Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself

Fear is what keeps you from taking a deadly step forward.
Image Source: Flickr: Erik Cleves Kristensen
Those words were spoken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his first inaugural address.  He was rallying a scared nation who had lost everything to the Great Depression.  He wanted them to stop dwelling on the destruction, the pain, and the turmoil of the past, but boldly move the country forward towards restoration.

The Purpose of Fear

Fear is actually a fantastic mechanism.  It causes adrenaline to surge through you body giving you strength to fight or flight.  Fear keeps your body safe.  When you lean over a cliff and you feel your heart pounding in your chest and your stomach feels like it's dropping, it is a warning sign to be careful.
Fear keeps us from making bad decisions like putting all of our eggs in one basket or doing something that would cause bodily harm.  The beauty of fear is that it can be harnessed.
"I am not fearless. I get scared plenty. But I have also learned how to channel that emotion to sharpen me." 
-Bear Gryllls 
That's coming from a man whose job puts him in the danger zone on a daily basis.  He's learned to turn fear on its head and use it as a weapon against making a fatal mistake.

Taking Fear Too Far 

If you don't control fear in a healthy way, it can freeze you into an irrational state of inaction.  Fear becomes problematic when you mentally explode the consequences out of proportion.  Most of the time, actually doing the thing you are afraid of is less painful and problematic than you think.  It's like riding a roller coaster.  The minute it takes the coaster train to chug its way up the hill, feels like the longest minute of your life.  You get higher and higher, wondering if you've made the right decision to board the ride.  You get to the top and the anticipation of the coaster making the perilous drop is almost too much to bare.  You scream, you close your eyes, you make peace with God.  A few loops and a minute later, you have a smile that won't wipe off of your face and you shout out, "Again!" and jump back in line.  Often the anticipation is worse than the actual experience.

The mole hills prepare us for the mountains.
Image Source: Flickr: Lampertron; CC-BY-ND-2.0- Unchanged
What is the Worst Case Scenario?

When making the choice between the safe harbor and the open sea, what you might find helpful is to rationalize the worst case scenario.  For instance, the idea of moving out into your first apartment might seem very intimidating, and you will be tempted to think of the billion ways the universe will smite you for making such a bold decision.  In actuality, the worst case scenario is:

  • In a year you will be out a few thousand dollars 
  • You might not be on speaking terms with your roommate 
  • You might burn the place down  
When you break it down like that, you can easily see that each of those "problems" can both be prevented, and fixed if they occur. 
  • Money is just money and can be made back.  You can easily cut your coast by living simply.. 
  • Pick a good roommate, but if you do have conflicts, they are great opportunities for learning the art of communication and learning how to deal with difficult people.  Most of us will spend the majority of our lives living with other people, so learn to deal. 
  • Seriously, get renters or liability insurance.  It usually cost $20-30 a month and then you don't have to worry about it. 
Take a Little Risk

While sometimes you need to just jump in with both feet, most big decisions and actions can be gradually implemented.  

Want to travel the world?  
 Instead of blindly going at it, use those credit card points to book a weekend in another state.  See how you do by myself.  It will be a great exercise in seeing if you have what it takes.  If you can't handle a solo weekend in Denver, quitting your job to live in Bali for a year might be a stretch.
Just take the plunge.
Image Source: Flickr: Steven Worster
Want to start a company? 
Build your portfolio, your client list, or gain funding doing it part time and quit your day job when you begin to see success. 

Taking little risks will give you the confidence to take bigger risks.  Nobody climbs Everest for their first assent.  Most of life is spend learning life's lessons on the bunny slopes, so that when we hit the double black diamonds, we use those skills to keep all of our bones intact. 

Life With No Fear

What risks would you take if you knew you wouldn't fail?  Would you finally write that book, take that trip, learn a new hobby?  If only you could see the future and see that everything works out in the end.  Honestly, most of the time it does, and the bumps along the way make us stronger.  Don't be foolish, but don't let a little fear stop you from doing what you were made to do.  Have a little faith, hedge your bets as best you can, and take the plunge.  It's really not that high, I swear.

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