Susan Jeffers first published her amazingly successful book, “feel the fear and do it anyway”, way back in 1987. Now you might be thinking what kind of value can I get from a 29 year old book?
Well let me assure you that this is one of the best books that I have ever read, and I have read a lot of books. The vast majority of books are just pulp; literarily they are just paper with a bunch of half-truths and platitudes printed on every page. With the advent of the internet and the influx of a vast amount of articles and eBooks, on the internet, the situation has only gotten worse.
“Six ways to improve your life”
“Five ways to conquer fear”
“The seven signs of success”
“The four reasons to go for gold”
Etc., etc., etc.
You take a look at these great articles, usually found on huge impersonal websites and surrounded by 101 advertisements enticing you to buy everything from tongue cleaners to tea cosies. Then you read the article and yawn at the usually platitudinous material.
“Go for gold”
“Love the new ‘you’!!!”
Then five seconds later you forgot that you ever read this material and certainly you do not apply it in your life.
Well Susan Jeffers admittedly old book is a rather pleasant surprise, to say the least.
I first came across it back in 1994, at the advice of my counsellor, who was trying to help me by working on various life issues, healing old pains and moving on towards a better life.
In a nutshell it worked.
I went for counselling, for a few months, and it made a big impression on me, so much so that I would spend the next five years of my life studying counselling and psychotherapy. Anyway I found Susan Jeffers book to be a little gem. The reasons being that at the time, back in 1994, I had zero self-confidence; I was extremely shy and paralysed by fear.
I’m not saying that these days that I am an Uber confident person, far from it, but definitely that little book helped me to reorient myself and that’s why I am giving it a review, it really is worth a read, if you want to fulfil your life, but are not sure where to start.
So what exactly is this book about?
As the title suggests, it’s all about fear and how to handle fear. I don’t know about you, but fear has certainly held me back, from achieving many things in my life. Early on in life I was too afraid to talk to people, which made for a lonely childhood. As a young man I had a terribly hard time talking to the opposite sex, which made for a lot of lonely nights wishing I could be as charming or as daring as my other male friends where, when it came to dating girls. And I found it a big infringement upon my ability to develop my career.
There are some really brazen people out there, who just go for it, and if you are one of them then great, chances are you won’t need this book, unless of course you have low self-esteem, in which case you will need this book!
So basically this is a great book for fearful people, but even more so it’s a book about values, about challenging your life values, about responsibility and taking charge of your life. So even if you are confident, but you don’t feel so good about yourself, then this book is worth a read.
The Three Levels of Fear
In this book “feel the fear and do it anyway”, Susan Jeffers starts out by defining the three levels of fear which are:
Level 1 – Fears about Real Possible Situational Events: Fear of retirement, dying, accidents, been interviewed, public speaking and intimacy, for example.
Level 2 – Ego Fears: Fear of rejection, disapproval, being vulnerable and failure, for example.
Level 3 – Blind Fear: The underlying fear behind all the other fears, which is the belief that “I can’t handle it!”
So to summarise, we are afraid of many things. We are afraid of things which could happen in our lives, such as losing our jobs or becoming ill. We can become fearful about our inability to face up to a situation, such as speaking in public or asking someone out on a date, or asking a customer for the sale. We can also become fearful at an ego level, whereby we are generally afraid of rejection or disapproval, for example; or maybe we just don’t know how to open up to our life partners and find ourselves been cold and distant, when we really want to interact freely, possibly with our life partner and also another common example would be with our kids. Often in life we find ourselves living the same way as our parents, when really we want to break out, but don’t know how to do so, it’s just too scary to do so!
But behind all of this is the ultimate fear, the fear that I can’t handle it!
Think about it, Susan Jeffers is bang on this one. Behind every fear, is the underlying belief that I can’t handle this situation? Interestingly if you have ever attended someone who was on their death bed, near the final stages of their life, this fear is palpable. But suddenly a change occurs and the panic of the unknown gives away, the person suddenly relaxes and within a few minutes or possible few hours they die peacefully. What happens here is that they stop fighting the unknown, they stop resisting the inevitable, they stop fearing their ability to handle this shift in consciousness, and the moment they stop fighting everything happens peacefully and naturally.
One of the challenges, which we have as human beings, is that we are hardwired to survive. Think of a piece of electronic equipment, like say the electric window in your car or the remote control for your TV. These are not advanced computers, rather they are hardwired electronic items which follow a fixed set of instructions. Well in the case of human beings we have been hardwired, by Mother Nature, to survive and to have a survival instinct, which makes us fearful. It is this survival instinct which lies behind the “I can’t handle it” fear, because in nature unusual situations usually spell out danger. This is fine for a dog or sheep or a cow, but it’s damn irritating for a human being!
The cow learns pretty quickly to stay away from an electrically charged boundary wire, and that is fine for the farmer wants to the cow to stay in its field, but for human beings feeling hemmed in, is a huge waste of potential. So what we have to see here is that in order to evolve, as a person, we have to go beyond the boundaries, yet our nervous systems are wired to be restrictive. So remember this next time you feel fearful, behind all fears is the underlying fear that” I can’t handle it”.
So what to do about this situation?
Well according to Susan Jeffers we have to realise that:
“IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD HANDLE ANYTHING
THAT CAME YOUR WAY,
WHAT WOULD YOU POSSIBLY HAVE TO FEAR?
The answer is: NOTHING!”
I know that this is a hard one to swallow, but we have to have a go at it. If we know we can handle everything, we suddenly become very powerful.
How do you think Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. stood up to such amazing opposition?
They did so because they believed that they could handle anything!
Another great example is Maximillian Kolbe, the catholic priest who, in a world war two concentration camp, volunteered for the gas chamber, in order to save another inmate (for more about his story see this Wikipedia article). Do you think he could do this, if he felt he couldn’t handle the situation?
Of course not!
Chairman Mao stated famously that “Power comes from the barrel of a gun!”, Well he might have been right about external power, but internal power, the stuff which forms nations and great people, through every epoch of history requires internal power and this power comes from the conviction that “I can handle it!”
Five Truths about Fear
Susan Jeffers goes on to mention the five truths about fear, which are:
“1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow.
2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it
3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out . . . and do it.
4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, so is everyone else.
5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.”
To summarise, we will always have to deal with fear, which makes sense since it is hardwired into our survival instinct. Also, the only way to get beyond this is to face up to the fear. But this should not be a crazy thing. For example, if you are afraid of heights, going for a bungee jump won’t cure it, it will only terrify you all the more. However, as the behavioural therapists have noted, that when a patient is exposed to small dosages, of what they fear, they overcome the fear step by step. A person who is afraid of heights, might begin their behavioural modification therapy, by visualising been in a tall building, then they may go to a high floor in such a building. Later on they might take the external lift, whereby they are outside the building, while they ascend to a high floor, and then finally after a few months they might even go for a bungee jump. So the thing is to expand little by little and that this is far better than having to live with the fear of helplessness. The worst fear, the most painful one is feeling as if you are a victim, feeling disempowered and powerless!
Other Concepts in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
Feel the fear and do it anyway, is a 240 page book, and it’s no frills high content book at that. So there is no way that I can detail the entire book in a short review; however we can touch briefly upon some other concepts, which are raised in this book.
A big theme of this book is self-empowerment. This begins with the concept that I can handle things after all. She goes on to explain how we have a comfort zone (an area of comfort) and that we need to expand it little by little. So for example, say your good at sports, well your sporting comfort zone might be pretty big; you can play any sport and fit in both with the team, which you are on, and everyone associated with that sport, and it’s easy for you. By the same token maybe you’re shy, when it comes to discussing anything which relates to how you feel or think about yourself or things in general. When you go to speak about your thoughts and feelings, a lump comes up in your throat and you feel as if an invisible barrier is preventing you from getting the words out. Well here we see a small comfort zone. So the cure is to expand this comfort zone, little by little over time.
To some degree we expand our comfort zones, as we grow and mature in life. Most people are far more mature at 35 than when they were 15, but still for most people there is a necessity to focus on maturing. Indeed even if you are a confident person, it is unlikely that every facet of your character is fully developed, simply via life experience.
This leads onto another vital point, which is self responsibility. Only when we take responsibility, for our life, can we feel truly empowered. For example, a person might be very confident in many areas of their life, but they feel manipulated by their life partner/wife/husband and this makes them feel like a victim, when it comes to their relationship and many of the life decisions which they make, even though externally they are confident, internally they feel dis-empowered. Well in this example, the person has to begin by taking their power back. They can do this by realizing that they chose to live with this person and share their life with them and that this is their responsibility. Also the status of the relationship is partly a consequence of their input. Maybe they don’t push their viewpoint forward, when it comes to making relational decisions. By taking responsibility, they start to let their partner know what they’re thinking and feeling, and they start to interact with them. Often this will re-balance the relationship over time, although in some cases, if their wife or husband is unwilling to accept a change in circumstances, they might have to take the responsibility of leaving this relationship, rather than living under relational tyranny. If you feel yourself to be dominated, by your life partner, you can change this but it takes self-responsibility and a willingness to act, often times in a decisive manner, in order to shift things.
Naturally when you’re making many life changes, it causes a lot of friction in the family, as your loved ones expect you to be a certain way and now suddenly you are acting differently, which often results in a backlash. Susan Jeffers devotes an entire chapter to coping with this backlash, in the chapter six “when they don’t want you to grow”. So if you are struggling to gain acceptance of a new ‘you’, by family and friends, take a look at this chapter, as it will be a great help in renegotiating these relationships.
Feel the Fear and Do It Any Way Final Thoughts
Hopefully this review gives you a little taste for this book “feels the fear and do it anyway”. It’s an awesome book and there’s a lot of material in it which I have not touched in this review. The basic message of the book, is that fear is normal but that it has to be challenged, in order for us to grow and to fulfil our wishes and dreams. Also self-responsibility and taking action are really important.
This message alone is really useful, but what you will find, if you take the time out to read and work through this book, is that she gives lots of exercises to help with this process.
So this book helps in three levels:
1). It provides a very good psychological overview, which will change how you think about fear and how we hold ourselves back in life.
2). It provides a lot if inspirational stories, about people who have turned their life are around, by tackling these life issues.
3). It provides lots of exercises which will help you to reorientate yourself.
Now let’s get this clear, this book will not fix your life, nor is it supposed to. If you want to improve your life, it is a journey, a journey which takes years and which never ends. But this journey consists not just of actions but also it consists of books, videos, conversations, courses, training programs, time spent on self-reflection, time sent intimately with others and so on. “Feel the fear and do it anyway” is a wonderful way to help you along, with this process.
Another consideration with a book like “feel the fear and do it anyway”, is that these books help people at different points of their journey. Often a friend has recommended a book to me, which I felt to be boring, only to find myself reading it with great gusto a few years later!
So if you are interested in this book you can buy it here. At least take a look at it and think about it. Hopefully this review will have given you an insight about it. Certainly for me it was a pivotal book, which helped me greatly during a time in my life when I was struggling to get on my feet!
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For more information on Susan Jeffers click here: