“Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.” “Fear kills us time and time again.” “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
A lot of people know that the last one was a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt. Most of them forget the rest of it, though: “- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Everyone has fears. The problem is allowing allow fear to be in control of your life. Fear takes over your ability to think clearly. When your mind is clouded with fear, you lose the ability to make decisions, and without decisions, you can’t act. It is this ability to prevent action that gives fear the reputation of being a killer.
Some people are afraid to do something because they’ve never done it before. What if I fail? What if I can’t do it? Why should I do it if no one else is doing it? These are natural questions to ask, but you should recognize that you might not actually be asking anything. For a lot of people, “What if I fail?” is the most they let their minds get. They don’t actually attempt to answer the question! It just becomes a demoralizing mantra.
Questions are tools. You use questions to learn things you don’t know. Leaving them unanswered is a terrible joke on your own mind. You’ll constantly worry about the question, but somehow you’ll also forget about seeking the answers.
When I’m afraid, I try to focus on the fear. I find that fear is usually the result of a lack of clarity and information. When I was younger, the monsters in my closet were only scary because I didn’t think about how they got there in the first place. Why would monsters materialize just because the lights went out? Why would they show up in the closet of all places? Why haven’t the authorities taken action to protect people from closet monsters? Now, you can’t expect a child to know to ask these questions, but these kinds of questions don’t get asked when the child grows up, either.
“What if I fail?” Well, what if you do fail? Honestly sit down with yourself and start thinking! What is the worst that can happen? You learned how not to do something? Is that really so bad? The worst case scenario is still a plus for you, but until you realize that fact, failing is still going to be scary. Unfortunately, most people don’t think past the “What if” part, and they can’t make progress because they’ve already let fear defeat them. Once you can start thinking about your reasons for being afraid, you can start thinking about more productive things. “What if I fail?” becomes “What can I do to reduce my risk?”, which is a much more productive question to ask. The answer to questions like this one becomes your next action, and taking action is what will make all the difference.
The fear of failing will paralyze you. I think it is an even bigger failure to let fear prevent you from attempting something than to actually fail in the attempt. For example, starting a business is scary for a lot of people. Starting a business doing something that no one has done before is scarier. Starting a business doing something no one has done before in a market that no one thinks exists is terrifying. But don’t let that fear scare you from doing it. Don’t let fear prevent you from taking those needed actions to advance. Recognize your fears, but don’t let them rule your life.
As Mark Twain said, “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.”