What are you afraid of? You want to live the life of your dreams and break out of a life that might be good enough but not out-of-the-box awesome! But something is holding you back. Every move you make is hampered by fears of what could happen if you go out on a limb. You find yourself settling into mediocrity simply because you might be too afraid to reach out of your comfort zone to see what could happen if you tried for more. Tomorrow becomes your favorite word and you promise yourself that someday you’ll start working on those dreams you have in your heart.
Let’s talk about fear. According to Wikipedia, FEAR is “an emotion induced by a perceived threat which causes entities to quickly pull far away from it and usually hide. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger.”
In many cases, we humans feel fear as a way to protect ourselves from harm. If we weren’t afraid of getting killed by falling, we’d step off a cliff with no thought to our personal safety. If we weren’t afraid of our child getting hit by a car, we’d let him play next to a busy street without watching him.
In many cases, however, we feel irrational fear about things that might never happen. If we don’t learn to face these fears–and move beyond them–we won’t be able to live a full life of positive intention and purpose.
Let’s face it: we live in a culture of fear. Everyone has an agenda, something they want to sell you, and they prey on your very human tendency to be afraid of things. Governments cater to your fear of terrorism while they distract you from asking too many questions about public policy. Religion promises eternal damnation to people who step too far out of line. And advertisers sell you health care, health and beauty products, and trendy clothing because they know you’re afraid of getting sick, dying, getting old, or looking dowdy or fat.
We humans are afraid of just about everything: falling, heights, death, snakes, intimacy, rejection, public speaking, water, and terrorist attacks. We’re fearful we’ll look stupid, that we’ll be left alone, or that we’ll fail. Fear is a human response to our external environment but it is one of the biggest culprits for holding us down and keeping us from realizing our true destiny.
As Steve Jobs observed, “Our time is limited.” Why waste what little time we’ve been given by sitting passively in fear when we can be courageously living a life of well-being? Facing your personal demons is the only way to move past them. Once you face your fears, they aren’t fears any longer.
When we first planned our six month family sabbatical to Belize, my husband Kevin and I were extremely afraid of any of the number of things that could go wrong. “What if” was the way we started quite a lot of sentences in the months leading up to our departure. What if one of the kids got sick in a foreign country? What if something went wrong at home that we needed to attend to? What if we were kidnapped, or robbed? What if people thought we were crazy for doing this?
But an interesting thing happened. We decided to let go. We didn’t entirely let go of the fears, but rather just relaxed into them. We came up with contingency plans for what we would do “if” the “what if” actually happened. Nothing did. (Well, short of the one about people thinking we were insane–that did happen, but what fun would life be if we weren’t a little crazy around the edges?)
We learned that most fear is a deceptively thin veil that is, in reality, extremely easy to break through. While we set a plan in place that gave us as secure of an exit strategy as we could in the event anything went wrong while we were traveling, we also took somewhat of a risk. And, in taking that risk, we were richly rewarded with a new confidence about our life. We learned that fear is an illusion and that the only reason we are afraid is the fact that we feel like we have any control in the first place. Once we let go and gave up a significant measure of our own control, we found ourselves swept along on a tide of good things. While we were in Belize, we were healthier than ever before, we were smiling more, we made fast friends with the people we met, and we began to see possibilities in our lives that we didn’t know existed. Stepping through the thin veil of fear, for us, was the best thing we ever did in our lives–because that’s when we realized how good it was on the other side.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Because when you do this, you’ll be stronger and wiser and rewarded with a deeply satisfying life.
Every day you are a new person with a new life in front of you. Make the most of it. Don’t let fear get in the way.
What are you afraid of? How are your fears holding you back from doing what you love in life?