The Circles of Fear
Everyone feels fear and anxiety. No matter how courageous you are there is something in your life that you are afraid of. And I’m not talking about spiders or snakes. I’m talking about something much deeper. These are the issues that can paralyze you and limit your growth beyond you imagination. Their negative impact is substantial and often we don’t even know we are suffering in the chains of this fear.
Through the Circles of Fear we can understand how and why we fear what we fear as well as how to eliminate or reduce the fear. And yes, I do mean eliminate. Some fears can actually be eliminated through this process. To fear is to be human, but even then we can rid ourselves of some of our fear. At the very least we can and should reduce the negative impacts of our fear in our lives. We can live unfettered by fear and un-parallelized by its daunting grip.
A podcast describing this diagram can be found here. In this podcast we discussed the the circles of fear in detail with real life examples from our clients. In one case Erik Huso and I even went down an unplanned road into one of Erik’s greatest fears, the fear of not being good enough, and applied the Circles of Fear to this real example to show the process and progress of eliminating or reducing fear. Check out the podcast for a good discussion of these principles.
The Paradigm Circle
The first circle in the Circle of Fears is the Paradigm circle. In this circle we learn that our perspective controls much of what we fear. We assign probability and possibility to things we fear through whatever lens we view the world or situation. For example, lets say that as a child I saw my parents die right in front of me by a rampaging rhino who trampled and gored them to death all right in front me. I know hat at first glance that fear sounds absolutely ridiculous to you… but give it some thought. On a simple cheesy example like the rhino these principles can be easily understood and applied then you can learn from them and apply them in more complicated cases like fear of abandonment, etc.
OK, so on with the Rhino… now as an adult I may have a fear of death by rhino. I might literally be sitting at my desk at work in a closed and secure office building and feel like any second a rhino will come charging through the door to impale me. The Paradigm Circle helps me understand that the way I view the world, the way I view this particular circumstance may not even be the most accurate way. In other words, I might be wrong and a Rhino charging through my wall may not even be possible, let alone probable. But with my paradigm I am assigning a high degree of possibility and probability to it such that my fear is utterly heightened if not all together spawned. Change your paradigm and you can change your fear. What if I was able to realize and see through a different perspective that the nearest Rhino was 35 miles away and locked in a cage in a zoo. I would realize then that the rhino would likely not escape the zoo, and even if it did it there are 35 miles of buildings, trees, and just space between the rhino and me. The probability of the rhino actually making its way all the way here to me before getting caught is next to zero. This changes the fear for me. The paradigm principle is powerful. For example, I am not afraid at all that the moon will fall out of the sky and hit me on the head because through my perspective I assign that a 0% probability and possibility. So in my rhino example, I may have a reasonable basis for the fear since I actually witnessed the death of my parents by rhino as a child. Yet as an adult the possibility and probability of a rhino stampeding into my office right now is also likely next to zero- if I could be self aware and wake up to my paradigm/perspective I would see the brutal fact that it is simply not likely to be killed by a rhino today in my office. From this new paradigm I can possibly reduce and eliminate my fear all together. So powerful. Paradigms are power. They are liberating or damning… and the best part is you control them. Your paradigm (the lens through which you see the world) is made up entirely of your total life experiences at any given point. It is influenced by your childhood, your adulthood, your school, your parents, your friends, your church, your culture, your everything. Your paradigm might have slowly evolved on you without your intentional actions, but through your intentional actions you can change it. Change your paradigm and change your fear. Step 1 of dealing with your fear is to look inward at your own paradigm circle.
The Self Esteem (Love) Circle
It is rare to fix all of your fears with a simple flip of the switch. Even being awake to your own faulty paradigms doesn’t guarantee a quick overnight change. In many cases, adjusting a paradigm takes time and experiences accumulated to result in a change. While working on your paradigm you’ll want to explore the 2nd Circle of Fear and see what you can do there to resolve it.
In the Self Esteem Circle we look inward to your relationship with yourself. Self Esteem is essentially how you feel about yourself. Lets start with a different hypothetical scenario to illustrate the power of the Self Esteem Circle, lets say that while I was a child my father left my mom and us children for a new life and a new wife. I felt abandoned and alone. Consequently I grew up with a fear of abandonment- afraid that I couldn’t be loved, or wasn’t worthy of love, or afraid having to brave this world all alone. This fear could manifest itself in my capacity and comfort level of risk taking, or my many issues in my close relationships that always seem to be fraught with trust issues or projected anger. Eventually I realize while now married that I have a fear of abandonment and that I’m afraid my wife will leave me all together. I wake up in the night with terrible nightmares on this subject. After talking at length with my wife I understand that she is amazing and would never leave me, yet I still have this fear of abandonment buried deep in my soul. My paradigm has changed and I don’t assign a very high probability to her actually leaving yet the nightmares and anxiety continue.
Looking at the 2nd Circle of Fears, the Self Esteem Circle, I can learn that through a strong relationship with myself I can still be OK notwithstanding being left by my wife. I can feel valuable in spite of someone else’s actions. In other words, through the 2nd Circle of Fears we can see the importance of a strong self esteem. Self Esteem is best defined as a relationship with yourself. It is the value you place on yourself through your own eyes and not the eyes or opinions of others. And through this self esteem I can feel less fear of actually being abandoned due to the value I place on myself. The daunting grasp of fear is loosened and I can be more free with a stronger self esteem. This analysis will apply to many of our fears. The best way to get to the bottom of your fears is to ask enough “why” questions to peel all the layers back and expose the real thing you are afraid of. In this example it may be that I am afraid of being alone, and unloved. Regardless of the deep fear you are struggling with- the unconditional love you have for yourself, the forgiveness of self, the self esteem you have developed can carry you through the paradigm short comings. It will hep the “even if” scenarios where you assign a low to zero probability to something and yet still fear it. Like, even if I’m abandoned I will be OK because I am important and I have value.
The Action Circle
The incredible thought behind the Circles of Fear is that one or two or three of these circles can be used to reduce or eliminate your fear. Depending on the type of fear, and layers you peel back you may find yourself using intersections of all three, or maybe just two… The Action Circle is directly related to your personal self confidence. Self confidence and self esteem are two very different concepts. While self esteem is all about how you feel about yourself, self confidence is all about how you feel about your own abilities. Self confidence is a direct result of taking action, and your experiences around taking action.
In the Action Circle you can diminish or eliminate fear all together by the action you directly take, plan to take, or have taken in the past. An easy example illustrating this principle is the old “pop quiz” scenario we all faced as students sometime in our past. Remember when you would show up to a difficult math or science class (really any class) and your teacher would say to you that first item on today’s agenda was a POP QUIZ?! Then you would turn pale, you feel an instant pit in your stomach and maybe even the urge to puke. You being sweating and you’re simply nervous. This anxiety (fear) is very real. Now what if the day before your teacher pulled just you aside and let you know that the following day there was a pop quiz and even told you what subjects to study. You would then go home and probably study your brains out on those topics. You show up the next day and are mostly calm and prepared for the pop quiz. It is no longer a surprise. You have taken action to prepare for this. Your confidence in relation to this particular pop quiz is high. Your fear or anxiety is directly reduced, and maybe even for some of you eliminated all together.
Taking Action is a critical step in helping reduce and/or eliminate your fear. Through your own action you demonstrate some control over the situation. You are intentional towards the situation and circumstances surrounding your fear. Through intentional action you build experiences and confidence. You hedge your bets, your prepare and through it all you are able to begin to dominate your anxieties. As in other fear scenarios, the Action Circle overlaps and intersects the other two circles. These intersect for a reason, many times using the principles of each of these circles will help in the process of dominating your fear. Alone the Action Circle may be enough. Of course, when looking at the Action Circle in connection with the Paradigm Circle and the Self Esteem Circle you can find resolution for any fear you are facing.
Your fear/anxiety doesn’t have to dominate and limit your life. Your fear can be reduced and eliminated. Live free form anxiety. Be liberated from the grasp of your fears by understanding and applying the Circles of Fear in your life. Step 1) The Paradigm Circle. Wake up. Be present. Look at your own paradigm and see what sort of probability and possibility you are allowing your fear to exist on. The greater the probability and possibility you give your fear of actualization then the more power your fear has over your life. Peel back layer after layer by asking yourself enough “why” questions to start to understand why you have the perspective and paradigm you have. What is your greatest fear is a question that should be peeled back with an almost unlimited amount of “why” questions. This self analysis will illuminate much about why you see what you see and why you fear what you fear. Change your paradigm change your fear. Step 2) The Self Esteem Circle. Paradigm shifts are not always immediate and they can often take time. And even after shifting your paradigm you may find that your fear is merely reduced and not entirely eliminated. Depending on your fear the paradigm circle may not be enough. You may need to dive deep into yourself again and this time check on your relationship with your self. How do you feel about yourself? What value do you give yourself? This helps with many of our deepest fears. The self esteem component is something you should always be strengthening. It is something you apply in the event that your fear still exists after a paradigm shift- you answer the question/statement of “even if… (x) happens I will be fine.” “I have value, I love myself, I forgive myself, etc. etc. even if so and so abandons me,” or “even if I die a lonely old lady/man.” Etc. Applying this to your deep fears will help you conquer them and or diminish their negative impact because your self worth is squarely and strongly built on an intentional foundation by you. Self esteem combats those fears that we can’t always beat with just a paradigm shift. And finally, Step 3) The Action Circle. Through this step you can reduce your fears directly through your own self confidence derived from intentional action. You can literally take action that increases concepts such as a sense of preparation, etc. that all directly reduce the amount of anxiety you feel. As best demonstrated in the classic pop quiz example we have all likely faced.
One or two or even three of these circles may all be used together and at the same time to help reduce or eliminate every type of fear you may be facing. Explore them. Understand them. Apply them and begin living free.
Erik Huso and I recently recorded a podcast on this very topic as well. Check it out here: https://benldodge.podbean.com/e/the-power-of-the-circles-of-fear/
Ben Dodge, Co-Founder
A multi successful entrepreneur, an attorney, and an active extreme endurance athlete. Ben brings his diverse background and passion into helping individuals and corporations obtain their own epic growth.
With over 10 years consulting and counseling clients, Ben’s perspective and experience is a phenomenal beginning to affecting epic in your individual and business identities. He fundamentally believes that we are each capable of more than we can imagine. Reaching our epic growth is based in principles and laws of success. Ben has internalized these principles and coaches clients along their journey to affecting epic.
Ben’s background includes founding multiple successful law firms, non profit foundations, a variety of small businesses, and other corporate and investment firms. He has competed in 8 Ironman triathlons, graduated from the Navy Seal Kokoro Camp Class of 26, raced in 50 and 100 mile ultra marathons, and most recently was one of only 9 finishers in the Race Across the West (a 930.4 mile non stop bicycle race from Oceanside Ca to Durango Co). Due to his successful finish in RAW, Ben qualified and is training to race the 3,000+ non stop bicycle race, Race Across America, in June of 2018. Ben placed 3rd in the Race Across France (RAAF) in August of 2018 as part of a 2 man U.S. team- RAAF is a non stop 1500 mile bicycle race across the entire country of France). Ben is possibly the most determined, committed and dynamic individual you will ever meet.
Investing in your self always reaps the greatest rewards. Move from successful to ultra successful in virtually every aspect of your life. Learn to live every moment with intention and clear purpose. Identify, develop, and tap into your own powerful source of grit and determination. Ben’s focus is to help you internalize the tools to affecting epic in all that you are and do so you can begin seeing epic results in your individual and business aspirations.