Fear is something that we all have known almost through our entire life. It’s most likely shown up in some way in your life every day. I can say I am no exception to this.
Our life is filled with this fear, and for some people, it can be paralyzing and others it can be enabling. Some people run right through it, and others shelter themselves when possible at the first sign of danger.
I remember in high school I could have been voted as the least likely to join the Marines. The thought of it scared me. Would I be enough? Am I strong enough? These were the thoughts running through my mind.
Despite this growing fear I had inside of me, I saw something on the other side of this wall of fear my mind had built up that excited me.
Sometimes we see this excitement and run right for it, others we shy away. What we don’t know as we grow up is how we process fear is a primal instinct. This instinct comes from the early days of humans when we had terrifying things to deal with like lions, tigers, and bears killing us.
Our brain is hardwired by design to keep us safe; we recognize fear as something that might harm us. We are trained to respond by stepping back. We enjoy that warm and cozy safe zone because 2000 years ago that kept us alive. This decision or reaction is called the fight or flight response.
Maybe this showed up in your dating life in high school or maybe the lack there of? Was there that one person you wish could have asked out but didn’t? Your brain wanted to keep you safe from humiliation, so it triggered the flight response.
The problem is our brain has never received an upgrade to the hardware to change how its wired. In the modern age, the most dangerous thing sometimes in our life can be a paper cut. We end up triggering our flight response when it could be the best opportunity to show up in our life, but because we might fall flat on our face, we run away.
I didn’t learn about this science until a few years ago, but since then I have been slowly adapting my decisions to recognize that the more something scares me, many cases this is a sign that it could be something amazing. It is a battle every day, as I am fighting against our brains core wiring, but embracing the fear to seek growth, either positive or through failure is still worth trying.
We all know examples in our life where the fear inside of our head is so great we decided that it’s better to be “just ok” then to see what is on the other side.
For me, the fear of being judged by others has driven me away from some opportunities that are looking back ones I wish I would have taken. What I didn’t realize, and this was something that only recently has started to make sense is how much fear is just an illusion.
People have fear as an instinct to protect us from say a hot stove or but it works the same for when you might need to quit your job to be happy. Not knowing the difference for each moment and working with fear differently in our life can be the distinction between success and mediocre.
Fear as a physical object doesn’t exist, but yet our minds perceive it almost as something defined within the laws of physics. I believe one of the reasons, so many successful people have stories of true hardships in their beginning is because they saw fear through different lenses. This lens allows them to act where others don’t simply because they know what the worst-case scenario is and most likely lived it.
Veterans have fear show up right from day 1. The military just removed the nice warm and cozy feeling we had, and it’s now up to us. It can be easy to become overwhelmed, and in the cases of so many veterans, we become lost. I write this post not to scare you about what fear can do to your life unmanaged, but to show how it might be holding you back.
Two of the easiest tools I use to work through these walls of fear are, get a better gut feeling about something. I educate myself daily so that I am ready to make the best decision when the moments come.
The second tool is just to do it; I recently had a big project at work that scared me to what the outcome might be, it was completely new to me, way outside my comfort zone. I remembered the road to success is not paved with only success; it must be paved with failures and successes. My approach was to potentially fail big because I would have an equal amount of growth following it.
Recognize what scares the hell of you and then lean into it, you may not always find what you expected, but showing up and putting the effort in is what counts.
Sometimes we can only discover the next good idea when we have failed at the first one.
If you enjoyed this blog post, be sure to subscribe to future updates on the right hand side of this page.
Also published on Medium.