To be able to fight fear, you need to understand what fear is. Fear, anxiety, worry and stress are all words for the same thing, the desire to avoid future suffering. You think about something in the future that will cause you pain followed by the thought of wanting to avoid that pain. This fearful thought then causes you to suffer in the present.
What’s important to understand is that fear is not necessarily a bad thing. We’ve evolved a healthy sense of fear over the last billion years which protects us from predators and dangerous situations, this is a good thing. It’s only when your fears become magnified and distorted that they become unhelpful.
The ideal frame is that fear is your friend. You respect fear, and listen to it when it serves you, but without becoming a slave to it. That means making your fear serve you and not the other way around. Just like you make your beliefs serve you and not the other way around.
Control is key. And so is balance. A neurotic person suffers because they’re a slave to their fears. A reckless person suffers because they don’t respect their fears. Your end game should be a balance between the two.
This is a daily battle, and it’s not easy. But it’s the most important battle in your life. The pursuit of happiness is the most logical approach to life there is and mastering your fear is a major part of that battle.
It’s simple, living in happiness is living in light. Living in fear is living in darkness. And you want to spend as much of your time in the light as you can and feel no more fear than is necessary to keep you healthy and functional.
But whichever way you want to take it, to live your best life, you need to get serious, and that means you need a battleplan and a good battleplan needs both strategies and tactics. Strategies being the outline of your battleplan and tactics being the specific attacks you use in the fight against fear.
1) Pursuing Happiness As Your Primary Priority
The right strategy is having the right frame. The right frame is that the pursuit of happiness is your primary priority in life. Not as a cute metaphor that you think about occasionally, but as a vow. You owe it to yourself to live your best life, and if it’s not your primary priority, you’re hustling backwards. If you’re not convinced, check out these articles:
- How to be happier by doing a happiness inventory
- How to be happier by prioritizing happiness
- How to be happier: primary priority, state blocking
When you truly internalize happiness as your primary priority, you will instantly become less fearful, because it gives you that extra motivation to recognize every irrational fearful thought as unproductive and avoid giving it emotional energy.
“Why am I causing myself to be less happy by indulging in this fear?”
When your vow is truly serious, it gives you the direction to consistently choose the positive thought over the fearful thought. Or at the least to recognize when you’re making a mistake, instead of wholeheartedly giving into and being absorbed by fear.
And choosing the positive thought over the fearful thought is the key to creating, a deep-level, positive identity.
2) Having The Right Timeline
To put the pursuit of happiness into practice you need the right timeline. The right timeline is living 50% for today and 50% for the next decade.
At various points in my life I’ve lived 100% for today and 100% for the future, and neither is ideal. The ideal is balance, and every time I step out of that balance I start to suffer.
If you we’re living solely for today, there would be nothing stopping you from blasting heroin and instantly destroying your fears. Unfortunately drugs don’t last forever, and you’d be dooming your future self to a life of misery.
The same logic applies when you live solely for the future, this is known as the deferred life plan. Where you take on massive amounts of debt and work a job you hate for the next four decades so that you can pay it off in your 60’s and enjoy your “golden years”.
The truth is, living solely for the future, no matter how much you accomplish in your business or in the gym is just as bad for you as living solely in the present.
The ideal strategy is balance, living 50% for your enjoyment of today, and 50% for your enjoyment over the next decade.
By focusing 50% of your enjoyment on today, you automatically eliminate a large part of your future fears because they’re unproductive for your current state of happiness. This might sound hard to believe, but it’s only hard to believe when you’re not serious about happiness as your primary priority.
And by focusing 50% of your enjoyment over the next decade, it makes sure that you don’t ignore the healthy fear you need to get through the decade while avoiding the 45 year deferred life plan.
1) Controlling Your Thoughts
The first weapon in your arsenal against the fight against fear is thought control. Fear manifests as both a physical sensation and a thought, but the bulk of the fear you feel is based on your thoughts.
Fearful thoughts pull you out of the present moment like nothing else. And while some are useful, like avoiding oncoming traffic, the vast majority of them never come to pass. That’s why thought control is a crucial component in your battle against fear.
The best way to control your fearful thought is with a good filter. A good filter weeds out the unproductive thoughts and allows you to put your attention towards the fearful thoughts that need to get handled.
The vast majority of your fearful thoughts are unproductive, and the best reframe I’ve found for unproductive thoughts is literally just that, to label them as unproductive. Productive fear helps protect me so that I can pursue my happiness, but unproductive fear will get in the way of your mission and has to go.
Whenever you find yourself caught up in a fear spiral, check in to see if those thoughts are unproductive, which they usually are, and try labeling them as such.
Unproductive thought > irrelevant > back to work/enjoying the present moment
Now, not all fear is unproductive. Your body is a survival machine with billions of years of evolution behind it. And fear is a major part of your survival strategy. And as we covered before, productive fear is your friend.
Productive fear comes in two forms, immediate and future based.
Immediate thoughts like slowing down for traffic, or avoiding the ATM at night when it’s surrounded by soccer hooligans should be handled immediately – just listen to the fear as your friend and avoid the situation.
For future based productive thoughts, the best move is to put an action plan together on how you want to get those handled – I use wunderlist for all my tasks (more on that below).
An example would be say heart disease or cancer. If heart disease runs in your family, this is something you want to start getting on top of before something happens – an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.Things like watching your diet, doing regular bloodwork or getting a full stop genetic profile are also good ideas.
Having a list of your actionable fears in an actionable plan, with actionable subtasks is key. I label them as projects in my wunderlist and work on them when I have the time.
Control What You Can Control (And Don’t Worry About What You Can’t)
When you take your major problems, and your major risk factors, and you make an action plan, and you have a backup plan for if sh*t goes wrong, then you don’t worry about the rest.
You can apply a lot of control to your life, but you can’t control or predict everything. And if you can’t control it, it’s not worth worrying about. Just like it’s not worth worrying about life on earth getting wiped out by an asteroid.
Otherwise you can get stuck looking up diseases and economic disaster scenarios all day, and we are not evolved to have that level of information and stress, not even close. In fact it’s better to ignore 99% of the doom and gloom out there.
Not only do disaster scenarios not help you, they hurt you. Control what you can control, give it the worry it deserves and not an ounce more. And for everything outside of your control, don’t worry about it.
2) Controlling Your Reality
The most effective thing I’ve done for getting control of anxiety is getting control of my life. When life is on top of you, you live in subconscious fear manifesting as low-level anxiety and stress. Of all those things you know you need to do, and all the problems adding up and accumulating, and mess, and disorganization…it all weighs on you hard.
I remember the feeling clearly. It’s hard to relax when life is on top of you. It’s not until you get on top of life that you get to breathe deeply and get that feeling of control over your environment. And the more control of your environment you have, the better your life gets. Because when you don’t control your own reality, someone else will, and it won’t be in your best interests.
The smart move is getting organized. I have my life running on autopilot through my phone and it’s a game gamechanger. No worrying about appointments or shopping or things you need to do or things you need to buy – I mean complete mastery of your environment.
- Getting your place organized
- Becoming a minimalist
- Getting your daily routine on autopilot
- Getting your yearly goals on point
- Setting your long-term problems as projects with actionable microtasks
- Setting your mission and microtasks
- Setting up rules for managing your life
If you want to learn how to do all this in less than a week, check out my book How To Get Organized.
Controlling Your Inputs
Controlling your reality also means controlling your inputs or what’s coming in. If you’re programming your brain with negativity and fear how can you expect it to output calm and peace, that’s not your operating system works. If you input your brain with fear, the output will be fear and stress.
You’re not evolved for a 24 hour news cycle. Or 5 hours a day of reading about politics and alternative media and economics and war and torture. It is impossible to live a low fear lifestyle when you constantly input these topics into your operating system. It’s very easy to become paranoid when all you read about are fearful things.
The same logic goes for being around neurotic people. It’s very hard to be around neurotic, negative people and not have their fearful energy rub off on you.
Instead you need to control your inputs by feeding your mind positive and peaceful media and surrounding yourself with positive and peaceful positive people.
This is a big reason I tell you to stay away from politics. Not because I don’t know what going on. And not because it’s not f*cked up. But because living in that reality tunnel will make it very hard to live a peaceful, stress free life. I’m speaking from experience here. I spent enough time falling down those rabbit holes.
It’s enough to know it exists, but it’s another thing entirely to constantly focus on it as opposed to focusing on other things. And besides, you already have more than enough on your plate when it comes to getting your wealth, health, relationships and lifestyle together.
Manage Unnecessary Risk
In my article on how to make bettter decisions by thinking like an investor, I recommend you put together a risk profile for any major decision. The idea is to manage your life like a business. The same logic applies when it comes to finding leaks in your game, you can think of these leaks as areas where you take unnecessary risks – ie. dumb sh*t that you do that ends up with you being scared and swearing you’ll never do it again.
Both of those things are big risks that add big fears to your life, with almost no added benefit and are easily avoided with a 20 cent condom.
Just like it’s a good idea to sit down and put together a list of your recurring problems, it’s also a good idea to sit down and put together a list of unnecessary risks you take (plus the corresponding fears that come with those risks), and then put together a risk management plan together on how to plug up the holes in your game.
3) Controlling Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is a big problem for a lot of guys. Your reptilian hindbrain is not evolved for the modern world, it’s evolved to stop you from getting eaten by a saber-tooth tiger. And it responds accordingly, by pumping you full of adrenaline and cortisol to give you enough energy for fight or flight.
Except we don’t have to run from tiger’s anymore. Now we live for our personas and avoiding humiliation. And for many men, the potential for a minor humiliation sets off the same fight or flight response. And that response is being triggered consistently in social interactions.
In my experience there are two key strategies to get you to a point where you’re functional and not a slave to your fears, the first is selective progressive desensitization and the second is avoidance:
Selective Progressive Desensitization
This means gradually exposing yourself to a productive fear like talking to girls or cold calling. By selective I mean something that is relevant to increasing your quality of life. I’m not a fan of going bungee jumping just for the sake of fighting fear. Because progressive desensitization actually adds fear to your life, you want it focused on productive things.
I’m also not of fan of using bungee jumping or improv classes as a confidence booster for talking to girls. To me this is just putting more obstacles in the way. The best way to get better at talking to girls is to talk to girls. Just like the best way to increase your bench press is to bench press, as opposed to doing situps on the bosu ball.
If you’re afraid to talk to girls on the street, start with online dating. Message a ton of girls and just try to get a date. And on the date just try to last 30 minutes. And then scale up from there until you’re able to get women consistently. And then you can try approaching girls on the street.
The same logic applies to a sales call. If you’re starting a service based business, you’re probably nervous about making your first call. So just aim to do 10 calls that day and maybe pitch one person. You don’t have to even try to close, just to get the pitch out. And the next day do 20 and scale up from there.
Same goes for social situations. Just get yourself to the party with a goal of being there for 2 hours and making conversation with three people. You don’t have to be a star, you just have to start small and scale up.
And like any skill, you eventually get good. I was terrified to do my first cold call. But after 100s of cold calls a day for years it just became another area of competence.
Avoidance means avoiding the things you’re afraid of, which at first might sound contradictory compared to the section above. It also goes against a lot of mainstream personal development advice. But what it comes down to is not trying to fight every fear.
Your goal should be to live a low stress, happy life, not a high fear one, so the only fears you need to work on are the ones that are getting in the way of your happiness.
Being too scared to get clients or girls is a problem. Being scared of skydiving is not a problem, not even a little bit.
Instead of trying to destroy all your fears, you just need to get functional. Because the truth is, selective, progressive desensitization is not fun. And during the process, your lifestyle actually becomes more fearful. And if you live to constantly fight your fears, you end up living a high fear lifestyle – the opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish.
A high fear lifestyle results in things like a soldier coming back from the war with PTSD. Or a businessman having a heart attack at 45. Constantly putting yourself in high fear situations is bad as never challenging yourself.
Whether its cold calling or picking up girls, you just need to get functional. And if you don’t love it, you have my permission to find ways to avoid it, like moving your outbound sales to Facebook or getting a cold caller or getting all of your girls online.
The method doesn’t matter. You don’t have to chase an idealized version of a masculine lifestyle. You just need to be able to be functional enough to get what you want. Trying to be the best at picking up women is like trying to be the best on the stationary bike, it’s the result your after, not the method.
Once you can approach a woman, you don’t have to do it every day, in fact approach compulsion can become as bad as approach anxiety. You’re not weak if you don’t approach every hot girl you see. Even if you only use online game, as long as you’re getting results it doesn’t matter.
It’s also important to understand that some fears never go away, they get better but they don’t go away completely.
Social anxiety is the fear of being humiliated. As long as you have an ego, this is reality.
Progressive desensitization raises your baseline fear tolerance, but it doesn’t destroy it.
Your day-to-day fear will be is as much dependent on your state as it is on your baseline. Which is why all the other tactics in this piece are as important for social anxiety as progressive desensitization and avoidance.
In summary use selective progressive desensitization to get functional. Accept the increase in fear until you get functional and raise your baseline. But don’t worry about conquering every fear.
4) Controlling Your Physical State
Physical state management is one of if not the most important tactics for living a low fear lifestyle. On a day-to-day basis, you’ll find that changing your physical state is often the best way to change your mental state.
This is because you live in a physical body. And your fear is directly determined by the neurotransmitters in your body. If you’re not getting the right food, and enough sleep and the right supplements, your body won’t be able to produce the neurotransmitters you need to feel relaxed – neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin.
Similar to controlling your reality by controlling your inputs. You need to control what you input into your body.
The key areas to control are sleep, diet, physical routine and supplements:
The key to sleep is getting up early, getting 8 hours and making sure you’re getting enough air while you sleep.
The way get up early is to set the alarm for 6 and make sure you get up every day, no snoozing. As long as you do this your body will naturally adjust itself at night, it just might take a week or two to get used to it.
The other thing you need to watch for is sleep apnea, which I have. This means i would wake up hundreds of times per night gasping for breath. My solution was to get an APAP machine which makes it so that I don’t gasp and don’t snore anymore.
Diet is a major part of how you feel, in fact many biologists consider the gut to be a second brain. And some evolutionary biologists like Emily Dean believe that mental illness can often be traced back to gut issues. Again it comes down to neurotransmitters.
I’ll admit I don’t have my diet down 100%, but I’m 70% of the way there. You know what a good diet looks like:
* Enough water
* Chicken, fish and other lean meat
* Foods rich in essential oils (Omega 3s and 6s)
* Some nuts and rice
The big thing to look out for those is FODMAPs. These are long chain carbohydrates that many people have problems with including dairy, gluten, onions and garlic. If you want a healthy guy you definitely want to avoid eating things you’re allergic to.
To feel nice and relaxed and calm, you want your body to feel nice and relaxed and calm. Here are the keys that I use for my personal routine.
* Stretch first thing in the morning
* Mid to High intensity elliptical every day, plus lifting heavy two days a week
* 15 minutes of yoga
* 30 minute hot shower and more stretching followed by a cool shower
* Another 1 or 2 long showers throughout the day to relax
* Keeping ej@culation to an absolute minimum
And of all the things on that list, keeping ejaculation to a minimum is the most powerful mood booster. It just takes a solid few weeks to a month to notice it.
Lastly, you want to make sure you’re getting the right supplements.
My daily must haves are:
- Nature’s Way Alive Max 3 Daily (to make sure you’re getting all your vitamins and minerals)
- 500 mg Magnesium at night
- Avoid or minimize caffeine (I take caffeine)
- Avoid weed, coke, adderrall, l dopa, modafinil or any other dopamine agonist
The magnesium is super important, especially if you take a lot of caffeine, which leaches magnesium from your body. You’ll notice a major anxiety drop within 3-5 days from the magnesium alone.
5) Controlling Your Financial Fears
As we covered earlier, stress and fear are the same thing.
Everyone these days talks stress and about lowering stress and how stress is a massive problem in western society. And they tell you to meditate for 15 minutes a day, as if thats going to make anything more than a minor change to a major problem.
The major problem for most middle class guys is money. We live in a consumption-driven, debt based society and it drags men into the undertow by the millions. This is by design, banks exist on debt and interest and corporations exist on consumption.
The average middle class man gets into the game in debt with student loans.
And then they get him with the credit card on campus.
And they get him in the corporate game working 8 hours a day and another two at night on his blackberry.
And then they get him with the car he can’t afford, and the house he can’t afford.
And then he adds the wedding he can’t afford, the kids he can’t afford, the babysittters, and it doesn’t stop.
And he can’t quit his job, and he can’t afford to get fired, because he’s living month to month.
And they ramp up the pressure at work, and his sales targets keep going up, and he can’t afford to quit.
And he tries to hold on until 65 without losing it and with enough money to retire on.
And when you don’t, you’re a 58 year old salesmen reporting to a 32 year old. And you have a stroke from the pressure. And it takes you a year to recover. But when you come back you’re not the same man and you get demoted to cold caller. And then you can’t even hold that job down and you get fired – I’ve seen that happen, it is not a joke.
The good news is that doesn’t have to happen to you. And you can get your financial fear down buy getting your expenses down and becoming a minimalist.
You can’t live a low fear lifestyle when you’re living a life you can’t afford. A big help, especially when it comes to your finances is becoming a minimalist and getting your expenses down
- Demanding girlfriend you can’t afford
All these things have to be on the chopping block, at least until you have a money machine generating real revenue for you. The day I became a minimalist was a game changer. I realized how little I actually needed, and that drastically downsizing my life didn’t reduce my ability to earn income or get women – I can’t stress how big an upgrade this was.
I’m not saying you can’t have all those nice things, you just can’t have them until you can afford them, otherwise you’ll be living in a fear factory. I know guys making $250k a year and they still can’t afford their lives – it’s insane!
To get your financial fears down, you have to get your financial life under control, and the sooner the better. Downsize, minimize, and get control of your own revenue stream.
6) Controlling Your Fear Of Death
Death is the granddaddy of all fears.
More than anything we fear the loss of our existence.
People will accept almost any condition, no matter how terrible, just so long as they don’t die, they’ll even go so far as to spend their lives in a tiny prison cell rather than face the death penalty.
Yet death is inevitable, and it’s coming for you, so how do we, as players in the game of life, play that card?
First, you use death as a motivator. All too often we assume life is going to last forever, but it doesn’t. Since you’re going to die anyways, you might as well take a shot at going after your goals, the last thing you want is to be sitting on your deathbed thinking about what could have been.
Once you put that countdown clock on your life, it gives you that extra bit of get-up-and-go. I’ve used it on a few major decisions with the mentality of: “f*ck it, I won’t be here forever, might as well take a shot.”
Second, you use your creativity to frame death as a positive.
If you’re traditionally religious, death means you get to go to heaven, this is a great belief.
If you’re a non-dualist like me, you believe the same, except that you’ve always been in that state, only the mind has clouded your vision of it. I believe that with work, in our lifetime, we can realize that state permanently while we’re alive (nirvana), or after the body dies (maha-nirvana).
I also allow for the possibility that if you do good works, but can’t realize your true state in this lifetime, you incarnate into a better vehicle and ideally and suffer less in the next lifetime. I don’t believe this to the same extent as the above, but this is where I would lean if I had to choose.
Lastly, if you’re atheist or agnostic, you have some work to do to get deat to a positive. The first thing I’d recommend is really investigating your beliefs. Having some type of faith will make you much less fearful. I remember being 13 and not being able to get on a plane, now I can fall asleep during take off and truly do not give a f*ck what happens when I’m in the air.
I’m ready to go today, and truth be told I’m more worried about a serious disease than I’m worried about death, in fact I’m even looking forward to it a little bit if I’m being honest.
However, if you’re dead set on death being complete annihilation, you can still view that as a positive, because it means the end of suffering. Not just large-scale suffering, but mundane boring sh*t like picking up your dry cleaning or flossing. I used to joke (half-joke) with my salesmen buddies that at least there would be no cold calling when we died.
Whatever your belief system, there is a creative angle to make it a positive. It’s just a matter of finding the best frame for you and repeating it, every time the idea comes up.
The most logical way to live is to pursue your own happiness. And that means living a low fear lifestyle. Not a life without fear, but a life where you control your fear instead of the other way around. It’s not an easy fight, but it’s an important fight, and the strategies and tactics I outlined are the best ones I know of. But the best laid plan is useless without action, so take action and start living a more peaceful life today.