“…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” –Franklin Delano Roosevelt (first inauguration address, 1933)
Fear can motivate. Fear can paralyze. It can save your life. Unfortunately, it can also control your life.
Here’s a list of fears to consider:
- Public Speaking
- Death (I’m pretty sure a lot of people fear the first three more than death)
- Not Being Accepted
- the Unknown
- the Dark
- New Experiences
- Being Blamed
- Open Spaces
- Anywhere but Home
- Confined Spaces
I know people who have each of these fears. I have some of them, and I’m sure you have some as well.
Fear is generated in our Lizard Brain . That primitive part of our brain that keeps us alive while we’re thinking about other stuff. Our Lizard Brain means well, and only has our best interest in mind. It’s the center of our survival instinct. It will do anything it can to help us avoid the things we fear. Unfortunately, it’s part of our brain that we barely control.
One way to gain control of our fear is to discover, and admit, that it exists. That, and admitting our fears impact the things we choose to do (or not do). It may help to discuss your fears with someone you trust, or to contemplate them on your own. Either way, understanding your fears is the first step toward controlling them.
Consider a ten-year-old, standing in right field. He knows that he’s in that position because he’s the worst player on the team. Fly balls rarely make it to right field in little league games, so he’s safe out there. What happens when the ball flies into right field? What’s the first thing on that ten-year-old’s mind? Probably something like, “Please don’t let me screw this up and drop the ball.” His first thought comes from a place of fear. Did he catch the ball? Did he make the right play once he had the ball? Maybe, but doubtful.
Imagine the same player who knows he’s in right field because he’s the only player who can make the throw all the way to third base. He has a gun for an arm, and he may be the best player on the team. What’s he thinking when the ball flies into right field? “I can’t wait to get that ball so I can make the play. We are going to stop this rally and win the game!” Fear isn’t part of the equation. Did he catch the ball? Did he make the right play? Probably.
Fear creates completely different experiences for these ten-year-olds. The secret is that this applies at all ages, in nearly everything we do.
How many of your goals are “off limits” because you’re afraid? How many potential goals are eliminated by fear (your Lizard Brain), before you even know about them?
How often is fear your first response? How often do you talk yourself out of something that’s outside your comfort zone? It’s easy to do…avoiding fear is a powerful motivation.
Start small. Choose one thing that scares you and go after it. Embrace the negative energy of fear and turn retreat into advance. Each time you do this, your list of fears will shrink.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
Do it today!