As with most bad habits, the first step in learning to live without fear is understanding the depth of your addiction. How afraid are you? How much of what you do is governed by fear? I'd like to invite you to do what I've done since I began writing this book-to live with a heightened awareness of fear.

You will be disturbed by what you discover. The amount of fear in our lives is staggering. Once you identify the fears that largely govern your life, it's time to admit to yourself that you live in a pound, that you have vanquished your humanity and chosen instead to be a caged animal.

It's time to summon the resolve to be free. I have many times verbalized to myself, "I will not live in fear. I refuse to be afraid." In the book of Psalms, King David proclaims, "I shall not die, for I shall live, and I shall proclaim the glory of G-d." These beautiful words have been in my mind as I have proclaimed my freedom from a life lived in fear.

  • I will not die that cold, horrible death of having my uniqueness snuffed out because I am afraid of being out of step.

  • I will not die the silent death of being afraid to articulate views that are unpopular.

  • I will not die the death of loneliness by being afraid to love and afraid to get hurt.

  • I will not commit figurative suicide by leaving my potential underdeveloped because I am afraid to take risks.

  • I will not die the pitiable death of destroying my life because I am afraid to take criticism.

  • I will not die the painful death of watching my health waste away because I am afraid to hear what the doctor might say at a checkup.

  • I will not die a national death by being afraid to stand up to evil and save my country from being overrun by tyrants.

  • I will not die the lamentable death of becoming a prisoner of my insecurities and living a life that is designed to impress others rather than pursuing justice and righteousness.

  • I will not be suffocated by the horrible death of self-absorption and selfishness, brought about by the fear that sharing with others will diminish who I am.

    The Declaration of Independence, authored by Thomas Jefferson, is a declaration of fearlessness. What the American colonists were saying was, "We are not afraid. We're not afraid of you anymore, George III, you oppressor of the people. We're not afraid of dying by your bayonets, and we're not afraid of fighting to expel your soldiers. We will never again allow ourselves to live under tyranny and without dignity."

    We too have to make a declaration of independence from our fear, a declaration that we will not submit to the tyranny of fear ever again.

    I determined to try to rid my life of all fear when I discovered just how corrupting an influence fear is. In fact, it is precisely those things that bring us the most pride and joy that turn out to be the leading causes of our fear. We love our children, but for many, that love is accompanied by very real terror that something will happen to their children. We take pride in our successes-a cultivated garden, a book we've written-but we're afraid as well. What if there's an insect infestation or an early frost? What if our books won't sell or they're panned by the critics, or both? The real tragedy, of course, is that fear is so unpleasant, so debilitating, that we learn to resent those things that make us afraid.

    Fear turns life's blessings into burdens.

    Before I show you how to replace the fear in your life with much more productive, effective, and creative emotions, I need you to make the following commitment. I want you to promise that over the course of this book, you will commit yourself to confronting your fears. Say it aloud: "It is time to turn around and confront the things that frighten me, so that I can move beyond them."

  • Learning to confront your fears puts you back into the driver's seat of life.

    Courage allows us to conquer our fears, as opposed to being conquered by them. It is only in confronting our fears that we learn the depth and breadth of our own capabilities. Teaching children to dive is almost entirely a case of encouraging them to believe that they can do it. They have to be shown the way. The first time, you may have to hold a young child's hand as she walks out onto the end of the diving board. You may have to tread water below the board to catch her the first time she jumps. But by the end of the day, she'll be flinging herself off with abandon, and you'll have to bribe her to come out of the pool.

    It's one thing for children to be afraid; in this case, the fear is innate, a manifestation of a healthy survival instinct. Surely it's better that they don't throw themselves into bodies of water without any trepidation at all. But eventually they have to learn that they can do it. Children are inherently driven to participate, however cautiously. By nature they want to learn, to experience, to live. Where is our incentive as a nation? When the media is encouraging us to buy duct tape and hide under the bed, where is our encouragement to take the next difficult step? When fear is as firmly ensconced as it is in our society, what are the social forces that will push us out of our cocoons?