Most people, if asked, will tell you they want to lead successful, fulfilling, meaningful lives. We have goals, dreams, and ambitions. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. Why is it that so many of us fall short? Certainly, there are things that can occur that are out of our control and hinder pursuing that dream or impl ementing that great idea. However, one of the biggest obstacles to stepping out on the journey to make our dreams a reality is Fear!
Fear holds so many of us back from pursuing our dreams. As noted, occasionally there are other issues involved, but few of them are as strong an obstacle as fear.
Minister, and author, Charles Stanley, says this about fear: “Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.”
Fear of the unknown, fear of those who are different, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of change. The list is virtually endless of the things we fear. When fear takes control of us, it gives birth to anger, hatred, doubt, and even depression. It saps the life energy right out of you, making any chances of living the life you truly desire virtually impossible.
Scott Allen, in The Discipline of Masters writes: “Often it is not the fear of what will happen that scares us the most; rather, it is the doubt of our own ability to handle the situation when and if it does happen. We are afraid of ourselves, afraid that we won’t be able to find a solution to deal with a fearful situation when it happens.”
Fear has its proper place. A quote attributed to singer, actress, songwriter and producer, Queen Latifah says: “Fear can be good when you’re walking past an alley at night or when you need to check the locks on your doors before you go to bed, but it’s not good when you have a goal and you’re fearful of obstacles. We often get trapped by our fears, but anyone who has had success has failed before.”
Natural instinctive fear is a reaction to threatening situations or those that have the potential to cause us harm. It is the fight or flight spontaneous result of an immediate threat. Those situations are external and momentary. When the threat passes, the fear subsides. This type of fear is a basic and important survival instinct.
It is the unnatural fear, the fear we generate from within, that imprisons us and stops us from pursuing our goals and dreams. This fear is not a reaction to a real external threat; it lives within our own thought process. We are literally creating it ourselves and allowing it to determine our actions or lack thereof. It becomes the greatest barrier to even attempting to achieve our dreams. This is the obstacle we need to overcome.
So, what can we do we address this fear? A few suggestions.
For starters, we can acknowledge that we are creating it. We are not responding to an actual threat to our health or safety. Instead, we have created and attached a negative, painful association to what failing to achieve a goal means. By visualizing having that imaginary thing happening and being fearful of going through the experience, we choose to play it safe, protecting ourselves from whatever we have determined “falling short” means. We do this for so long it becomes a habitual part of life that we are no longer consciously aware of. Acknowledging this brings us to conscious awareness.
Once we acknowledge we are allowing fear to hamper our life, we can redefine what it means. Instead of fear being a negative, we can turn it into a positive. Notice I am not saying we can eliminate fear, we can just turn it around. It is just as easy to imagine what the experience of reaching or goals would feel like as it is to imagine failing. It takes the same amount of mental energy. If we were to redefine fear as the indicator that we are about to grow to a new level; that we are about to reach new heights, we can use that energy to work for us rather than against us. Anyone who has reached admirable levels of success will tell you that fear was part of the experience. The difference is how they handled the fear. The difference is in recognizing that fear is a prerequisite and indicator of growth. Moving out of a comfort zone means experiencing a bit of fear.
Which leads to my last suggestion, as Susan Jeffers would say, “feel the fear and do it anyway”. As previously noted, successful people do experience fear. It appears as if they have it all together, and when we compare ourselves, we fall short and feel inadequate. The difference is that they do not allow the fear to stop them. They feel the fear, define what it means in a positive light, and do it anyway. We see the result, but we do not see the process.
Life does not waste our experiences. It is better to fail in trying to reach a goal than failing to try at all. Even if you do not make it, it will not be a waste, you will learn something by going through the process. But there is always the chance that you just might make it, which would be even better. But if you do not try, you will never know.
Do not leave this world with regrets, wondering what would have happened if only I tried. Live your life to the fullest. Feel the fear, redefine it, and do it anyway!