From the beginning of time fear has been the strongest motivational drive.
Fear is a built-in self-defense mechanism that has served us for thousands of years to avoid danger. Fear protected our ancestors from wild animals and enemy tribes. We lived, because of fear.
Nowadays fear no longer serves us as well as it did a couple of thousand years ago. We no longer face the danger of meeting an angry buffalo on our way to work. We no longer have to be afraid of getting killed by an enemy tribe when we travel across the country. We no longer have to go deep inside wild forests to find food for our children.
In the course of evolution, together with modern technologies our fear has transformed itself. Instead of having strong spikes of fear that pass as soon as the danger is gone, most of us live in a constant state of worry. With physical danger no longer present, we have switched our focus from real life danger to hypothetic future danger.
Now we are a lot more worried about losing our job, having to speak in front of a large audience of people, not being able to send our kids to college, or our spouse coming home late at night, than we are of being attacked by a wild animal.
According to this years’ statistics, the top ten American fears are:
1. Public speaking
3. Confined spaces
6. Tunnels and bridges
8. Public transportation (especially airplanes)
10. Water (as in swimming and drowning)
Did you notice that a fear of death is not even on the list?!
And even though there is no real threat to our life in everyday situations, our mind is still in a constant state of “searching for danger” actively looking for a reason to feel anxious.
They say the eyes of fear see danger everywhere. And this is true. Fear is an extremely powerful emotion. And as any emotion it changes how we perceive the world. Even such a great event as winning the lottery or getting a dream job can be viewed differently. You may feel happy and enthusiastic, or you may look at it through the lens of fear and spend your time worrying and creating scenarios about how you may lose what you already have.
Danger of fear…
Over the years I have heard every possible excuse for why people do not want to pursue their goals: “it’s outside of my comfort zone”, “it is not wise to switch jobs right now”, “I need to support my family”, “what if I fail?”, “what if my friends don’t like me anymore?”, “I am too old to change anything”, “I guess I am just not … enough (you can fill in the blank)”. I have probably used half of these excuses myself.
All these stories that we repeatedly tell ourselves have one common denominator – you’ve guessed it!- FEAR!
Over the years fear has become our ultimate prison that makes us settle for something that only slightly resembles true life.
How to deal with fear?
The best way to conquer fear is to understand it. And that is what we will do right now.
Go ahead take a piece of paper and write down one goal that you have been dreaming of achieving for a long time. Now list your 3 biggest fears connected to this goal.
What happens if you try and fail? Visualize the worst possible outcome…
Fear’s main purpose is to protect us from the bad things that could happen to us. So what is your mind trying to protect you from? Failure, disappointment, stress, or extra work? Is it really that scary?
Do you think you will survive and get through this situation, no matter how unpleasant it may seem? I think you will. You always have.
It is actually ironic how we spend days, weeks, even years dreading that something bad will happen to us or people that we love. But when it actually happens we have no time to be afraid, because all of our concentration and energy goes to finding a solution and resolving the problem. We may feel really scared for a few seconds, but then our survival mechanisms kick in and we act.
Let’s say you are afraid to invest a lot of time and effort into a goal that you want, and then still fail to achieve it? So what?!
Yes, it is unpleasant. Yes, your ego will suffer for a little while. Yes, you will have to start from the beginning. But this time you will have learned a valuable lesson and you will have the knowledge and experience that you did not have before. As a result you will be able to make wiser choices in the future and you WILL have your HAPPY ENDING!
Keep in mind that what makes you truly successful is not an absence of fear. It is your ability to face your fears and take action anyway!