12 May, 2019

People aren’t just born fearless; they have to work at it. Here’s how to train yourself into acting with verve and courage, for a bigger, more fulfilled life

Building confidence is, well, a confidence trick as much as anything.

Everyone feels scared sometimes, whether it’s speaking in front of a crowd, changing jobs or a last-minute wobble that stops you from booking that solo trip to Asia. Even confident people feel afraid at times, but it’s our ability to push through it that is the difference between standing still in a quagmire of fear or jumping free of is shackles.

Pushing yourself to your limits depends on where those limits are – for some it’s scaling mountains, for others it’s giving a presentation at work. Or perhaps it’s simply wanting to live with a greater sense of freedom to make those little daily changes that can make all the difference to your quality of life – such as standing up to an overbearing colleague. Each time you push those limits, you gain a little more courage.

Here’s five way to rid yourself of the fears holding you back, and live the life that you want.

1. The power of play

A game of beach football in Brazil

We can learn a lot from children. Ever watch a kid fling themselves down a slide or a toddler run with wild abandon across a field, not caring if they trip and fall – in fact falling is all part of the fun? Children’s lack of inhibition means they are free to be fearless as they discover the world through imaginary friends, den building and make-believe.

The importance of play and social engagement continues into adulthood, even if what we understand as play shifts – making imaginary friends isn’t seen as quite so lovable in adults.

As children, play is our rehearsal for the challenges of life while we are still free of the social expectations that establish the boundaries in which we live, and that can tie us down with the fear of stepping outside of them.

White-water rafting in Chile

Shaking off those initiatives and expectations can be powerful. They are often what keeps us trapped in a mindset that doesn’t allow us to do what we want.

Adult play can be anything from bungee-jumping, white-water rafting, drawing, colouring or clay throwing. Anything that will take you out of the moment and help alter your mindset to a less constricted setting.

Read more: Overloaded? Try an unstructured day of play

At work, too, play can help unlock your productivity by allowing you to break away from the rigid desk-bound culture where innovative thoughts can get lost in the mundane everyday.

Gamification has been harnessed by some companies (think Google and Facebook) as a way to unleash employees creative side, but even if your company doesn’t have a foosball table or a scatter-cushioned breakout area, learning mental playfulness and adopting a flexible mindset could help you see your role through fresh eyes and enliven even the dullest task.

2. Be prepared

Experience, knowledge and skills are the foundation of that antidote to fear – self-confidence. The more equipped you are to handle what scares you, the more tools you have at your disposal to fight the fear.

This works two ways; as well as making you more prepared, knowing you have what it takes to handle a situation, such as public speaking or a job interview, will make you feel calmer and more in control of the situation. The worse that can happen is less likely to.

3. Push your physical limits

Whether it’s learning to do a headstand in yoga or running a 5K, having faith in your body can make your mind stronger.

This isn’t about losing weight or sit-upping your way to a six-pack. Feeling good about what your body can do, taking control of it and pushing it to a place you weren’t sure you were going to get to gives you a massive sense of achievement and power, and with it the belief you can do anything.

Whether it’s joining a gym or signing up for a half-marathon, we are only limited by what we think we can’t do.

Read more: 5 fitness challenges to test your limits this year

Feeling good in your body will naturally give you a mental pick-me-up which will not only enable you to face new challenges, but it can make your mind sharper. One study by researchers at the the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise – the kind that gets your heart pumping – appears to boost the size of the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.

With a sharper body and mind, you’re feel emboldened you’ll have both the mental and physical energy to overcome obstacles and take on new challenges.

Difficult presentation at work? Visualise the time you crossed the finishing line at that half marathon or conquered a balancing pose in yoga. Why would you be scared of a PowerPoint presentation when you know what feats you can reach?

4. Go it alone

Doing things on your own – whether it’s going for dinner or travelling the world – takes guts, and practice. Even those who love their own company will feel exposed at times in a world made for groups.

But learning to enjoy hanging out with yourself is hugely liberating. Confident people don’t need others to lean on, and that feeling of having branched out on your own without another person to cling to is an enormous confidence boost and can led to some much more.

Going it alone opens up more opportunities to meet new people and discover new places, which are themselves great remedies for fear.

5. Set challenges

When we’re younger, achievement gets measured out in gold stars, grades and certificates. But as we get older and into the groove of a career, we rarely feel that same satisfaction of improvement and the euphoria of overcoming difficult challenges. A sense of purpose is powerful and at the heart of fearless living. Feeling in control gives you greater confidence and setting a goal will give you direction and a rush of accomplishment.

Read more: Ed Stafford on why you should quit your job and travel

Achieving something you didn’t think you could do by taking on a challenge with an element of risk, where you didn’t know the outcome is hugely empowering and gives you confidence, drive and resilience that you can harness in every aspect of your life. These challenges don’t have to be huge; they could be climbing Kilimanjaro, but equally setting to yourself the task of finding a new job – or a whole new career – is just as daunting a peak to climb.

Set realistic goals to help increase motivation and confidence and understand that it’s a process. It’s unlikely you’re not going to turn up at your first yoga class and immediately be able to stand on your head, conquer your first peak without putting in the training or get that dream job without first writing that application.


Get fearless with these three great escapes

Discover the allure of old-world Europe

Krakow, Poland

Central Europe is a place of castles, snow-tipped peaks and delicious food. Discover a brave new world on this eight-day foray through Austria, Poland and Slovakia.

Hop on-board

Up close and personal with Rwanda’s mountain gorillas

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda

You’re not short of thrills on this trip where you’ll not only get to hangout with the majestic gorillas of the Virgunas, but you’ll mountain-bike through volcanic terrain, trek the Congo Nile Trail and enjoy freshly-grilled dinners over an open fire.

Prepare to be awed

Secluded bliss on a secluded Icelandic island

Glacier hiking in Iceland

This five-day trip takes you to the heart of Iceland’s wild volcanic beauty, where you’ll chase the midnight sun, encountering geysers, bubbling pools and gushing waterfalls in a landscape of natural wonders.

It’s all happening

Images: Paul Middleton, Tony Stevens, Shutterstock, Flash Pack, Movie Stills DB

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