Meet Mark. He is friendly, sociable, and comfortable with women. He knows when to be playful and when to be dominant, which naturally attracts a lot of girls.
Yet, when it comes to girls, Mark has a big problem. Whenever he wants to approach a new person, he completely freezes. His body shakes, his voice trembles, and he becomes so scared he usually never even makes the first step.
What’s going on?
I’m betting a lot of guys can relate to this. Even if you can’t, I’m sure there are situations in your life when you want to do something — ask for a raise, stand up for yourself, or talk to a new person — but your fear gets the better of you. You simply freeze and never make a move. Even worse, you later beat yourself up over for not doing it.
Overcoming fear is a long-term process. But every big thing can be broken down into small, essential components. The only way to make progress and reach your end goal is by focusing on changing those small, essential steps.
In this article, you will learn how to apply the micro-avoidance theory: a simple but powerful guideline to overcoming fear in your daily life.
What is the micro-avoidance theory?
Every day, you are constantly making a thousand choices. Most of these choices are small and don’t affect your life much. You know, things like what to eat for breakfast or whether to go to the bathroom now or in 5 minutes. Over time, your choices define who you are and how you think.
For example, eating fast food for breakfast once won’t make you fat. But eating it every day for a year will significantly impact your health and body figure. You know this is true because there are physical consequences of your choices.
What often gets overlooked are the things you don’t see. That is, how your life is affected by small, daily choices that don’t have physical consequences. Things like standing up for yourself, not giving in to peer pressure, or doing something outside of your comfort zone. If you avoid making small improvements in your life, every day, every month, every year, your mind will be trained to never feel confident in yourself.
All of the little, insignificant choices eventually add up. So when you have to make a big choice — break up with a toxic person, find a better job, confront your family — you won’t do it. You won’t do it because you have trained your mind to react the following way:
I want to do something → Never mind, I won’t do it.
This is essentially how micro-avoidance works. The theory states that avoiding small, insignificant challenges in life will train your mind to avoid big, important challenges.
I wish I could take credit for coining this term, but I can’t. I’ve seen the concept of “micro-avoidance” passed around on the Internet, but nobody has ever dug into the psychology behind it, or explained how to best apply it to your life.
That is, until now.
The micro-avoidance theory is based on something called the approach-avoidance conflict, an idea introduced by psychologist Kurt Lewin, recognized by many as the “founder of social psychology”. He suggested that, when making a decision, we experience a conflict between positive and negative outcomes. You know, the two voices in your head arguing between “This is awesome, do it!” and “Things might go wrong, don’t do it!”
Sadly, humans are also plagued with something called the negativity bias. It basically means that when we’re faced with a decision that has a 50/50 chance of success, we will usually think that a negative outcome is much more likely to happen.
So that’s our current dilemma. We struggle when making a choice and naturally feel inclined to believe things are much worse than they actually are. Now let’s see how the micro-avoidance theory can help you overcome this.
How fear grows in your mind
Let’s see how the micro-avoidance principles work in action by taking our example from the beginning. Our lovely subject, Mark, is scared of approaching girls. Let’s see if we can figure out why.
If we just look at the surface level, we might say something like: “Mark is just a pussy who needs to grow some balls. Just shut up and do it. Right bro?”
However, let’s dig a little deeper. Why does Mark experience the fear of approaching in the first place? To understand this, let’s analyze some of the choices Mark makes before he even thinks about approaching anyone.
- It’s Friday morning. Mark’s alarm clock rings, He knows he should get up right away, but decides to hit the snooze button and sleep in (-1).
- Once he does wake up, he gets ready in a hurry and rushes to the bus stop where the bus is just pulling in. He knows he can make it if he runs for it, but believes people will make fun of him for running. He does nothing as the bus leaves and spends 20 minutes waiting for the next bus to arrive (-2).
- He gets on the bus and he notices an empty seat next to a cute girl he’d been noticing for a while. He wants to ask if the seat is taken but doesn’t want to bother her. She has her headphones on and will probably think he’s a loser for even asking. He doesn’t want to be ridiculed in front of other people on the bus, so he decides to say nothing and stand instead (-3).
- At work, he is swamped. A coworker comes by and asks if he can help her out with something. The truth is, Mark really doesn’t have the time. He can barely finish his own work. Still, he doesn’t want to offend his colleague and helps her anyway. As a result, the coworker finishes her tasks on time and goes home, while Mark is forced to stay overtime to finish his own work (-4).
- It’s finally night time and Mark is about to hit the club with his friends. He’s super excited and wants to leave as early as possible, but his friends want to go straight to the club and skip socializing beforehand. Mark contemplates leaving on his own and meeting up with them later, but thinks people will think he’s a lonely loser without friends. He decides to stay at home and pass time watching TV, waiting for his friends (-5).
- Once inside the club, he realizes that those three shots of tequila aren’t sitting well. He wants to order a glass of water at the bar but is convinced that people will think he’s a pussy. Besides, he doesn’t want to hold up the line for people behind him actually paying for real drinks. He does nothing (-6).
- Mark sees an empty chair next to a table. He thinks about sitting down, but imagines a scenario where some people come back and give him shit for taking their seats and embarrass him. He concludes it’s best to continue standing (-7).
Finally, Mark sees the girl he wants to talk to. It would be so easy, just walk over and say “Hi, I’m Mark”. But Mark’s mindset is at a -7, so instead of walking over, he starts making excuses that “she looks like a bitch” and “she’s probably waiting for her boyfriend” and “she doesn’t want to talk to anyone” and “what would I even say”.
CONCLUSION: Since Mark has been avoiding the little, “micro” choices the entire day, he built a negative association in his mind. When he wants to do something, he’ll just think of an excuse not to do it. Over time, this way of thinking becomes his normal state of mind.
Build confidence by reversing the process of fear
As you’ve just seen, fear in something is built through repeatedly repeating the actions that tell your brains: “If you fear something, don’t do it!” The more you avoid doing something, the scarier it becomes.
Luckily, your confidence is built the same way — through repeated actions that push you in the right direction. The more you say “fuck it” and do the things you want to do, the less anxious you will feel. The more you uphold those decisions, the easier they become.
If you keep training your mind to avoid doing little uncomfortable things, it becomes natural to avoid doing bigger uncomfortable things, no matter how rewarding they may be. I mean shit, if you can’t get yourself to do that little thing of no significance, like ordering a glass of water or asking someone if the seat is taken, what makes you think you will somehow have the balls to just walk up and say hi to a stranger?
The caveat to this approach is: don’t be an idiot. If you’re drunk and want to run into traffic, that’s obviously a stupid idea. As long as you apply some common sense, you should be fine.
In our example, what would happen if Mark didn’t give in to his fear on the first step? Or the second? Or the third?
If he didn’t hit the snooze button (+1), caught the first bus (+2), sat next to the cute girl (+3), politely declined his coworker (+4), went out by himself when he wanted to (+5), gotten the water at the bar (+6), and sat down at the empty seat (+7), his mindset would be on a positive roll. Each new decision would be easier than the last.
So when he noticed the girl he wanted to talk to, he would have been in a state of mind that doesn’t even think about whether he should do it or not. He would just do it. He would’ve walked over and talked to her, maybe hitting it off or maybe getting rejected. The point is, now he will never know.
This is one of the simple, but the most powerful tools I recommend to people. I’ve yet to see a single example of where this approach has failed in increased the level of your confidence. It doesn’t require a lot of effort or making any drastic changes to your lifestyle.
You are already making choices every minute of every day. Whether you do something or avoid it, you are making a choice. Choose carefully.