I remember when I graduated college and told my dad instead of getting a “real job” I was going to launch a feather hair extension business. He thought I was out of my mind and was quite angry with me. As someone who had worked on Wall Street his entire life he had always prioritized a steady pay check, consistency and the “safe” choice.
Years later I discovered he wasn’t angry with me—he was afraid for me. Like so many of his peers, the idea of opting for more stress and uncertainty seemed unnecessary and something to be avoided at all costs.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my decision to lean into fear and pursue business for myself would be the catalyst for my success. Moreover, a way of operating; a tool in my toolkit that I have exercised ever since.
What I am referring to is the concept of “Fearvana,” coined by Akshay Nanavati as the method of using fear as a gateway to bliss.
I find millennials are leading by example, using fear in a different way than our parents did to disrupt industries, create innovative solutions to world problems, and prioritize our own personal development.
Fearvana is more than just a new way of living it is a book endorsed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Fearvana’s author, Akshay Nanavati, is also a nonprofit founder, success coach, speaker, and Marine Corps Veteran.
Nanavati says the six years he spent in the military forced him to develop an intimate relationship with fear. Stationed in post-9/11 Iraq, Nanavati often confronted the possibility of losing his life.
In his dance with fear, he found something surprising. According to Nanavati, fear and bliss are actually two sides of the same coin. That is, if we seek to experience bliss, the path leading us there is our fear.
This week on the Unconventional Life Podcast, Nanavati invites us into the world of Fearvana—that is, what it means to tap into fear as a wellspring of bliss.
Fear Shows You What’s Worth Fighting For
Nanavati says we all have a worthy struggle: something in our life that deserves our relentless attention and pursuit. For me, my worthy struggle is my business. The presence of fear is what makes our struggle worth fighting for.
To motivate yourself to stay on track, you Nanavati recommends you surround yourself with triggers called “spark moments,” whose purpose is to ignite the fighter within you. Think Michael Jordan getting rejected from the varsity basketball team—it stirred up a sense of resilience and rebound in him towards his goal.
“Imprint your subconscious,” says Nanavati. “Look for sparks to help inspire you to stay on your worthy struggle and surround yourself with them.”
Stress Is Your Ally
If you find yourself feeling stressed, don’t interpret this as bad news. Though we live in a culture that considers stress something to be minimized, Nanavati says stress is actually a good thing.
“Fear, stress, anxiety, that’s a normal part of life and you’re going to experience it and they don’t have to be a negative thing. When you choose to perceive the response of stress as something that can serve you it can translate into something meaningful,” he advises.
In the same way stress in the body is necessary to build muscle, stress in the realm of the mind and spirit is necessary to build character. Recognize stress as a necessary part of your worthy struggle and an ally in promoting growth.
According to Kelly McGonigal, a Stanford health psychologist, “Viewing stress as a resource can transform the physiology of fear into the biology of courage.”
Conserve Your Willpower
Science tells us willpower is a limited resource—a muscle that can be worked to exhaustion. The more we draw upon it, the less we have to utilize in future challenges.
Nanavati recommends being strategic with your willpower so that it will be available to you in the decisive moments that you need it.
Consider “automating” your day to enable you to run on autopilot and minimize the amount of deliberate decisions you need to make. Nanavati uses an app on his phone to establish guided external structure that reminds him what he needs to do and when so he doesn’t draw from his willpower.
“Every area of my life is systematized to remove thinking as much as possible,” he says. “Then I pick one moment in the day where I’m exercising the entirety of my focus into one activity, because when you do that willpower can be limitless. In at least one endeavor you want to push that willpower muscle and push the limits of possibility and human potential.”
When you need to dig deep to fight fear because you’re pursuing something significant, maximizing your willpower reserve will help you overcome and outlast.
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