I have many fears. I fear being bored, the office cubicle, being broke, not having fun, a slow and painful death (but not death itself), not being able to travel, working for someone else the rest of my life, Chicago winters (seriously), and, especially, not being able to do what I love for a living.
Do you have any fears?
The thing is, though, I’ve learned to embrace my fear and make it my friend, not the enemy. In fact, my fears have become my greatest motivator and one of my greatest assets. With only 69 years left to live I can’t afford to have many enemies.
Everywhere we turn there’s a sign or a t-shirt or a quote, including scripture from some of the world’s leading religions, telling us to “have no fear.”
While these things are well intentioned, it’s not exactly the best advice.
For one thing, it’s impossible NOT to have fear of some kind. Secondarily, fear is very much needed and very helpful when trying to live a better life or when you’re trying to create a life by your own design.
In short, fear promotes progress.
Without fear you may not be progressing toward your goals, your dreams, or your ideal lifestyle as quickly as you could.
No, I’m not saying you should succumb to fear and not face it or fight it. I am saying quite the opposite. I look at fear from the positive and productive angle not the negative angle of “you’re weak if you have fear.”
Michael Jordan once said, “Fear is an obstacle for some people, but it is an illusion for me.” I’m not sure he meant it the way I interpreted it, but it’s quite fitting that he said fear is an illusion.
Here’s what I mean.
While yes, an illusion means something doesn’t really exist, it still appears very real to the person seeing the illusion. Therefore, Jordan acknowledges (maybe unbeknownst to him) that he sees a semblance of fear, he just won’t let that fear be a permanent obstacle that impedes his progress, therefore it’s an illusion but something he still has to deal with.
I’ve befriended my fear and it’s had a huge impact on my progression towards the life I want to live as an adventure travel TV host on a major network. I’d advise you to do the same.
Here is why fear is NOT your enemy:
1. Fear Prevents Us From Being Trapped
The number one reason I love fear is because it often indicates that I’m getting trapped. When I feel trapped that means it’s time for me to grow and stretch beyond my comfort zone to bigger and better things. I’ve experienced many situations where I feel “trapped” which has produced some kind of fear to arise. It was not comfortable at the time, but with that fear I would not have been able to remove myself from a “trapped” situation, a move that 99.7% of the time put me into better opportunities.
We all have felt trapped in bad situations before and often times we do nothing about it. This could be a bad relationship with a significant other or friend, or it could be job situation or something else. Undoubtedly, fear is working on you from many different angles while in these situations, trying to tell you it’s time to do something so that you’re no longer trapped.
Acknowledge it and then “un-trap” yourself.
2. Fear Forces Us To Prepare Better For And Add More Value To Our Relationships
The current company that I work for (i.e. my day job while I attempt to get my dream job as adventure travel TV host) is going through a transition period. The CEO that hired me has been removed and a new one brought in. The first question from the new CEO was, “What is it that you do here?” I took that as, “What kind of value do you bring to this company and is it worth keeping you around?”
Not exactly the most re-assuring question to be asked so there’s a sense of fear that I could lose my job. What that did, though, was force me to better prepare for my conversations with the new CEO and prove my value and add more to the relationship. In turn, I’m more knowledgeable, more confident, and actually less worried about losing my job.
Fear has a way of making sure we’re ready to prove our worth. It’s not always fun defending yourself and what you actually bring to the table, but sometimes it’s necessary so that we’re operating at our highest level.
3. Fear Makes Us More Creative
I’ve been broke before. Yes, completely out of money. The fear of living on the streets of Chicago in the dead of winter helped me get creative so that I could dig myself out of my situation and on to success.
When we’re comfortable we tend to find ways to get lazy in our creativity. Think about it. When you have a safe, secure job and everything is peachy keen in life there’s no need to get creative, making it easy to go through the motions. Yet, creativity is a major component to, you guessed it, creating a life by you own design. Welcome fear and get creative.
4. Fear Pushes Us Beyond Our Limits
When I was planning my move from Cleveland to Chicago I applied for an inside sales job in a cubicle. I interviewed, got the job, and then feared living in a cubicle the rest of my life so much that I withdrew my name. I then feared not being able to find another job in Chicago so I called back and changed my mind and accepted the job. I then had even more fear of living in a cubicle the rest of my life and, you guessed it, I declined the job for a second time.
Yes, the company was pissed. I didn’t care, though, because it forced me to go outside of the comfort zone of a steady paycheck in favor of a 100% commission only job as a real estate agent where I learned 100’s of more skills. I was pushed beyond my comfort zone, one that probably wouldn’t have been breached without my fear of the cubicle.
Just outside of our comfort zones is a wealth of knowledge and opportunity, but we need to break out in order to experience it. Love fear because it has the ability to provide you 100’s of new skills and opportunities that you might not receive within your comfort zone.
5. Fear Will Callous Us For Faster Growth
Every time I fear something, it’s usually an unpleasant experience. That is, until I make it through and realize that the fear really was an illusion. I’ve been broke, lost jobs, failed miserably, and I’ve feared enough that, quite frankly, I’ve become calloused and hardened to the potential outcomes that fear alludes to. The experience of fear is no longer as permanent and, like Jordan said, they’re now illusions and no longer obstacles.
Dealing with fear is not fun by any means, but the more you encounter it and deal with it the easier it gets to handle, the faster you overcome it, and the more confident you can become.
6. Fear Requires Us To Act
The best part about fear is that it forces action. All five of the previous points require action in some capacity. I didn’t always realize that fear was a good way to get me to act, so when it finally dawned on me that fear was helping me progress I began using it to my advantage and have continued to do so ever since.
I actually get this different and unique gut feeling, plus a slight anxiety when fear is present, signaling to me that I need to act and act now. I welcome it with open arms.
I’m confident that we’ve stressed the importance of action throughout this blog. Without action nothing happens. Taking action, though, is one of the hardest things to do in life. But we can’t expect to create the life we want without taking action. When fear rears it’s ugly head, use it as chance to remind yourself that you’re being invited to act.
The best way to destroy the illusion of fear is to act upon it.
Fear is inevitable, but the angle in which it’s viewed differentiates those who are not living a life by their own design and those who are.
“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.” –Steven Pressfield The War of Art, 79
Next time you see a dude (or lady) wearing one of those “No Fear” shirts maybe you should go up to them and kindly let them know that fear can actual be an awesome motivator.
Fear isn’t there to stop you; it’s there to tell you that you are about to grow. Use it productively.
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