1-Sentence-Summary: Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway is a self-help classic that explains the concept of fear from top to bottom: where it comes from, what it’s for, why you must move past it and how to push through your fears in order to life a fulfilling, remarkable and happy life.
Read in: 4 minutes
Favorite quote from the author:
When reading most books, which are older than a decade, you can feel their age. The advice in them isn’t necessarily bad, irrelevant, or outdated, but just feels a bit dusty. This book could’ve been written yesterday – even though it’s from 1987. On the brink of its 30-year anniversary, the fact that it’s so evergreen is likely the reason it’s sold over 1 million copies and has become a self-help standard.
Similar to yesterday’s book Emotional Intelligence, this one takes a 360° degree view at the idea of fear – from the roots of its existence all the way to how we approach it nowadays.
Here are the 3 most powerful lessons about it I could find:
- Every fear in your life is based on the same, single root fear.
- Be positive, because it’s the most realistic perspective you can have on life.
- There are no wrong decisions.
Feel the fear yet? We’ll explore it anyway!
Lesson 1: Every single fear you have can be traced back to one universal root fear.
There are as many fears as there are people on this planet, right? In theory, yes. But Susan did some digging and she found this really cool way of dissecting any fear that shows you that it all goes back to one single root fear we all share.
Susan says you can analyze each one of your fears on three levels.
- External fears.
- Internal fears.
- The root fear.
On the first level, you look at which external factor is behind your fear. It’s usually one of two. You’re either afraid of something happening to you, like death, or afraid of making something happen, like ending your bad relationship.
However, on the second level, when you try to connect these external fears to your internal state of mind, you’ll see that externals have nothing to do with it, and it’s really all in your head. The more general categories you can now put your fears into are fear of being vulnerable or helpless and the fear of getting rejected or failing.
For example, there’s nothing you can do about death and no one is immortal, so this makes you feel both vulnerable and helpless. Ending your relationship is scary and you might not have the guts to say it, so there’s a decent chance of failure.
At the root of all of these general fears, on the third level, is the fear of not being able to handle life’s challenges.
Simply put: You don’t trust yourself to figure things out when they happen. You think you won’t be able to handle breaking up or, well, dying. Now imagine a world where you believe you can handle everything life throws at you.
Would you still have your fear?
Trusting in your ability to figure it out is the number one killer of fear. Here are two ways to improve that trust.
Lesson 2: Start being positive, because it’s actually the most realistic perspective you could have on life.
Do you spend a lot of time worrying about the future?
Trick question. I know you do.
Take a second to think about how much of the stuff you worry about actually happens. It’s not too much, is it? As a matter of fact, we spend a ton of time sweating the small stuff, but 90% of our worries never turn into the reality we fear. If that’s true, then isn’t the only logical consequence to have positive expectations of the future?
If you expect good things to happen, you’ll be right in your predictions a lot more often, and therefore feel more confident, because being right is reassuring.
Not only that, how you think things will turn out is actually a big determinant of how they will. Susan mentions the example of holding out your arm and repeating the words “I am weak” over and over, then have someone try to push your arm down. Their job will be a lot easier this way, rather than if you affirm yourself with “I am strong”.
The good news is that you’re already on the right track to develop a more positive mindset. Just by being here on Four Minute Books, you’re taking the right steps (Susan’s advice: read more self-help books).
Lesson 3: You cannot make a wrong decision. Ever.
Case in point: How do you approach decisions?
Do you usually think about what good might come from them? Or rather worry about making the wrong choice? Should you take the job offer, or stick with your current one? Try to fix your relationship, or end it?
Most of the time, we use “if-then-clauses” to collect the pros and cons for making decisions. Like “if I end my current relationship, I might never find someone else” or “if I stick with this person, I might make myself really miserable”.
But this leads you to assume that there’s a wrong and a right decision, which there isn’t.
Since it’s impossible to predict the future, Susan says there are no wrong decisions, only opportunities to learn and grow. You cannot lose, just become more self-aware. For example, if you do decide to stick with your relationship and break up 6 months later, you now know a lot more about what type of person you want and don’t want to be with.
Thinking with this win-win perspective will eliminate your fear of making decisions and show you that you in fact are able to handle any situation. For example, even if you do end up being alone for a year or two after you break up, you’ll see that you can survive and learn to be perfectly okay with just being yourself, thus eliminating any remaining fear of ending up alone.
My personal take-aways
Man, this one’s packing a punch. Great stuff! Over 10 blinks in this summary, one of the longest ones on Blinkist, and a great lesson to learn from every single one of them. Susan Jeffers passed away in 2012, but I’m sure her legacy and the message of this book will live on well into this century. Good book!
What else can you learn from the blinks?
- Three lessons about “fearless” people and what they actually do that makes them seem like heroes
- How taking action will diminish your problems
- Why every step outside of your comfort zone is a step towards control and happiness
- How to empower yourself by taking full responsibility for your life
- The way giving and being generous connects to being fearless
- Which actions to take to surround yourself with the right people
- Why you should always commit 100%, even if it’s just a 4-week job
Who would I recommend the Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway summary to?
The 20 year old worrier, who always expects the worst, the 74 year old with a lot of regrets about the past, and anyone who wants to get to the root of a specific fear they have.