Fear restricts, handicaps and even ruins so many lives.
Fear is a bully and a terrorist. And fear has to be handled the way we handle bullies and terrorists: we don’t give in to them.
It’s as simple as a decision.
If you don’t want to be held to ransom by your fears, you have to decide every day that you won’t give them an inch. Because the nature of fear is that if you give it an inch, it will take a mile.
It really is that simple. (Which is not the same as easy. Two very different things!)
Fear tricks you. It’s a master of disguise. It’ll dress itself up as logic and reason, providing ample reasons not to do something and equipping you with all the obstacles you’ll ever need to completely block your own path. Fear has a problem for every solution and can come up with excuses till the cows come home.
Have you ever looked at something you’d deep down love to do and thought ‘oh I’d love to BUT’… ‘oh that sounds great but I CAN’T ’… ‘oh it’s not for me BECAUSE’…. And then you leave it there rather than figuring out a way around those obstacles? You let yourself off the hook because you found an adequate excuse?
Uh-huh. And that’s because those are fear-based obstacles and excuses that fear really doesn’t want you to start workshopping ways around. In fact it will probably get pretty snappy if you – or anyone else – tries. Fear wants you safe and stuck and trapped in your box thank you very much. And every time you give in to fear you shrink a little bit, and it makes it that much harder to stand up to fear the next time.
But what are the consequences of giving into fear? Here’s a nasty little exercise. Picture yourself ten years from now, in a future where you’ve said ‘nah’ to ALL your fears, and done what you wanted to do in spite of them. Grab a pen and paper, set a timer for five minutes, and write freestyle about how that life, that version of you, looks, feels, behaves, lives. Don’t censor yourself, just write.
And now do the opposite. Write for five minutes about a future, ten years from now, where you keep giving into your fears and hiding from all the things that you’d like to do but which instead you invent obstacles and makes excuses around. Write freestyle about how that life, that version of you, looks, feels, behaves, lives.
Now, read through both versions.
I once heard it said that hell is where the person you are meets the person you could have become. That’s what giving in to fear does to a life.
Notice I don’t say it’s what fear itself does to a life. It’s what giving in to it does. Everyone has fear. It’s whether you stand up to it or give in, that makes all the difference.
When you give in to fear, all that happens is you avoid the feeling until next time. Trouble is, the more you give in, the more frequent the next times become, until you’re living in a perpetual state of fear. The very thing you’ve tried so hard to avoid becomes your permanent state.
When you stand up to fear and ‘do it anyway’, two things happen. One, you survive (yes, you will) and you realise that the fear itself was worse than the actual doing of the thing that you were fearful about. And two, you become a little less afraid of the next thing. Your fears become fewer, and smaller, the more you stand up to them.
Now clearly, if you’ve lived your life governed by fear up to this point, it’s a bit of an ask to suddenly do everything that you’ve ever backed away from, made excuses to avoid, or invented obstacles around. Courage – because that’s what standing up to fear is – is like a muscle, and you have to train it gradually by starting small, really small. What’s the smallest thing that you don’t do because of fear? Is there a food that you haven’t tried because you might not like it? Is there a route to work that you think might be quicker but it’s unfamiliar? Is there a class at the gym that you like the sound of but you hate being the newbie?
(I bet the ‘yes buts’ are starting up already, right?)
Remember the ten year exercise. Hell is where the person you are meets the person you could have become.
Your life in ten years is the sum of every little thing you do now. You write your own story, on the basis of how often you give in to fear – and so shrink a little – or how often you stand up to fear, gather up your courage and say: ‘Nah. No excuses, no obstacles – I’m doing it anyway’.