Why do we choose to give up on our goals?
Why can we so easily make one decision, while another might cause us whole days worth of agony?
These are the questions I began to ask when I was researching for my New Year's Resolutions article.
There was a common theme: Fear.
As a teacher, I see great examples of true fear in the Kindergarten classroom.
When the kids are away from the safety of mommy and daddy, a choice between an apple or a banana is torturous, and a walk to the restrooms can become an expedition through the Inferno itself.
Many fretful tears are shed.
Mr. Ethan leaves work exhausted.
Our minds are amazing, though. When determined, humans are capable of achieving extraordinary things.
Mind over matter, never surrender.
Our minds can just as easily keep us from reaching our goals.
I'm afraid I might fail, so I won't try at all.
How many dreams have been squashed thanks to doubt?
How many Einsteins, Bill Gates', or Elon Musks gave in to fear and faded into obscurity, rather than conquering doubt and changing the world for the better?
Too many, I say.
I've been afraid before. I've been a victim of doubt and indecisiveness.
I've learned many lessons because of it, and I'd like to share some of those lessons with you.
Here are my 3 tips to vanquishing fear that could relieve you, or force you to rethink how you deal with fear, or maybe even help you to overcome your fears in the future.
Ready to get busy?
"If you want to conquer fear, don't sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy."
1. Remember: it's okay to be afraid sometimes.
You should be concerned if you aren't afraid now and then. Fear is often viewed as weakness, but everyone suffers it.
We are all a victim of fear.
Some people can learn to control their fear, but almost none of us can be rid of it entirely. It is the most primal emotion, and it really does suck, but it's there for a reason. It keeps us from jumping off cliffs, or wandering into a dangerous forest at night.
While fear keeps us alive, it also keeps us from reaching our true potential.
Instead of viewing fear as the stranger who must be avoided, treat him like an old friend.
Recognize his inevitable visits, listen to what he has to say, but don't take all his advice.
Fear will come to visit.
He will challenge us, and he will fill us with uncertainty.
We can always send him packing if he's overstayed his welcome.
2. Find out what you're really afraid of.
Be rational. Get to the root of your fear.
When I was a kid, I was terrified of our side yard. In the night, I'd hear noises and rustles. I imagined a beast or a horrible monster lived there.
One day, I was taking out the garbage when the rustling began. I was too close to flee. My heart stopped. I knew I was about to encounter the beast of my nightmares.
To my surprise, the neighbor's fluffy grey cat rounded the corner and sat down before me. He swung his tail back and forth and waited patiently for me to pat him.
When we encounter 'the unknown', and when we're afraid, we become illogical.
Fight or flight kicks into gear and our mind responds accordingly.
When the fear departs and our common sense returns, we usually think to ourselves, that was dumb.
While emotion is a critical factor during decisions, and our gut feeling is sometimes correct, we shouldn't toss logic aside. Ask yourself instead what's really holding you back.
Why are you afraid? Do you even know?
Maybe you'll find the beast lurking in the backyard is actually only a lonely kitty.
We don't always have to listen to fear.
3. Sometimes, you just need to go for it.
We start with a decision. We're probably feeling uncertain.
We weigh out our options, then the implications of each choice. If we find ourselves at an impasse, we search for the root of that hesitancy (like we did with fear).
My Junior year of college, I had to decide whether or not to study abroad in Germany. It had been a dream of mine for many years. Though the cost was great, it was possible, but I kept telling myself I couldn't afford it.
There's no way I can make this work.
In reality, I was terrified. I wasn't sure I'd survive so far from home.
Instead, I just went for it.
It ended up being the best experience of my life, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
Usually, we know in the back of our minds which choice is the right one.
Stop thinking so hard, pick, and go for it.
Click here for my Go For It blog post and the story that goes with it!
The less I'd overthink things, the better I'd feel, and the more I began to realize the wisdom within this simplicity.
A caveat, though:
If your dilemma is something like, "Should totally drift this rainy street corner because YOLO," then just go for it is not the answer.
However, if the question is, "Should I still try to reach my goals, to improve, or to branch out into the unknown, even though I'm afraid", then you know what to do.
Go for it.
You might be afraid.
Guess what? You're not alone.
What's foreign to us can be utterly terrifying, and big decisions are the worst, but don't forget that the unknown doesn't become the known until it's explored.
It's okay to be afraid. Sometime, you should send your old pal 'Fear' packing, and sometimes, you should just go for it.
A Message from the Author:
It's a slow process, and I'm definitely still learning how best to deal with fear. I think it's a goal which we can all work towards together.
What kinds of things scare you the most?
How do you overcome that fear?
Let us know in the comments below!