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How to Overcome Fear by Living Life as a Remarkable Experiment

2013 February 15

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the easier it will be to overcome fear. So what if you end up a little off course, or stumble? So what if you actually fall? You will get up, dust yourself off, and you will never again be so afraid of taking a tumble.

Life ExperimentsThere’s nothing that will stop us in our tracks faster than fear. Fear of failure, fear of change, ridicule, rejection; whatever the form, fear is undeniably the most common limiting emotion.

But what if we were able to reframe our fears; to shift away from “all or nothing” / “fail or succeed” thinking and learn to love life as a series of remarkable experiments?

The beauty of thinking of life as a series of big and small experiments is that when we experiment we are far more willing to take calculated risks and to acknowledge failure. After all, that’s what experiments are all about: discovery and growth.

I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work. ~Thomas Edison

The amazing thing is, no matter what happens during an experiment, as long as you learn something, you can consider the experiment a success – simply because it got results. Even if something doesn’t work, it’s okay because you have still gained valuable information to help you create a new experiment that is more likely to bring you closer to your goal, or possibly even achieve a different, far more exciting outcome.

The key to overcome fear and live an experiment-driven life is to never take things for granted – to keep asking the “how can this be done better” questions.

Since our focus is to overcome fear, let’s take a look at how we might experiment with a topic many people avoid like the plague – public speaking.

Here’s an example of a 3 simple step process you might follow:

  1. The question: What experiment can you perform to challenge your fear of public speaking?
  2. Determine what specific action you can take to conduct a short-term experiment: One option might be to enroll in a public speaking course, and another would be to join Toastmasters. Since the idea of an experiment is to have a conclusion at which point you can analyze the data, enrolling in the public speaking course is a better fit because you will have predetermined end date to work with.
  3. Review what you learned from your experiment: For example, what challenged you most about the course? What could you have done better? What was your greatest strength? Your greatest weakness? Did you learn any new strategies to help you overcome your discomfort that you can continue to practice and master over time? (Keeping a journal during your experiments will make this part of the process so much easier to revisit your experiences and feelings throughout the process.)

Some experiments will help lay the foundation for creating ongoing habits, while others won’t amount to much more than a learning experience, but only you can judge the results. In other words, take what works, and let go of what doesn’t.

Tips to help you make the most of your experiments.

It’s okay to say “I don’t know.”

Some mistakenly perceive admitting they don’t know something as weakness. But when you’re challenging yourself to regularly try new things you’re meeting life’s inherent risks in a positive way and growing in the process.

Learn to filter advice.

We can learn a lot from those who have been where we want to go, but it’s important to learn to filter the information for your own purpose and circumstances. For example one expert may tell you a particular approach is terrible, and not worth the effort. Another may say it is awesome, and for him/her resulted in great success.

The bottom line is this, if you want to know if something is going to work for you, you either need to take the time to do in depth research to be certain you’re comparing apples to apples, or jump in there and experiment for yourself.

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. Albert Einstein

Become a learning machine.

We are built to explore the world and learn from it. Tapping into our innate curiosity does two things. First, it disconnects the fear that keeps us from being engaged and enjoying life. Second, it invokes the power of questions, and questions lead to insight which is central to all forms of personal development.

Life being the great adventure that it is, there will always be experiences to challenge us, but it can be enormously empowering to know that you can overcome your fears by viewing your life as a series of remarkable experiments.

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45 Responses
  1. March 13, 2013

    We all have fears and we should set out to conquer them. Embracing life and constantly trying to do thing better will surely lead us in that direction. I agree with you we should always think about how we can overcome our fears and act acordingly, regardless of the method. Great inspiring article.

  2. March 1, 2013

    Remember, just because you’re afraid, that doesn’t mean you’re a coward. Doing something you fear because it’s important or necessary, on the other hand, is bravery. And you surely are brave if you have decided to face your fears.
    thank you for this great article.

  3. February 22, 2013

    Fear is only limiting emotion. I do not have fear of failing, I know if I fail, I will continuing trying until i get it right, because life is an experiment.. And as they say, their is no one best way to do things . Thomas Edison quote is a good example..

    Thanks for sharing.
    Lucy Bieri recently posted..Positive Self Esteem Play a Role If You Want To Engage In Network Marketing BusinessMy Profile

  4. Abhishek permalink
    February 21, 2013

    Fear many a times can stop us achieving what we truly deserve..Life is all about learning…If we succeed its an achievement, if we fail, its an experience..You have put it very well. Thanks for the share, Marty.

  5. February 20, 2013

    it`s awesome .I like Edison quote really it`s nice.i am agree with your opinion that seeing everything in life as an experiment.really it`s good advice.
    thanks for sharing this great article

  6. February 19, 2013

    I was listening to Ted Turner being interviewed and teased one time about losing the World Cup. He immediately quipped that he had not lost, he had completed research on how to win!!!! Great post! Thanks!
    Gene Call recently posted..Lamplighter Life ChoicesMy Profile

  7. February 19, 2013

    I really like that Edison quote, Marty. I have thought about living that way for a long time. What you are writing about in your post makes so much sense, that if we learn to view our lives as a series of experiments to discover what we really like, then there is no failure.

    I suspect our idea of failure and our feelings about it come from outside ourselves, like a lot of ideas do. And that in many instances, this idea is compounded by our school system (not all the time, for sure). But there is really no reason why we can’t be in charge of the way we think and let go of the idea of failure and replace it with success.

    Like in “I have successfully found a bunch of materials which are not suited for light bulb elements, in Edison’s case” and when we find that one way that is successful and feels successful an makes our hearts ring, that makes the journey so sweet. :-)
    Michael Shook recently posted..Positive Thinking Made SimpleMy Profile

  8. February 18, 2013

    I really like the concept of seeing everything as an experiement. I know at times I can place too much importance on certain things I want to do and build them up in my mind.

    I am going to try thinking of them as an experiment and see how it goes. Thanks.

    -Ben
    Ben recently posted..Never. Give. Up.My Profile

  9. February 17, 2013

    Wow….You have hit a Home Run here,…..inspiring…..I teach people to drive semi-trucks for a living…..I have often told my students to try different things while they are in school,….Part of learning what works for you is also finding out what doesn’t….good post!
    Gregory Bowen recently posted..What Is Quality?My Profile

  10. February 17, 2013

    Who is this Albert Einstein guy? :) Like you mentioned Marquita as long as you’re learning with each experiment it should be considered successful. Just keep learning, never stop learning. If we don’t know the answer, find the answer. It’s out there, and in most cases not that difficult to obtain.

    I love your 3 points, and will incorporate them into the process.
    Steve Hughes recently posted..How to Make Your LinkedIn Profile Stand OutMy Profile

  11. February 17, 2013

    Great post! Thanks…I get so frustrated when people act every little decision has to be “correct”…even a $25 purchase…later! Take a chance and see what you learn. Don’t be so attached to the outcome…everyone says it is a process and you don’t wind up taking anything with you…so enjoy the ride. Be fearless in living! No regrets! Thanks, again…as you can see, you struck a cord with a lot of people! Keep it up!
    Teresa Farrell recently posted..Viral Traffic Tips to your BlogMy Profile

  12. February 17, 2013

    I’m trying my best to allow myself to fail. I keep reminding myself that life is way to short to not DO anything because something MIGHT happen that you didn’t expect. I want something to happen!

    As always I love reading your posts. They have been extremely helpful from time to time. Thank you for posting them.
    Melanie Young recently posted..Facing Down FearMy Profile

  13. February 17, 2013

    Love this!! My entire blog came out of my personal experiment to inject more Bliss into my own life… reading this made me realize I’ve lost some of the fun of the inquiry and it is time that I tried some different experiments!! Thank you!

  14. February 17, 2013

    I was reading this and I was reminded of a song from DC Talk called What if I Stumble. We cannot grow if we do not stumble. We will just end up wallowing in fear.
    Nile recently posted..Graphic: Open Your Mind To Success!My Profile

  15. February 17, 2013

    Such a great topic Marquita. I like the part about “being a learning machine” because that is what drives me. I love to learn and everything you mentioned here is one that I strive to do each day. Learning is great and the results aren’t everything! At least get exposed certainly will make you more informed. Awesome! Thank you for this!
    Michael Levy recently posted..Making Every Moment CountMy Profile

    • February 17, 2013

      Welcome back Michael – so glad you enjoyed the post. I’m with you, I’d definitely call myself a learning machine … or maybe more like a sponge :-) I just know that I love sharing what I learn – even the mistakes I make along the way.

  16. February 17, 2013

    Very inspiring post! Life is indeed an experiment we all have to take to keep moving. We will never be sure of the outcome, but we will always have the hypothesis which are our goals.

  17. February 16, 2013

    There’s nothing like coming at something from an entirely different angle, to take the sting from the fear. I remember a friend once telling me I should not fear new situations, but rather see them as adventures. That sounds a lot like what you’re saying here.

    Willena
    Willena Flewelling recently posted..How I Organized My 7-Ring CircusMy Profile

    • February 17, 2013

      Welcome Willena, sounds like you have a wise friend there – and this is very similar to her advice. In fact, here’s my favorite quote of the moment: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid sideways, chocolate in one hand, latte in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!”

  18. February 16, 2013

    Marty,

    I love your excellent advice on overcoming fear. If we all try to live our lives as you described fear no longer has the power to control our actions. You post really is empowering and I know it will help many of us learn how to learn to love life as a series of remarkable experiments! Thanks again for all your amazing insights and powerful tools for helping all of us to have a better life.

    All the best,

    Shelley
    Shelley Alexander recently posted..Superfoods Spicy Hot ChocolateMy Profile

    • February 17, 2013

      Thanks Shelley, I’m glad you enjoyed the article – I would certainly love to think the thoughts and advice shared here helps at least a few people reach just a little farther than is comfortable to achieve their dreams. :-)

  19. February 16, 2013

    Marty,

    As usual you have great advice and practical advice. When you look at life as a series of experiments as you do, then every experiment is a success because every experiment gives you results that you can learn from. That’s a great piece of Wisdom.

    And abandoning the all or nothing mentality is very important to succeed in this world especially because things are moving so fast! You must be a learning machine, as you say.

    Thanks for your new outlooks on life and living!

    ~ Jupiter Jim
    Jupiter Jim recently posted..Create Contact Page with “Fast Secure Contact Form” WordPress pluginMy Profile

    • February 17, 2013

      Welcome back Jim! So glad you liked the article, and as always I appreciate taking the time to share your insightful thoughts.

  20. Kimberly Castleberry
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    February 16, 2013

    Isn’t it utterly amazing how much the world shifts when we shift to looking at everything as an experiment and a chance to poke it and find out what happens? Curiosity is such an amazing and powerful thing! It’s what gives children the ability to learn and adapt so fast that many lose as adults because they quite asking questions about life! Great reminder~
    Kim
    Kimberly Castleberry recently posted..What You Need To Know When Requesting Assistance With A Facebook Fan Page Name ChangeMy Profile

    • February 17, 2013

      Welcome back Kim and thanks so much for taking the time to share. I couldn’t agree more, which is why I’m such a huge fan of the concept of “possibility thinking.” The attitude we choose to carry around with us each day can empower us to live a much richer, more fulfilling life.

  21. February 16, 2013

    Hi Marquita, I think “fear” is probably what holds us back from doing 99% of what we really want to do. I can remember back in the 1980s I really wanted to teach, and I started teaching a group of people, but I would go round to each of them individually showing them what to do. But, I had to tell the whole class something at one stage, and I was sooo nervous about doing that.

    Then, in the early 90s, I started teaching in front of a class, and I was so fearful that first time, I almost lost my voice and my hands were shaking so much, I could hardly hold my notes. Then, I went onto lecture in front of a class of 300, and spoke to a big group of people in a foreign country, where I learned that Aussies say their “As” different to the rest of the world, and some people were laughing at me. I got over all those fears and it became fun!

    I believe the best way to get over a fear is to just do whatever you’re fearful of, and keep doing it, until you’re no longer fearful. Do whatever it takes to just do it those first few times.
    Julieanne vanZyl recently posted..Your Internet MLM Business and Going AwayMy Profile

    • February 17, 2013

      I love your approach Julieanne, and I had a very similar experience my first few times speaking in public. In fact, the first time was to a group of 300 business women – but I survived, and ironically went on to a career in sales that had me traveling all over the world training and speaking to groups of all sizes. You just never know what life has in store, huh?

  22. February 16, 2013

    Thanks Marty, a lot of good information here. I want to say that my biggest fear would be public speaking. Well like you say though, you just have to dive in and getter done. I like the idea of experimenting to overcome our fears. We can rally learn a lot from one, and know then what adjustments to make to get things done. I did subscribe to your list and plan to visit often. There is a lot of motivational material here. Think back to the first time learning to walk at the experimentation that was involved then. Probably alot of falls, but by trying differt ways, we finally figure out how to walk! Thanks again
    Jimmie Barber recently posted..Jimmie’s Bolog!My Profile

    • February 17, 2013

      Welcome Jimmie! Thanks for taking the time to contribute to the conversation, and welcome to the community!

  23. February 16, 2013

    Marty,

    I love your gray thinking, nothing is black or white. And, to deal with fear because life is just a series of experiments is simply brilliant. No scientist would be frightened of the outcome of an experiment, excited maybe, but certainly not fearful. So living our lives as a scientist removes all fear. Try it and if it doesn’t work try something else. As long as one doesn’t try something like skydiving without the parachute.

    Thank you, Marty. Always an inspiration.

    RICK
    Rick Lelchuk recently posted..The Selfless Act of Enduring Love – ForgivenessMy Profile

    • February 17, 2013

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rick, and thanks for always leaving me with a chuckle :-)

  24. Steve Borgman
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    February 16, 2013

    This really is a remarkable way to look at life. In cognitive psychology this is actually recommended for testing “beliefs” that hold us back from being and doing all we want to be/have. Once we’ve identified the belief, we can then design “experiments” counter to the belief, and write down our experience/learning. Your suggestion about learning from our experiments is top-notch.

    • February 17, 2013

      Hey Steve, wow thanks for the compliment – coming from you, it really means a lot :-)

  25. February 16, 2013

    Yes Marquita, life is definitely an experiment, nice to think of it as a remarkable one. Lots of fear erasing tips in this post, really well written from the heart and helpful. Thanks.
    Jacs :)
    Jacs Henderson recently posted..Free Weekly Online Inspiration. iLivingAppMy Profile

  26. February 15, 2013

    Great post! I think I’ve had a fear of success more than a fear of failing. I can still remember how sick I felt before giving my first public talk over 20 years ago.. It’s not the sort of thing you can easily practice and nowadays I just jump in and enjoy the *experiment*.

    I’m putting off editing my novels. *Too much hard work for a final version that people will find laughable..* now needs to be changed to *I’m experimenting with editing and will await to see the results, I may have to run the experiment a few times..*

    thanks xx
    lynneinpborough recently posted..Valentines mushMy Profile

  27. February 15, 2013

    Marquita,
    What a delightful post. I like the idea of seeing everything in my life as an experiment, which it actually is. I try something out – it either works or it doesn’t work. The problem has always been my intepretation afterwards if it does not meet my expectations. But if it is an experiment, there are only hypotheses and no attachment to whether the hypothesis proves a real difference or is null and void.

    Warmly,

    Dr. Erica
    Erica Goodstone recently posted..Love in the Blizzard of Life – Day 30 – FLOWMy Profile

  28. February 15, 2013

    I love that yes all we do is experiment and when we can see things in this light we can move forward. Thanks for your brilliant perspective
    Suzie Cheel recently posted..Love Challenge Day 2My Profile

    • February 17, 2013

      Welcome back Suzie – so glad you enjoyed the article, and appreciate sharing your thoughts :-)

  29. February 15, 2013

    Such a delicious and empowering re-frame!

    I loved this idea and can see where it would be soooo much ‘lighter’ and more fun to view something like building a new coaching product in this way, rather than a OMG-doomed-if-I-fail enterprise.

    I have a feeling it will be way more successful too.

    Thanks for the idea, Marquita.

    I’ve had fun wandering round your blog.
    Jacqueline Gates recently posted..Resistance Is Fertile.My Profile

    • February 17, 2013

      Welcome Jacqueline, and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I’m glad you enjoyed the article – so much of life is about our attitude isn’t it? :-)

  30. February 15, 2013

    Hi Marquita. I enjoyed this post so much. I spent a lot of my life paralyzed by fear and have only enjoyed a little more peace of mind for the last 15 years or so. I still get panicked occasionally, but I just keep living the grand experiment. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

    All the best,
    Leslie
    Leslie Denning recently posted..The Skinny on Skinne – Garcinia Cambogia and MoreMy Profile

    • February 17, 2013

      Welcome back Leslie, so glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  31. February 15, 2013

    “I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” – One of my favorite quotes… thx for reminding me!
    Kimba recently posted..What Fifteen Thousand College Students Are Still Teaching Me About Love (Happy Valentine’s Day)My Profile

  32. February 15, 2013

    Marquita,
    thanks for all you do all of us who need to learn so many things. I do not have the fear a failing, but at the same time I get into many challenges that I cannot even think about it.. anyway… love to thank you for the great tips… they are pretty handy.
    nickc
    Nick Catricala recently posted..Everything Happens For a ReasonMy Profile

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