When is the last time you were scared to do something?
Not the easy kind of scared like from a movie and not the out of control kind, like a loved one getting sick.
But truly and deeply scared to do something you wanted to do?
I want you to think about that time. Go ahead, replay it in your mind’s eye….I’ll wait.
Did you do it?
I have 2 important conversations that I need to have. Conversations where I know that although they will be uncomfortable initially, they will be good for me when they happen. Even knowing they will be good for me (and eventually for the other party too) fear is still beating action and I haven’t had them yet.
How about you? Did you call it quits and not do the thing that was scaring you? Did you chicken out and not ask her out? Did you “forget” to ask your boss for a raise? Did you let that “friend” treat you poorly – just this one last time?
Or did you do it? Did you swallow your fear and get up on stage? Did you step off that cliff? Did you stand up for yourself? Did you demand more from your colleague, your friend, your kids, your spouse?
I hope you did. But sadly, if you are like the rest of us mortals, chances are you didn’t do it.
Why Fear is Obsolete
There is a reason we feel fear. For centuries, fear was necessary so we could know when we were in danger. Fear told us there is a lion behind that tree or a bear in that cave.
But in first world modern society, what do we really have to fear?
I’ve been infected, sick, in pain, malnutritioned & dehydrated. But I have never wanted for medicine, food or water. I’ve never been close to death. Most of us haven’t.
Not too long ago being close to death was a common experience.
I have been busted & broke, nothing but lint in my pockets, but I have never missed a meal.
I’ve been witness to foreclosures, bankruptcies and absurd amounts of debt.
After the dust settles we find new places to live and different lines of credit.
It is really hard to experience “life or death” fear anymore.
I’m not complaining. This is progress. And while I don’t mean to trivialize those who still live in true fear of where their next meal will come from, or whether they will see the sun rise tomorrow, I feel the need to point out that most of us don’t have this level of fear anymore.
So what happens?
Most of us invent fears to fill the gap.
Our brain starts looking for new things to fear because fear has done such a great job of keeping us alive all this time. This primitive brain function has succeeded for millennia and it isn’t now going to stop now.
We begin to fear seclusion. We fear emotional exposure. We fear connection. We fear not being understood.
This “lizard brain” teaches us to fear the unknown, even when the unknown could end up being wonderful.
“It is too risky,” it says. “This might not work,” is the fear it plants.
Your lizard brain’s purpose is too keep you alive. Even if it means paralyzing you with fear. Ever had paralysis by analysis? Thank your lizard brain.
Centuries ago this arrangement was good. It kept the species alive. But in today’s world, this fear could be our greatest danger. It prevents us from living the life we imagined, from seeing all that is possible in this world.
Today, inaction is the death of dreams.
Unbelievable things, incredible lives, are out there for the making if we act…act quickly and truthfully.
Do this and the world is yours!
Your Soul’s Quest For Meaning
Ever feel like there are 2 of you? One part of you yearns for something bigger, the other part craving safety & security. Your life is a battle is a battle between these 2 parts. One is the fear, the other is your soul!
Bronnie Ware, an Australia nurse who worked with the dying for over 12 years says this is their most common regret:
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This is the battle between your fear and your soul!
Your fear does not want you to act. It wants you to not be dead. It will paralyze you just to keep you alive.
Your fear wants to keep you “safe”. It wants to control you. Paralyze you. Your fear works to maintain the status quo. Because in the status quo, you are alive.
Your souls wants more. Your soul wants to be free. It wants you to live a life true to yourself. It wants you to experience life to the fullest. Your soul wants to take risks. Your soul wants to be alive with meaning and purpose.
And here is the secret – Your soul finds its meaning in the actions you take. So you need to take positive action. Massive positive action.
The world and your fears conspire to stop this purpose driven action so you need to take small steps everyday!
Massive action stops the fear because your brain doesn’t get the space it needs to create the fear, it is too busy processing your actions.
Action cures fear.
Scared to ask for a raise? To ask her out? To get on stage?
Practice the night before – out loud, with a friend. Take action on your fear. Don’t merely think about it. Thinking lets the paralysis in. Practice. Practice because it requires action. Practice with another person because their participation won’t allow you to analyze, you will need to act.
The things we fear doing the most are the things we most need to do. Not because getting over the fear will make our lives better, but because the results of the actions we fear the most are the things that will improve our lives the most.
The lizard brain merely wants to keep you alive, it does not care if you actually enjoy it.
The only way to enjoy life is to dance with the fear. Most people try to eliminate the fear by not thinking about it. By going along with the crowd, by obeying their masters, taking drugs, watching TV, having a drink. Please now that I am not judging here. I am as guilty as the next person of trying to distract myself from the fear.
But the fear can not be eliminated, only embraced. We must develop the stomach for fearful action.
Do you remember the first time you jumped off a diving board? Or your first ride on a roller coaster? Were you scared? I know I was.
The only way to get over that fear and to enjoy the dive or the ride, was to do it! There is no other way. You can not think your way into not fearing. You have to suck it up and act!
Why is this important?
How Action Will Save Your Life
I am willing to bet there is one action you know you should take but fear is currently winning the battle. It may be a phone call you know you need to make. It could be a conversation you know should happen. It is the project you have secretly wanted to do but are too scared what the world will think to move forward.
I mentioned the conversation I am avoiding at the beginning of this post. And fear has dominated action on my posting to this blog for years!
Make a promise right now. A promise to yourself that you will take action on that fearful idea.
Too scared to call the friend you lost touch with? Then look them up on Facebook or call a friend who has their number.
Too scared to ask for the raise? Then practice asking with a friend or write an email to your boss just asking for a meeting.
Too scared to write that screenplay? Then just outline it. Write the first scene. No edits, no proof reading. Just write one fucking scene.
Take that first, small action.
The action will begin to cure the fear. Looking your friend up on Facebook will make talking to them seem less scary. Practicing with a friend will give you the confidence to talk to your boss. Writing one scene can spark an idea that carries the whole project through.
But you have to act. Your soul wants to win. It wants you to live the life you deserve. It wants you to find meaning, not fear.
But your soul can’t do it without you. It needs you take action.
It needs you to start.
Special hat tips for this one go to Seth Godin and Steven Pressfield. They are visionaries who help the rest us see things how they really are. If this post resonated with you even a little you should check out The War of Art and The Icarus Deception.