There’s one thing I’d love for you to take away from this post, and it is this:
Fear has the power to ruin your life. Understanding this has the power to change your life.
Fear is the biggest obstacle to living a full life. It holds us back from:
- Connecting with people
- Trying new things
- Taking chances
- Being humble
- Embracing challenges
- Being okay with being uncomfortable
Not so coincidentally, these are the very things we need to live a full life.
But what if we could understand our fears? What if we could mitigate them? What would life look like if we didn’t live in fear? If we can remove Fear from the equation, we would be free, kind, energetic, bold, humble, loving, empathetic, and ultimately, happy.
The specter of fear looms large, and it’s often a self-inflicted wound. Fear comes in the form of an inflated ego (often powered by a deep insecurity) that craves more and more. It comes in the form of a scarcity mindset, making us believe that if someone else wins, we lose, breeding jealousy.
Wasting time and energy on fearing things we don’t control only feeds the beast. The more we fear, the more likely it is that what we fear will happen. While fear might drive us, it often blinds us, preventing us from being present and enjoying life’s richness. Take a second right now to think about what you fear today, what’s stressing you out? Where does that fear come from?
Obviously some fear is warranted, like the fear that we might one day lose our loved ones. When contemplating this type of fear, I challenge you to understand that you only have a finite amount of time with your loved ones, and every second dwelling on fear is a second you could have spent being present and connecting with them. Understand the fear, and then push it aside to make room for living.
Understanding fear is about recognizing it, confronting it, and then overcoming it. When you’re fearful, dive into it. Tim Ferriss famously practiced “Fear Setting,” where he’d sit down and ponder the worst-case scenario in great detail. More often than not the picture he painted wasn’t nearly as bad as he feared, and certainly didn’t warrant the amount of fear and stress he gave it. It’s like when you’re a little kid and you’re afraid of a monster in the closet. You can lie awake all night scared that any second the monster will jump out. Or you can get up and look in the closet and see what you’re so afraid of. Most times, no monster.
The next thing we can do is to be grateful for what we have. If we can truly appreciate what we have in the present, we aren’t so afraid of not getting what we want in the future (which is where much fear and stress come from).
Curiosity also helps to mitigate fear. When things don’t go our way, instead of adopting a “woe is me, I’m a victim” mentality, try adopting a super curious mentality. Why didn’t it go my way? What can I do in the future to make it go my way?
The last thing we can do is to only want what we truly want. In my opinion, a lot of stress and fear comes from not attaining certain things that society dictates we should have, be that money, houses, status, etc. We kill ourselves trying to get these things, but do we really want them? The answer is probably yes, but to what degree? What do we need to be truly happy, and what’s the excess on top that we think we need but actually don’t? Imagine eliminating the stress and fear caused by trying to get the excess.
Allow me to share a favorite parable to illustrate this point:
One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.
About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach, trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. “You aren’t going to catch many fish that way,” said the businessman to the fisherman.
“You should be working rather than lying on the beach!”
The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, “And what will my reward be?”
“Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!” was the businessman’s answer. “And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman, still smiling. The businessman replied, “You will make money and you’ll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!”
“And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman again.
The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman’s questions. “You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!” he said.
“And then what will my reward be?” repeated the fisherman.
The businessman was getting angry. “Don’t you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!”
Once again the fisherman asked, “And then what will my reward be?”
The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, “Don’t you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won’t have a care in the world!”
The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “And what do you think I’m doing right now?”
Write down one thing you’re afraid of right now. Then write out the worst case scenario in great detail. Then make contingency plans for all that can go wrong. Then write down all the great reasons that worst case scenario might have happened.
I’m scared that I won’t get the job I want to apply for. Then my current boss will find out I’m looking for another job and I’ll be fired. Then I’ll lose my house. My partner will leave me. I’ll have to move back in with my parents.
What can I do to mitigate:
Reach out directly to the CEO of the new company on LinkedIn to introduce myself
Prepare for and crush the interview
Analyze my finances and figure out what i need to keep my house
Look at the housing market to figure out what i can afford if i lose my house
Great things that can result if this worst case scenario happens:
I find my dream job in a totally different industry.
I’m not tied down and can move anywhere I want.
Maybe my boss learns that I’m not happy and makes an effort to keep me.
I’m now forced to start the business that I always wanted to start.
I meet the right partner who will support me unconditionally.
I get to spend more time with my parents, who only have so many years left.