By Carol Kline
Want to start a lucky streak? Begin by creating a lucky break. The key to generating those strokes of luck is to take action consistently. And the more actions you take—think of them as cosmic lottery tickets—the greater your odds of a lucky outcome. Though not just any action will do. According to the positive psychologists who study luck, the most powerful luck-activating moves are the ones that require us to brave our fears, leave behind our comfort zone, and take some risks.
But don’t worry, taking risks doesn’t require you to be a daredevil or attempt physically dangerous feats. Channeling your inner badass can mean striking up a conversation with a stranger, practicing a new skill, venturing out on the dance floor, or asking for something you want.
Actions like these feel risky because you’re opening yourself up to the possibility of failing, feeling foolish, or being rejected—possibilities so scary they make most people’s blood turn to ice water in their veins.
Nevertheless, if you’re determined to create your own good fortune, here are three ways you can overcome your fear and its accompanying paralysis:
- Ignore outdated and irrelevant alarms
Learn to distinguish when the fear you feel is based in reality, rather than concocted by your brain’s Stone Age mechanisms.If a snake is about to bite your ankle, that’s a good thing to be scared about. That’s the natural purpose of fear—to make you jump out of the way. If there’s really something threatening your safety, do what you need to do to protect yourself.But if the “snake” is coming from between your ears, hampering you rather than protecting you, that’s a different thing. Then you need to learn how to ignore your brain’s automatic panic reaction.
Treat that internal flare of fear as if it’s a car alarm going off down the block. You register the sound, but since you know that 99.9 percent of the time there’s no crime in progress, you don’t get rattled or call 911. You’re able to continue doing what you need or want to do, despite the alarm sounding.
- Use the breath to switch the body’s biochemistry
The breath, the body’s best regulator of emotions, is a good tool for releasing the physical tension we feel when afraid.One definition of fear is “excitement without the breath.” When we’re scared or anxious, we tend to contract physically. We hold our breath or breathe shallowly. This further stokes our fear response, creating even more agitation, and trapping us in a particularly negative feedback loop.Fortunately, we’re only a few deep breaths away from feeling more fearless. Studies show that it takes only three healthy, long, slow breaths to activate the body’s parasympathetic response and begin to chase the “stress chemistry” out of our system.
If you can remember to breathe deeply in challenging situations, it’s possible to turn the negative experience of fear into the positive experiences of excitement, alertness, and pleasure.
- Face your fear: Find “20 Seconds of Insane Courage”
There are times when your fears get the better of you. Your logical mind may give you plenty of evidence that there’s nothing to be scared of, but the terrified child within doesn’t buy it. Even so, when you realize that your fears create more suffering than the actual events you shrink from, facing your fears becomes the only reasonable option.The good news is that you don’t have to be brave all the time, just in isolated moments when it counts. The openings for stepping up are usually only seconds long, so if you can muster your courage in a well-timed burst, you’re over the hump.In the film, We Bought A Zoo, Matt Damon’s character tells his son, “Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come of it.”
So, focus on recognizing those vital windows of opportunity and hurling yourself through them. And here’s an encouraging fact: success breeds success. When you successfully survive one risk, it makes it easier to do it again.
With the courage to take more bold actions, lucky breaks are sure to follow. But remember, a lucky break doesn’t guarantee a lucky streak. To ensure your fortunate events continue over time, you need to add another ingredient: follow through. Build on your lucky breaks by applying yourself with focus, enthusiasm, and persistence and watch your lucky outcomes multiply.
BIO: Carol Kline is a #1 New York Times bestselling author whose books include Happy for No Reason, Love for No Reason, five books in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and the upcoming Conscious Luck: Eight Secrets to Intentionally Change Your Fortune, co-authored with Gay Hendricks.