Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

Susan Jeffers


Susan Jeffers provides a number of useful models for understanding why we are afraid, and how to act despite our fear. She believes that fear is an essential and universal part of growth, and that rather than trying to avoid fear we should embrace it as evidence that we are making progress towards a higher goal. She delves into her own spiritual beliefs and the law of attraction, which I personally found uncompelling.

Chapter Summaries

I didn't write summaries for the introductory and closing chapters.

1. What Are You Afraid of… and Why?

Fears are broken down into three levels:

Jeffers' program attacks this deep level 3 fear: if I know I can handle whatever happens, I have nothing to fear. The way to this knowledge is by practicing self-belief and building up a body of evidence.

2. Can't You Make It Go Away?

Jeffers says that fear is an intrinsic part of life, and that any growth is always accompanied by fear. We shouldn't try to get rid of fear, since then we would stop growing: rather, we should practice acting despite being afraid. She believes that pushing through this fear is better than living with the “fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness”.

3. From Pain to Power

NB: I loved this chapter, I use this model a lot.

We can hold fear in two modalities: pain, or power. Acting from pain means believing that you “can't handle it”, allowing yourself to become helpless and frozen; power is self-belief, acting as if you are totally capable of success and treating difficulties as growth opportunities. Jeffers suggests trying to take a risk every day: not only does this give you evidence that you can handle things well, it also requires you to make decisions and taking action rather than live life passively.

4. Whether You Want It or Not… It's Yours

She suggests we take complete responsibility for our own lives, not blaming others for our own actions and feelings. At the same time it is important to not blame ourselves: if I call myself “hopeless” and believe I can never succeed, then I'm abdicating responsibility to fate. She also stresses the importance of being aware of our choices, and making sure that we know when we are acting from pain or from power: self-awareness and gradual improvement beats out kicking yourself while you're down, every time.

5. Pollyanna Rides Again

Jeffers argues that optimism is no more or less realistic than pessimism — and since it makes us happier, why not be optimistic? However she stresses that we shouldn't ignore pain or suffering: these exist, in our own lives and in the world. Thinking positively means believing that we are capable of handling terrible circumstances and finding solutions.

6. When “They” Don't Want You to Grow

Jeffers argues that some people in our lives will sabotage our growth, possibly unconsciously, because they are used to and comfortable with us as we are. She suggests surrounding ourselves with people who support our growth, and communicating openly and clearly with our loved ones who don't support us. She brings up the “pasive-to-obnoxious-to-healthy” model: we may over- or under-correct while learning to be assertive, but this is a normal part of the learning process.

7. How to Make a No-Lose Decision

Two decision-making models are suggesting:

  1. The no-win model, where one choice is right and the other is wrong but we cannot know in advance which is which
  2. The no-lose model: both choices are right, since they present “opportunities to experience life in a new way”

The idea is to remove the fear of “being wrong” and making the wrong decision, and instead focus on what kind of life we want to lead. Jeffers also suggests “throwing away your picture” after a decision is made: rather than obsessing over how a new job isn't how we imagined it would be, focus on how it is and what we can learn from the experience.

8. How Whole Is Your “Whole Life”?

The point is made that for many self-described “independent” people, their lives are focused on one thing:

If this one thing becomes untenable, due to the lose of a loved one or a chronic injury say, then our lives can become suddenly empty and challenging. Instead, we should aim to have a broad and varied life and commit ourselves fully to each part of it: essentially, give your life some redundancy.

9. Just Nod Your Head — Say “Yes!”

Jeffers asks us to “say yes to our universe”: accepting whatever life throws at us and working with it (compare the x-y chart in Happy]). She quotes Viktor Frankl

[e]verything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's way.

She calls this freedom “saying yes”: accept the circumstances, choose your attitude, and do your best to create your own way in life.

I should probably read Man's Search for Meaning, enough books I've read have referenced it.

10. Choosing Love and Trust

Jeffers argues that genuine “giving” is when we expect nothing in return, and that many people who think of themselves as giving are actually more concerned with what they get out of the exchange. She believes that this is rooted in a fear of lack: it is difficult to give our time or money away when we believe we couldn't live without it. Another useful model that comes up in this chapter is acting as if:

Ask yourself, "If I really counted? What would I be doing in this situation?["]

11. Filling the Inner Void

NB: I found this chapter less appealing due to my personal beliefs and spirituality and human interconnectedness.

Here Jeffers connects action from power with communing with some Higher Self or Power. She doesn't require this to be a religious connection, but does advocate the full development of each part of the body-mind-spirit triad. She believes are answers can be found within by the subconscious mind, and that by acting in accordance with the Higher Self we end up on a path of abundance and experience.

Compare Psalm 139 16 (ESV):

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book was written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.