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Entrepreneur Mindset

Regarding Being Brave: How I Fight Fear… and Win

I could get lost… never to be heard from again.

I could end up with some sort of exotic disease no one has ever heard of.

I could get attacked.

I tried to stop my thoughts through sheer force of will but I just couldn’t — no matter how hard I tried.

I was in grad school at the time and I’d just found out I needed to film a documentary about the Brazilian Amazon, on location. I’d be traveling alone and I was scared.

To be totally honest, I was terrified.

Things got worse when I learned no one wanted to insure the expensive photography and video gear I had to take with me.

They said the Amazon was just too dangerous.

But I forced myself to keep moving forward with my plans even though I was secretly shaking in my newly-purchased trekking boots, the whole time.

Those few weeks leading up to my trip were a blur. It took everything I had not to let fear overwhelm me. I fought it at every turn… all the way up to the day I was supposed to leave.

And then, something shocking and totally amazing happened.

When I finally got on the plane, my anxious, fearful thoughts began to evaporate and I started to feel excited.

When I thought about it later, I realized that getting on that plane triggered my sense of adventure. It got me excited

And somehow, my fear disappeared.

I’m happy to report that the trip was a huge success and I got the footage I needed.

I didn’t have to deal with exotic diseases or any kind of attack.

And I didn’t lose my way. Not once.

That was more than 10 years ago and I’ve tackled a BUNCH of scary things since then.

Things that felt impossible at first (like the time I hosted Message to Money Live. You can read about my freak out moment here).

Over the years I’ve learned a lot about courage.

I’ve learned that being brave isn’t a goal. It’s a process.

I’ve learned that “brave” isn’t something that just happens. It’s a skill.

You need to practice being brave.

The truth is I’m braver now than I’ve ever been before but I didn’t get here overnight.

“Brave Marisa” emerged only after I consistently stepped up and faced my fears.

And let me just say she’s a work in progress.

I still catch myself shrinking from experiences that push me past my comfort zone but now, I don’t try to fight my fear in silence like I did before Brazil.

Instead, I consciously call in excitement — the technique I stumbled upon on that plane (I’ve since learned this method is based on scientific evidence!)

Here’s what I do…

When I feel fear come up, I think about times when I’ve been brave — like going on that trip to Brazil — and then I flip a switch in my mind.

I create a reframe… a new way of thinking… by deliberately thinking of my fear as the energy of excitement.

Stanford University health psychologist, Dr. Kelly McGonigal says….

Fear and excitement are almost identical in how they are expressed in our body. It’s our minds that make them different.

What this means is that on a physical level, fear is almost exactly the same as excitement — our body can’t tell the difference!

When you think about it, this is mind-blowing news.

Let’s look at how that could work in the real world…

Imagine you’re about to take a difficult test:

You have butterflies in your stomach.

Your heart is racing.

Maybe your palms feel sweaty.  

You tell yourself you’re scared and so you feel afraid.

Now imagine you’re learning to swim and you’re standing at the edge of the pool:

You have butterflies in your stomach.

Your heart is racing.

Maybe your palms feel sweaty.

You tell yourself you’re excited and so you feel the energy of excitement come over you.

That things you say to yourself when you’re scared — the words your your inner voice whispers to you — make all the difference in the world.

Next time you feel fear raise its ugly head, I want you to say, “I’m excited about this. I can’t wait!” Keep pumping yourself up until you feel your fear begin to release it’s hold and your excitement start to rise.

Here’s the thing…

You already know how to be brave because you’ve been brave before.

Think of the times you’ve had to stand up in front of an audience, share a vulnerable story about your life on social media or launch a product.

You were nervous but you stood up and walked onstage, anyway.

You opened your heart, shared your story and hit send, anyway.

You created your product and put it out into the world, anyway.

You pushed past your fear. You did what needed to be done.

Hold on to the courage you’ve shown in the past and then use the “fear equals excitement” technique to call in your Brave Self whenever you need to. It’s a powerful one-two punch to fight fear… and win.

I’d love to get a high energy “Being Brave” list going in the comments!

Share a moment, event or situation in your life when you were more courageous than you ever imagined you could be.

I want you to celebrate your fearless self and I want for all of us to share in the power and magic of your brave 🙂

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Pete Reilly

    I sometimes treat my fear as if it were a friend. I ask it, “What can I do to take care of you and still move ahead with what I want to do?” The answer is different depending on the circumstances. It might respond, “I’m afraid to do this alone. Why not have a friend come along?” or “I’d feel better if we were better prepared. Let’s put another hour of prep in.” or as you described, Marissa, “Please remind me that I’ve done things like this before.”

    For me it’s important to respect fear, but not give in to it – and especially not to beat myself up when I do feel fearful.

    Enjoyed your post, greatly,
    Pete

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Wow, Pete that is awesome advice! Because when you ask your fear “what it needs” you’re really getting to the root of why you are feeling fearful. And often, when you really dissect it, the root of the fear is irrational or there is something very practical that can be done about it. Thanks for sharing!! <3

      Reply ·
  2. Bev Fleming

    I didn’t know there was science behind it Marisa. I used this 30 years ago to get over my fear of public speaking. Every time I had to speak, or was offered the opportunity to speak, I would say to myself and out loud: I LOVE public speaking! After a while I did… and today it’s my favorite thing.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      That’s awesome Bev! It’s like how smiling can make you happier even if you’re not feeling it. Gives a whole new meaning to “Fake it till you make it” 🙂

      Reply ·
  3. Linda Vorthman

    Feel the fear. Rename the feeling as excitement. Saddle up & ride.

    Reply ·
    1. Marisa Murgatroyd

      Love it, Linda!

      Reply ·
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About the Author Marisa Murgatroyd

Marisa is the founder of Live Your Message, where she turns entrepreneurs into Online Superheroes, and the creator of Start With You where she helps people just like you to discover the business they're meant to build, not just the business they can build. At 4’11 and a quarter, she’s called the shortest woman in marketing — and that doesn’t stop her from having huge ideas. She’s the “go to” brand builder for industry luminaries and heavyweights such as Justin Livingston, Callan Rush, Danny Iny, Alexis Neely and Susan Peirce Thompson. Marisa helps entrepreneurs create a business that is authentic and aligned with who they are, to empower them to turn up the dial on their “inner superhero”, so they can be the superhero to their tribe, as well as in their own lives.

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