How to be brave: 16 steps to let go of fear

The world is a big place filled with threats, both real and perceived, lurking in every corner.

These shouldn’t stop us from seizing the day and living our lives to the fullest.

Bravery is one of the most critical aspects of human existence. With it, you can accomplish almost everything.

But not every one of us is born with superhero-level courage. Sometimes we have to start low and build our way up.

Are you ready to become a brand new version of yourself? Here are 16 practical steps that will show you how to be brave. 

Before I get started, I want to let you know about a new personal responsibility workshop I’ve helped to create. I know that life isn’t always kind or fair. But courage, perseverance, honesty — and above all else taking responsibility — are the only ways to overcome the challenges that life throws at us. Check out the workshop here. If you want to seize control of your life, then this is the online resource you need.

1) Take stock of where you are right now

One of the most important things you can do to combat fear and be braver in your life is to pay attention to what is going on for you right now.

Rather than try to escape to a better place, or replace a bad feeling with a good feeling, just let yourself be for a while and see how it feels to experience your entire human experience – good and bad.

Acknowledging where you are gives you a good reminder that you’ve probably come through much worse and are better for it.

Here is a great quote from Osho, which says that the more you’ve experienced in life, the more emotionally mature you’ve become:

“Experience life in all possible ways –good-bad, bitter-sweet, dark-light, summer-winter. Experience all the dualities. Don’t be afraid of experience, because the more experience you have, the more
mature you become.”

“A mature person should disconnect himself from anything that is connected with fear. That’s how maturity comes. Just watch all your acts, all your beliefs, and find out whether they are based in reality, in experience, or based in fear. And anything based in fear has to be dropped immediately, without a second thought. It is your armour. I cannot melt it. I can simply show you how you can drop it.”

2) Acknowledge your fears

Let’s get this straight: bravery isn’t the absence of fear but the ability to move on despite it.

Too many people believe the opposite and think that the best way to move on from your fear is to shut it out, ignore that it exists, and pretend that it’s not happening.

It’s an unhealthy way to deal with your fears, and it doesn’t help you in the long run.

Hiding from your feelings makes the object of fear seem more massive and elusive. The first step, then, is to acknowledge your fears and accept that they exist.

Nobody said you can’t be afraid. Be afraid. Admit that you are afraid. Some of the bravest things you’ll do in your lifetime require fear in order for you to rise above.

When your back is against the wall, incredible things can happen. Don’t let the fear stop you. And don’t try to stop the fear.

“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”
― George R.R. Martin

3) Specify your fear

Once you have accepted that your fear exists, it’s time to understand it better.

Most people suffer through years of anxiety without ever understanding what is making them afraid.

Let’s say you are generally anxious when it comes to public speaking, so you never give it a shot. In reality, it’s not the speaking aspect you are afraid of but the preparation part, which is something you can address.

Knowing what you’re afraid of helps you deal with these emotions. You get to understand what is causing it and when you do, it’s much easier to see that your fears can be mitigated. 

Decide what you will call your fear. Perhaps it anxiety, perhaps its worry.

Whatever it is, know that it has no power of you until you give it power. Give it a name instead and carry on with your newly named friend.

4) Don’t try to talk yourself out of the fear

When you try to escape the fear, you experience anxiety. That rush of just wanting to get out of the situation you are in and get to the better situation (you hope) that is just around the corner.

Rather than try to run from what you are feeling, let yourself feel it. Don’t try to get out of your own way and remember that fear is a part of life.

5) Study your fear

At one point in our lives, we are going to be afraid of doing something because we worry about the consequences. Maybe it’s going to graduate school; maybe it’s moving to a new place.

These significant life changes are often scary because we never know what’s waiting on the other side.

You can’t look into the future, but you can always prepare for it. Most of our fears are rooted in instability and uncertainty. Studying what you’re afraid of trains your brain to anticipate the event positively. This makes the fear more familiar and less intimidating.

When doing some thinking about your fear, ask yourself what you are afraid of? Be real and honest with yourself.

Nobody else needs to know. Don’t try to trick yourself into not being afraid.

Dig down deep to figure out what you are worried about: it’s likely something that has nothing to do with you and everything to do with how people will perceive you for doing the thing you want to do.

“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.”
― C. JoyBell C.

6) Take responsibility

The best way to be brave is to take ultimate responsibility for everything in your life.

I know that bad things happen in life and they’re not always your fault.

But it takes a lot of bravery to accept that you are ultimately responsible for everything that happens in your life. While you can’t always prevent bad things from happening, you are in complete control as to how you respond to them.

Because the reality is that YOU are ultimately responsible for everything, including for your happiness and unhappiness, successes and failures, and for how you respond to your challenges.

People that aren’t brave blame other people for their challenges and play the victim card. I know because this used to be me.

I want to briefly share with you how taking responsibility has transformed my own life.

Did you know that 6 years ago I was anxious, miserable and working every day in a warehouse?

I was stuck in a hopeless cycle and had no idea how to get out of it.

My solution was to stamp out my victim mentality and take personal responsibility for everything in my life. I wrote about my journey here.

Fast forward to today and my website Hack Spirit is helping millions of people make radical shifts in their own lives. We’ve become one of the world’s biggest websites on mindfulness and practical psychology.

This isn’t about bragging, but to show how powerful taking responsibility can be…

… Because you too can transform your own life by taking complete ownership of it.

To help you do this, I’ve collaborated with my brother Justin Brown to create an online personal responsibility workshop. We give you a unique framework for finding your best self and achieving powerful things.

It’s quickly become Ideapod’s most popular workshop. Check it out here.

If you want to seize control of your life, like I did 6 years ago, then this is the online resource you need.

Here’s a link to our best-selling workshop again.

7) Find ways to control it

As you become more and more comfortable with your object of fear, it becomes more manageable.

No longer is it the abstract and intangible thing that you once dreaded–it’s now something that you can specify, understand, and eventually, control.

Again, bravery is all about functioning despite your fear.

The key to learning how to be brave is by slowly realizing that there are elements of it that you can control.

For example, if you are afraid of driving, control your fear of accidents by educating yourself with safe driving techniques. You can also install several safety devices on your vehicle to make yourself feel more secure.

It’s never been about making the fear disappear; you take the fear for what it is and turn it into something that you can manage.

“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”
― Jim Morrison

8) Be willing to fail

A major motivator to avoid fear and the things that cause us fear is that we are afraid to fail in front of other people.

If you can shake the feeling of being afraid to fail, you can move mountains. Be willing to try and try again and do different things if necessary.

Don’t run. Don’t hide. Be willing to fall on your face and get back up again. That’s how real change happens for you.

9) Find role models

There are billions of people on the planet, and at least one of them experiences the same fears as you.

And it’s not just normal, everyday people that have to deal with anxieties.

Even artists, industry leaders, politicians, and other famous people have similar fears as everyone else.

History is filled with people who have succeeded in the face of adversity, which you can use as a sort of inspiration.

Turning to a role model can boost your morale. You don’t have to seek wisdom from popular people alone.

Reach out to friends and family to see who has been through some tough times and listen to how they were able to get through them.

When you expose yourself to these stories, you get the opportunity to model your behavior after someone who has succeeded despite their fears and find new and creative ways to deal with yours.

10) Embrace and challenge negativity

Bravery is more than just courage. It requires flexibility, persistence, and resilience.

You can’t combat your fears by becoming tough alone. Develop mental resilience by consistently challenging negative thoughts.

As you expose yourself to your fears and anxieties, it’s only normal for your brain to begin second-guessing itself.

Even as you develop healthy mental habits, you will inevitably fall into doubt once in a while, and it’s your job to make sure you don’t fall over.

Challenge your thoughts by examining them.

For example, if you’re worried about a business pitch you are doing, go over every part of the pitch to make sure you have practiced it to the best of your ability.

Then evaluate the situation rationally: there is no way for you to mess up a well-prepared pitch. Slowly chip at the anxieties by giving objective answers to your subjective fears.

Here’s a great quote from Eckhart Tolle:

“See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”

11) Practice self-affirmations

Perfectionism is one of the many pitfalls of human ambition.

Too much of it can take a toll on your mental health and inhibit you from moving forward.

Practice perfectionism within reasonable grounds to avoid feelings of insecurity. Do self-affirmation rituals like journaling and meditation to keep your momentum going.

“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.”
― Christina Baldwin

12) Set milestones

After developing a technique to handle your fear, you will eventually have to treat it face-to-face. All the practicing you did, all the stories you gained inspiration from boil down to this.

It is never easy to go and do the scariest thing in your life, and no one’s expecting you to go from 0 to a hundred in just a few days so why not start low and slow with milestones?

Pave your way, slowly but surely, to your “end goal.” This can be the thing you are most afraid of. These milestones will not only remind you of your steady progress, but will also act as another training platform for you.

13) Do the things that you can do right now

Rather than dwell on what you can’t change, do one or two things that you can do right now to move toward change.

You can’t lose 60 pounds in a day, but you can cut 60 calories from your breakfast meal. You can’t earn a million dollars today, but you can earn 10 more dollars in tips.

Before you can make a million dollars, you need to make 10 dollars.

14) Exceed your expectations

Once you start moving forward with your goals, it’s time to start exceeding your expectations.

You know what they say: sometimes the bravest thing you can do is to jump forward with your eyes closed.

Stop anticipating everything and just do things.  Jump at new opportunities and seek out experiences you otherwise would have been too scared to try out.

Start expanding your comfort zone through novelty.

15) Keep at it

Lastly, you have to remember what this is all about.

Bravery isn’t an overnight project, and it can be so easy to stumble back and start over.

No matter what step you might be on, it’s crucial that you keep at it and continue to move forward. Trudge on with confidence, and you’ll become braver, one day at a time.

16) Whatever you do, don’t give up

Remember that every step you take toward bravery, even if it’s a step back for every step forward, moves you in the right direction.

You might never reach your goals, but the lived experience is not in reaching the goals; it’s in living the life you have.

And the only way to live your life to the fullest is to be brave and explore what is possible for yourself.

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.

That is the sort of bravery I must have now.”
― Veronica Roth, Allegiant


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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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