Deconstructing Fear with Mads Damgaard

Act despite your fears to find your core values. Change your mental images to expand your possibilities.

What is the relationship between our fears and our values? Can we change our behavior to become more successful in achieving our goals?

This time I interviewed Mads Damgaard, an Erickson Professional Coach, helping others find meaning in their work.

Mads share two main stories; the first one is connected with bullying. The second one reflects upon the polarization of opinions that result from our collective culture of fear. The entire interview is filled with great learnings, perspectives, and experiences, and you’ll receive very practical advice about using mental imagery to change your behavior.

The audio version:

The video version:

Without having any wish to spoil the interview, I would like to add some notes that I hope you’ll find useful:

Mads commitment to his values was clearly bigger than the power of his fears. That leads him to realize his life purpose and his path towards understanding what gives our lives meaning. I believe that he suggests that when our life is meaningful, we feel less fear, and therefore we experience freedom, creativity, and empowerment.

“We need to talk more about this [fear], we need to have deeper conversations and spread more knowledge about how the fear system is affecting us on a cultural level, on a societal level, as people, and as individuals.” —Mads Damgaard.

“The key to change our relationship with fear as a culture is to change the way we build images in our minds” —Mads Damgaard.

More about Mads Damgaard

“I'm Mads Damgaard. I'm an Erickson Professional Coach, and I've spent years dedicating myself to understanding the nature of meaningful work. Growing up in a chaotic family and losing my parents early in my life taught me to overcome trauma and work with the mind to achieve my dream life despite the obstacles I had to face. I am deeply grounded in a 10-year meditation practice. My heart-centered coaching approach is found on the principles and wisdom of deep thinkers like Milton Erickson, Marilyn Atkinson, Eckhart Tolle, Marschall Rosenberg & many others. Before I found my path as a career coach, I followed a conventional schooling route, university, and finally working as a software project manager. After achieving everything I wanted in my career, I entered a deep inner conflict and uncertainty about my direction in life. I could no longer ignore the truth; I wanted everything I did, every day, to deeply matter to me. I followed that realization to its ultimate conclusion and transitioned from my previous career to working with people on realizing their dreams of living impactful careers. I now work every day with people seeking to reboot their careers on purpose. As a people, we need to begin the journey of bringing purpose & meaning to the center of our work. We must infuse the places we work with our most inspiring visions to build a sustainable world that nourishes our spirits and regenerates our environments. When we do, we feel better, our companies do better, and our world will thrive.”

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No death, no fear.

Mads suggested that the fear of death is the source of all the other fears. How can we understand that? 

In my opinion, mastering the fear of death isn't about not fearing death. It is about the realization that, from a perspective, there is no death; there is transformation. But of course, that is debatable.

Let's agree to assume that it is true; there is no death. In other words, we never really die. In that case, we do not lose anything as time passes because there is never an end, and we can always continue experiencing life under different circumstances, forms, and conditions. If there is no death, there is nothing to lose.

That brings me to remember what Tolkien wrote in The Silmarillion about men: that men's short life is a divine gift that creates in humans a deep wish to do something useful and long-lasting, even after their death:

“It is one with this gift of freedom that the children of Men dwell only a short space in the world alive, and are not bound to it, and depart soon whither the Elves know not.”

“But the sons of Men die indeed, and leave the world; wherefore they are called the Guests, or the Strangers. Death is their fate, the gift of Iluvatar, which as time wears even the Powers shall envy. But Melkor has cast his shadow upon it, and confounded it with darkness, and brought forth evil out of good, and fear out of hope.” — The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien.

It looks to me like each of us has a deeply ingrained desire to let a mark in our world, letting a legacy. That happens probably because we know we will die, and we don't know if there is something else after death. We are in a rush to be the best version of ourselves while we can. We feel like the impact of our life should stay around, influencing the living.

If we fail in a relationship, or we crash our business, we might feel like we lost all that time of life. Our chances to let a meaningful legacy are diminished, and we must rush to recover. As you can see, from this perspective, it is easy to connect all our insecurities, resistances, or fears to the idea of death.

Our fears remind us that the clock is ticking, and that’s why we refuse to listen and prefer to get used to our comfort zone.

No death, No Fear is the title of Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, where he wonderfully explains how to wake up the realization that death is only an idea, not a reality:

“Sometimes people ask you: "When is your birthday?" But you might ask yourself a more interesting question: "Before that day which is called my birthday, where was I?" 

Ask a cloud: "What is your date of birth? Before you were born, where were you?"

If you ask the cloud, "How old are you? Can you give me your date of birth?" you can listen deeply and you may hear a reply. You can imagine the cloud being born. Before being born it was the water on the ocean's surface. Or it was in the river and then it became vapor. It was also the sun because the sun makes the vapor. The wind is there too, helping the water to become a cloud. The cloud does not come from nothing; there has been only a change in form. It is not a birth of something out of nothing.

Sooner or later, the cloud will change into rain or snow or ice. If you look deeply into the rain, you can see the cloud. The cloud is not lost; it is transformed into rain, and the rain is transformed into grass and the grass into cows and then to milk and then into the ice cream you eat. Today if you eat an ice cream, give yourself time to look at the ice cream and say: "Hello, cloud! I recognize you.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, No Death, No Fear

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What will you do differently this year?

We just landed in 2021, and like every year, we know we will face challenges, enjoy happy moments, start new initiatives, and be surprised by circumstances. I want to wish you a phenomenal year! Let’s remember, that to experience something different we need to do something different. Happy 2021 to all of you!


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