested. No matter how much you grow and progress, there will always be obstacles, be it from outside forces or those imposed by oneself. However, to get over those obstacles, action with a clear purpose of overcoming adversity will allow you to progress to the next challenge life has laid out in front of you. Usually, when I am having a shit day I try to complete an easy task on my to-do list. Might be water the garden or walk the dog, but the process of completing something allows me to get the ball rolling. Of course, knowing that someone has been, is and will be in the position that you find yourself in, fearing action, is comforting. Of course, knowing that those before you have pushed forward gives you confidence that you will too. In most cases someone has written or talked about your position, you might feel lost, you might be afraid of changing careers or dumping that pyscho boyfriend. Someone probably has done it. My favorite truth is that the fear of inaction is far greater than action. Using fear to help push you is one of the greatest things I have learnt recently. I would always fear doing something, talking to that girl, asking for help, whatever it might’ve been. However, instead of having fear block my move, I turn it into a positive and take action.

Jeffers goes on to point out that currently in society the word ‘power’ has negative connotations, often being used in terms of control over others and the miss use of it. But she talks about power in the sense of oneself, the power of how you view the world, the actions you take, the power of growth, to create joy, satisfaction, and love in one’s life. When one lacks power, they feel helpless to the world, they are more likely to suffer and to fear change and growth. Not having power in one’s life results in manipulating others around them and playing the victim in most circumstances. Since they have no power of their own they try to take it from everyone else. You can often see this when someone starts succeeding in life, others try to cut them down, showing their jealousy and lack of power over their emotions. Power is the ability to overcome adversity and obstacles that life sets up for you, knowing that the task at hand is hard but pushing through and completing it anyway. So, instead of using words and phrases like: I can’t, it’s not my fault, life’s a struggle, and if only. Which are phrases of the victim mentality, use phrases of the powerful mentality like I won’t, I’m totally responsible, life’s an adventure, and next time. Changing the attitude and values are difficult, but it becomes easier when using words of power and becoming responsible for what you say and do.

A trap that I would often fall into would be thoughts of self-doubt and negativity, I would beat myself up over things I did or said. I would fear outcomes of action so I would then just not do them, I wouldn’t ask that girl out, or I wouldn’t stand up to people who were having a go at me or my mates. I would feel helpless whenever these thoughts crept into my head, Jeffers touched on the effects of negative and positive thought and how powerful they really are. However, you cannot stop thinking positively even when you have reached or goal or achievement, likening it to exercise. You wouldn’t stop going to the gym after you have gotten your body in shape. She gives readers some exercises and tips for turning negative to positive. And, keeping it positive. All reinforcing positive attitudes. From listening to audio tapes and reading books, writing positive quotes and recording and listening to affirmations. She leaves out a very important detail, however. None of these things will work if you don’t put them into action, and even then, if you put them into action, you have to really draw from them and become positive. If you keep a negative mindset, you could read as many books on positivity as possible, and you would still be negative. The change MUST come from within. No outside force will make the transformation for you.

Once this shift in mindset has begun, often other people in your life find dealing with the change difficult and do things, most of the time unconsciously, to discourage the change. I have found this in a lot of my own relationships. I say I want to do something, and already people start telling me “Aww, nah man you don’t want to do that.” Or “I’ve heard that it already been done.” Or “I tried that, and it didn’t work for me.” So, I have found myself not telling anyone anything and just doing it. Obviously, this is not everyone, and sometimes they can be all for one idea but then reject another the next week.  Jeffers talks about making some changes, however, these changes aren’t difficult to make. Over time your “moan-and-groan” friends will either see the example you are setting and join you in growing, or they will find other “moaners-and-groaners” to complain about their lot in life. In each circumstance, Jeffers explains that you the reader should not feel guilty for not keeping toxic relationships, obviously the former is more preferred. However, you can only be an example for them, it is up for them to decide if they wish to take life on and leave negativity behind. Jeffers includes anecdotes from students that have participated in her courses that have had their partners resist their growth. She gives an insight into why their partners are dragging them down, often they need help too in growing and changing their mindset. Often the partners are able to see what they are doing wrong and start to change themselves, others do not. If you stop your growth and choose to stay in the relationship for the reason of not upsetting your partner, you more often than not become resentful of them for not allowing you to grow. A break usually occurs after this point.

Jeffers closes the book with the reminder that there is plenty of time, time for you to grow, time to change your mindset, time to do the things you want to. Being impatient creates feelings of fear, stress, and frustration. This rings true especially in today’s world of instant gratification when everyone wants to feel good now, to have the latest phone, the best this, that and the other thing. Just take a deep breath, and trust in your own abilities and trust that whatever life throws at you, you can handle it. Either we think about experiences as a victim and not learn from it or we take responsibility and learn from it. Jeffers has produced a book full of little tips that can be applied all throughout life, the title says it all. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

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See you on the mats.

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