Mental Exercises and Tools for Becoming Fearless

The following aren't all the tools and exercises that exist as part of the Fearless Leaders Group Coaching Model, but they are a representative sampling of some of the most common, go-to tools we use. They've been a huge help to us and our clients, and we believe they can help you too -- both as a "taste test" for our material and as practical tools for building mental and leadership strengths.

Instead of dividing this page into sections, we've simply listed the exercises, one to a content block. But the titles of the exercises are descriptive, so if you're looking for a tool or exercise to tackle a specific problem, simply scroll down and scan the titles.

Stimulating Your Courageous Neural Network


Think of a time when you were courageous. It could be from your childhood, teenage years, or adult life. It could involve academics, a social activity, a game, athletics, or a hobby, or a time when you were scared.

Feel the courage

Continue recalling as much detail as you can until you can begin to re-experience some of the courage you had when this event actually occurred. You will likely notice a feeling of being more courageous as you immerse yourself in this memory. Through this detailed immersion and recall of your courageous memory, you will learn to strengthen the neural circuits and program your mind to be more courageous for the events that you need courage for in your future.

The PFP (Past, Future, Past) Sandwich


The 1st step is to access a courageous memory from your past like you did in the instant access to courage exercise. Future.


Now, while you have that feeling of courageousness and you’re in** your courageous neural network**, imagine (see, feel and/or hear) yourself doing something you want or need to do courageously in the future. Imagine yourself engaging in this future event as courageously as you possibly can.


After you have imagined yourself being courageous in your future event, make sure you are still programming your mind in your courageous neural network. Again, remember a time when you were courageous in the past. It could be the same as your original memory, or a different memory altogether. By using this imagery, you’re wiring and re-programming your mind to be daring in a future event by sandwiching the imagery of the future courageous event between memories of past courageous events in your life.

Learning to Embrace Failure

Take a moment to slow down and relax. For this technique, you will need to sit back, relax and slow your breathing and mind. It’s time for a little reflection on your life. Look back on your personal and professional lives, then think about times you’ve failed, but ultimately succeeded.

For example, recall when you learned to ride a bike; flunked or scored poorly on a test; got dumped in a romantic relationship, got fired; had a business strategy fail; had a business fail, and then went on to succeed.

When did you have the courage to fail ... in order to succeed?

  • Name the event or learning process in your personal or professional life where you failed (possibly several times) on the road to success.

  • About how many times did you have setbacks or outcomes you weren't happy with?

  • What was the success in the end? What was the end result, the benefit of being tenacious while dealing with the setbacks and achieving your goal?

Now that you are remembering and feeling that setbacks are just a part of learning to succeed, think about and write an important, scary goal in your life today. What setbacks are you willing to risk in order to succeed?

Self-Reflection – Your Courage to Fail in Order to Succeed Score yourself on each question on a 1 to 5 scale in which: 1 = never/almost never 2 = seldom 3 = sometimes 4 = often 5 = almost always/always

When faced with an enormous opportunity that is also a risky challenge in which you could fail, do you take the opportunity? _____

When you look at new opportunities, is your focus more on the opportunity than on the risks? _____

Do you believe enough in your abilities to put your job or business on the line? _____

Do you get excited about the lessons you learned when you fail and immediately make changes? _____

The 4 Step Mastery of Fear

These four very simple steps can help you master many of your fears, including the fear of failure. YOU are NOT your FEAR!

Step1: Identify your fear

Write down what you are afraid you’ll fail at.

Step 2: Embrace your fear by disempowering it

Gently embrace it; imagine it. What does it look like? What might it sound like? Does it have a name? Remember, you have created this fear and continue to create it, so you have developed this fear for a reason. Its original purpose was to protect you, but now it’s holding you back. Now it's time to release it!

Step 3: Unidentify with your fear

Fear of failure is not you. Your fearful thoughts have created an emotion, but you’re not your thoughts or your emotions—emotions come from thoughts and all thoughts are temporary. Use the image you created in Step 2 to understand that your fear is not you.

Step 4: Be free of fear

What would your life be like if you were in control of fear of failure? Can you see what you would be like? How you would sit, walk, and move about? Can you imagine what it might feel like to face the challenges that used to hold you back? Can you hear how you would speak if you were free of your fear?

Resolving the Fear of Success

Step one.

Define your most important goals. Then take one of them at a time and search your mind for potential conflicting goals.

Step two.

Ask yourself and answer the following questions. If I am more successful, if I attain the biggest goals I have set, what will change? Who will I spend time with? Where will I live? Who will I work with? What car will I drive? What house or neighborhood will I live in? How will my self-image change?

Step three.

Will a change in your life occur when and if you experience greater success? Will it be a change for better or for worse? If you identify a change that will not add to your life and that may even make you unhappy, realize you have the power to decide whether that will actually happen or not.

Resolving Fear Using the Worst-Case Scenario.

This fear-busting technique can be extraordinarily powerful, not only for fear of rejection, but also for almost all fears. Consider the case of Alice. Alice was an incredibly intelligent, charming ophthalmic nurse who was afraid that her emotionally abusive husband was going to divorce her for a younger woman who worked with him. When asked to rate her distress level on a zero to ten scale, with zero being no distress and ten the most distressful situation she could imagine, she rated the possibility of divorce a ten.

Then she was asked, “What would you do if your worst-case scenario came true (being divorced)?” After a moment of contemplation, Alice said: “I would go volunteer with Doctors Without Borders. This has been a dream of mine for years, but my husband has always been against it.” (Doctors Without Borders is a group of volunteer medical professionals who provide free medical care in developing countries.)

With the realization she could live her dream if she was divorced from her abusive husband, Alice broke into a smile. At the end of our session, her level of distress was at a zero.

Fear takes you out of the present moment, distorts your thoughts and changes your actions, all focused on what you fear. When you can accept the worst case, you no longer need to fear it, which keeps your mind in reality.

The steps to using the worst-case scenario:

Step 1: Describe it.

Describe in great detail the worst-case scenario.

Step 2: How probable is it?

Ask yourself (or have someone else ask you): How probable is it that this fear will come true? It’s sometimes useful to use a zero to 100% scale where zero is no possibility and 100% is, it’s a given it will happen.

Answer the question from pure logic in the present, not from emotion and not from your past experiences.

Step 3: Can you accept the probability?

Decide if you can accept the level of probability. If you can’t accept the level of probability that the worst-case scenario will happen, then you will need to do something to change the situation or level of risk. Example: you want to implement an unproven strategy and if it fails, you lose your job and put the whole company at risk for bankruptcy.

Step 4: Set it aside.

Once you have accepted the probability of the worst-case scenario let yourself come to peace with it and set it aside.

Step 5: Focus on best case.

Now, focus on your best-case scenario—what would it look, feel and sound like?

Step 6: Take action.

Take action toward creating your best-case scenario.

Replacing Negative/Destructive Thoughts

Here are the four brief steps to replace destructive thoughts with constructive ones in order to control your mind:

  1. Recognize the destructive thought.
  2. PAUSE and RESET the destructive thought!
  3. Replace the destructive thought with a constructive thought.
  4. Reward/Enjoy gaining control of your mind!

Recognize the destructive thought.

You have to first recognize when you have a destructive thought. We have so many thoughts during the day, most of them originating in our subconscious minds, that it's nearly impossible to notice them all. But it's imperative for you to be able to pinpoint them when they occur. Examples might sound something like: - I really stink at this. - I can’t do this. - That scares the #$&@ out of me!

These destructive thoughts are all based on fear or worry, rather than possibility. They block you from achieving what you’re capable of.

Three ways to recognize your destructive thoughts.

  1. Hear them. You can hear destructive thoughts going through your mind when you’re paying attention to what you are thinking.
  2. Feel them. How do you feel a destructive thought? The truth is you can’t feel it directly, but you can notice it by feeling the physical reaction it creates – tension in your shoulders, shallow breathing in your chest, tension in your stomach.
  3. See them. How can you see a thought? Well, you can’t. But what you can see is you not taking action or procrastinating. What is your inaction telling you? Most likely, it’s saying that you’re scared.

Fear isn't necessarily bad. It's a warning. When you finally become conscious of your own fear, you will be empowered to deal with it. You have to ask yourself, am I the master or the victim of my own thinking?

When you gain control of your thoughts, you gain control of your emotions. And everybody wants more control of their emotions.

Displace your negative thought with a replacement thought that is:

  • True
  • Related to the thought you are replacing
  • In your control
  • Positive:

You get what you focus on! Your focus must be on what you do want not on what you don’t want, or you’ll attract a pile of crap! This thought replacement technique gives you control of your own mind. When you have developed your master observer-self and have better control of your thoughts, you'll notice that you stop having strong emotional reactions to what others say.

Creating Conscious Conversations

Here are the steps to learning to create mindful moments in disagreements using mental rehearsal (much like athletes do to practice physical skills):

  1. Imagine someone disagreeing with you.
  2. Respond with, “ that's interesting” then drop your thoughts into the time and space of mindfulness.
  3. Then say “I’d like to understand why you think that”.
  4. Listen without judgment, focusing only on understanding their perspective without judgment.
  5. Repeat many, many times using different people and scenarios (repetitions should be spaced out over time).

Mindfulness Exercise

Next time you have a drink of anything — water, coffee, tea, soda, or fruit juice:

  1. Begin by drinking it the way you would normally drink this liquid, not really focused on drinking but continuing to think and do what you would normally do. You are aware that you’re drinking, but you're not being mindful of the process.

  2. Now, bring all your focus to drinking your liquid. Pay attention to all your senses.

  • Visual: notice the color; is it translucent, transparent or opaque?
  • Smell: Smell your liquid; does it have an aroma? If it does, How would you describe it?
  • Kinesthetic: If there is one, notice the texture as well as the temperature of the liquid in your mouth. Pay attention to how it feels as you swallow Can you feel it descending your esophagus?
  • Taste: Notice any flavor or lack of flavor. How would you describe the nuances of the flavor?
  • Sound: Notice the sounds you make as you sip and the sound that you hear when you swallow.
  1. When you compare just being aware of drinking liquid and drinking the liquid mindfully, what do you learn about the value of mindfulness? How did expand your mind? If you become more mindful as a leader of your own thinking processes and how you pay attention to what's really important, is it with awareness or mindfulness? How can this benefit you and those you influence?

4, Choose a quiet location - A quiet place with few distractions allows for more focus and less interruption. This can be particularly helpful for beginners. Individuals who have been practicing meditation for a longer period of time sometimes develop the ability to meditate in public places, like waiting rooms or on buses.

  1. Assume a comfortable posture. Meditation can be done while sitting, lying down, standing, walking, or any other position. Choose what is most comfortable for you and what allows you to focus without physical pain or discomfort, and without dozing off.

  2. Take calming breaths. Stopping the ever-present train of thought in the mind is much easier said than done. A good way to begin is to take several deep cleansing breaths, think about how your body breathes and notice what it feels like to have air go into your lungs and back out. Relax your muscles from the neck down by consciously thinking about each area and relaxing it.

  3. Allow the mind to fill with positive energy. Allow thoughts to come and go as you remain positive and relaxed. Consider your life, as it will be when your goals manifest in your body. Imagine even the smallest detail. Release any negative thoughts and practice gratitude for the good that you have experienced so far.

The 3 Cues to Mindful Observations

To create a Mindful Moment, you can develop cues for yourself. When you have created a Mindful Moment, you can develop specific self-talk and cues that help you stay mindful. Before we discuss how to stay mindful in the moment, let's examine some of the different cues you can utilize to create Mindful Moments.

  1. Physical cues: You notice that:

- Breathing is faster and more shallow. - Tension in your neck, chest, back or abdomen - Churning in your stomach - Your fists or jaw clenching or wanting to clench - The palms of your hands, forehead, or armpits sweating. - Your face reddening

  1. Emotional cues: You notice feeling:

- Stress - Anxiety - Fear - Anger - Confused

  1. Thought (cognitive) cues: You notice thinking: Negative thoughts from beliefs that are either not true, partially true, or unproven Fearful thoughts Angry thoughts Contradictory thoughts Limiting thoughts Mindfulness is not just something you do or gain from meditation, which is a great fundamental to build on, but it's also a moment in time and you can strengthen mindfulness. Not only is it developed in the moment but consciously using mindful moments will improve you as a leader because of the increase in focus, clarity, creativity and understanding the impact of your thoughts, decisions, actions and strategies. It also helps you connect to your “observer-self”. Your Observer-self Strengthening the observer self is one of the important aspects of becoming more mindful. Using the Set/Reset technique allows you to break free of the automatic response cycle of stimulus response; same event (stimulus) – same response. Most of us live unconsciously in this cycle; we are on auto-respond, not making conscious choices and not using our free will. Remember your observer-self can perceive your thoughts and emotions without getting caught in your emotions. The observer self exists in your prefrontal lobes, your executive brain, nowhere else. The observer self is one of the most highly evolved parts of your brain. It’s the non-judgmental part of your mind you use in mindfulness. Developing and using the observer-self is empowering and creates greater awareness of what you're thinking and how you react. You know that you are in your observer-self when you can notice your thoughts and emotions and can be outside of them, not feeling them in the observer-self, just simultaneously observing your thoughts and emotions as you are having them. The observer-self doesn't experience your emotions; it just observes them. The emotional part of your brain (the amygdala) will experience the emotion. That's what you want; you want to strengthen the observer-self so you think, feel, and act without being caught up in emotion. That gives you the opportunity to decide if these are the thoughts and emotions that best serve you and those who you affect. The more developed your observer self is, the greater your level of awareness of what your thoughts are and how they are creating your emotions and your reactions.

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