What’s between you and accomplishing your goals?
Many times it’s fear.
“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
The fear of failure…
and the fear of success.
The fear of not being good enough…
and the fear of being too good and losing people we love.
Fear comes in many variations. But the outcome is usually this: Fear stops us in our tracks before we even got started.
Evolutionary fear has an important primal function: to keep us safe. But since most of the time, we are not being chased by a saber-toothed tiger, fear tends to hold us back more than it protects us.
You might think… Fear? Me? I’m not afraid!
But I invite you to look more closely and you will often find that fear comes dressed up as excuses, procrastination, and perfectionism. All of these very common coping strategies are there to mask our fear and make us feel better about not taking action towards achieving our goals. (Excuses like “I won’t succeed anyway. My dream is totally unrealistic.”)
You know the famous saying “feel the fear and do it anyway?” Well, today I want to encourage you to take it to the next level.
Using fear as your inner compass.
Fear is not our enemy. Fear gives us a unique window into our souls because it is often what we most fear — that we most deeply want.
- Are you afraid of closeness and intimacy? Well, you may actually want nothing more badly than being close to another human being.
- Are you afraid of never starting that business you have been talking about? Well, maybe it’s really important to you, and you should just go for it.
- Are you afraid of being stuck in a job that makes you miserable? It’s time to move on and find a new job!
Think about it… Instead of pushing fear away like the mean fat bully in school, let fear guide you. It’s showing you the direction of your heart. Feeling fear is good. Fear often means that you are onto something outside of your comfort zone. Your inner truth is wrapped in fear.
If your work is truly a reflection of who you are as a person, it feels scary and vulnerable to put yourself out there. I feel this fear most days when I share something with the world I deeply care about. But I try not to let it stop me. Because it might just help one person. It wasn’t always like that though. In my 20s I believed that fear means I should stop. Fear = bad. There were many moments in my life in which I had the choice: to be governed by fear or to break free and go after my dreams. Many times I chickened out. But other times I was brave enough.
Was I afraid to quit my stable job and start my own company? Hell yeah!
It was one of the scariest things I have ever done. And I am not saying that this is the path for everyone at all. But it was right for me. It has also been one of the best and most rewarding experiences. Fear led me here and I am so glad I did not let it stop me from pursuing my passion.
Many people believe that we should aspire to be fearless. But they got it wrong because fear is our fuel and only psychopaths don’t feel fear. Fear is human. And it is an indicator that you are fully alive.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
— Nelson Mandela
As Mandela said, fear needs to be conquered, not eliminated. Think about fear as currently sitting in the driver seat of your life. Could you unbuckle the fear and throw it in the backseat, turn up the music loud and let fear just be without reacting to it? Could you tune out its debilitating voice?
I know it’s scary and uncomfortable. But it’s so worth it. Because that’s the ONLY way to be true to yourself and to live a life without regrets.
This comic by Grant Snider illustrates my message beautifully.
What are you most afraid of? And what is that telling you about what you most desire?