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Fear kills. Kill Fear.
Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers
Member Name: EasternStar
Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers
Date: 19/12/08, updated on 20/12/08 (79 review reads)
Advantages: Challenging and radical, has helped many people
Disadvantages: Does not really help you evaluate risk and make decisions
Nowadays hyperbole is everywhere, so we are inoculated against grand claims that a book is "life changing". Yet thousands of people appear to credit this book for genuinely changing their lives. "Feel the Fear" succeeds because it has its roots in both the author's bitter experience and her professional psychological training. Indeed, this book contains some great raw material that can help improve the quality of people's lives. However, this book is potential dynamite, so I will be handling with care.
Fear is natural. In some cases, fear is a logical response. Without the fear reflex, we would have short life expectancies indeed. The kind of fear that keeps us from walking in front of fast moving cars is clearly a good thing. In other cases, such as fear of public speaking or being more assertive in our social relationships, fear is a purely social construct, a learned response, an excuse. It is this latter category of fear that Jeffers helps demolish.
This lesson cost £6.99 to discover, in my case as a bookstore impulse buy at a pivotal time in my life, but I would recommend you acquire this book on Amazon for as little as £4.99. Its central message is that the root cause of fear is simply a lack of confidence that you could handle the events that would proceed from a decision. In other words, if you did X, and the worst case scenario happened, could you cope? Jeffers argues that the way to beat fear is to develop an inner self-belief in your capacity to handle whatever life throws at you.
Jeffers' fundamental message is that in the long run living in a constricted, crushed comfort zone is a worse outcome that intelligently embracing the right kind of risk. In her words, "Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness".
A compelling argument, but I would describe myself as only partially convinced. I wished there was more guidance on what kind and level of risks were acceptable. I can only surmise this depends on context, values and results. Quitting one's job to start a business could mean exhilaration, freedom and fortune to one person, or exhilaration, freedom and personal ruin to another. The fact that the risk-taker might have developed the mental resources to "handle" the second outcome hardly validates their choice. Outcomes do matter.
That said, the book did have some powerful insights and it really makes you revisit your assumptions about what is possible, and strip away some of the more comfortable "softeners" we all use to justify our (in)actions. Here are some of Susan J's most lucid points:
1. "I hope is a victim's phrase. I know has far more power"
2. Take 100% responsibility for your own life.
3. Avoid casting blame on external factors - the recession, the weather, the government, your partner, boss, friends, family, dog, upbringing, childhood, luck etc etc.
4. The idea of diagrammatically mapping your choice points with - crucially - two "no lose" outcomes, both of which you can live with, is a good one.
5. "The knowledge that you can handle anything that comes your way is the key to allowing yourself to take healthy, life-affirming risks"
6. "Security is not having things; it's handling things"
7. Create a life grid showing all aspects of your life. She defines these as work, family, contribution, relationship, hobby, alone time, personal growth, relationship, leisure and friends. In my view this is good as it encourages a "balanced scorecard" approach.
8. "Your life is abundant, and you count" - Sweet, pithy and true. You feel sorry for readers who don't already believe this.
9. Silence the inner "Chatterbox" or negative internal critical voice (if you have one)
10. Focus on the spiritual side of your life.
In summary, despite being an aficionado of personal development books, I am partially but not entirely convinced. I have nothing against the self-talk and positive affirmations she recommends, provided they do not result in over-exuberant or over-confident actions. Cold logical analysis rather than feelings should surely govern decisions. The main problem, in my view, is not that fear exists and needs to be overcome in some kind of existential struggle, but just that people are notoriously bad at assessing risk.
In summary, this is a heartfelt, groundbreaking and fascinating book. Used correctly, it can have clear positive benefits. "Feel the fear and do it anyway" is a pithy, catchy slogan, but I personally will be applying it with care.
Summary: Heartfelt and challenging - but I am not fully sold on its message
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