There are times when my body wants to run away. I feel it deep down in my gut.
The fear I feel when I think about doing, starting, then the doubts show up. Deep, deep down I already have the information, I already have the plan, the map, and just need to figure it out along the way. But I procrastinate, hesitate, letting the motivation linger for another day. I’ll be lucky if it’s still there tomorrow.
So what’s stopping me?
Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. Those Bene Gesserit witches had it right. (Thanks Frank Herbert!)
Rationally, logically, I know. That fear is a conditioned response to perceived external stimuli. It’s our body gearing up, protecting us from what seems to happen, or from what will seem to be the consequences, imagined or not. Fear is a basic survival response. We all wouldn’t be here if the early humans didn’t know fear.
That was easier to explain, logically. Emotionally it’s a whole other ball game.
It’s like chains, binding you underwater, but not too deep. Just enough for your lips to touch the surface, but you just can’t seem to draw a breath. You try to swim up, but the chains keep holding you back. Chains we can’t see, and don’t recognize.
Chains that take different forms for different people. “I’m not that kind of person,” or “that doesn’t feel safe, that’s too risky,” or what about, “But I’m not an expert! What do I know?”
“That’s too much money!”, “Just stay in your job and reap the benefits. Monthly and Annual Benefits” Chains. All chains.
We all have different kinds of chains, all specific to our person and situation in life. It’s really up to us how we face them. No one can break them for us, they can only help us.
We have to break them ourselves.
When was the last time you faced a fear? That you had to take action, despite the rolling motion of your gut and the heavy feeling of your body, all the way to your fingertips.
I may not look it, but I’m an introvert. an I-can-live-in-a-cave-yes-its-cozy-go-away kind of introvert. I prefer talking to people in one-on-one situations, or in small groups.
I remember the churn in my gut and the cold on my skin when I had to address a group of 70. And of all the topics that I can be giving, I was tasked to give a session on leadership. I was 24 back then, and even at my age right now, the thought in my mind was : “That’s a lot of people! What do I know about leadership?! I’ll just crash and burn right?!”
Chains. All chains.
To face them, is to break them. To go through the fear, face the pain you imagine, and still take action, no matter the result, is to claim victory over fear.
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life and the procedure. The process is its own reward.”
– Amelia Earhart
Born 1897, disappeared 1937. Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She received the US Distinguished Flying Cross for that feat. She was also a celebrated book author, teacher, and an avid supported of women’s rights. She was one badass hero. in 1937, while attempting a flight around the world, she, along with her navigator, vanished without a trace.
Did she know she would wind up missing? Not a single clue to where she was? Maybe the worst she imagined was crashing in some city, the charred wreckage forever claiming her burnt remains. But fly she did, explore she did, face fear, she did.
Fear is part of being human. It’s a basic survival response, and one of the most powerful tools our ancestors have in their arsenal. If you think about it, maybe that’s why they were so strong, to survive in such a savage world. They had to face fear everyday to live. Are we in the same position now?
Now the lions, panthers, crocodiles, and diseases of the past have been replaced with crazy bosses, hurt feelings, lost money, and embarrassing failure.
I started two businesses. After some time I closed two businesses. What a mess I was! I lost a lot of time, money, reputation, and respect. I expected to succeed, not end up looking like a comet fell down on me. The hole in my heart, soul, and bank account was as big as a giant crater. Ugh.
But at the end of it all, I was still alive. I had tomorrow to start all over again. I had to keep telling myself that.
For a long time, I withered, procrastinated. Fell into my comfort zone. I feared being hurt again. Took part-time jobs. Took full-time jobs. Just give me my salary, less risk they say. Climb the corporate ladder, be protected by the thick walls of rules, politics, and the bi-monthly paycheck.
I fell into fear. Fell deeply into its comfortable, paralyzing embrace.
Yes there is hope for me, as much as there is hope for all of us. We are not confined to such a fate for the rest of our lives. Our past does not define us, only to the extent that we let it. We have today to move forward. To go for the life you want. And being in fear is not what I wanted.
Take action, despite the fear, despite the doubt and uncertainty. Take action.
Action is one known remedy for fear.
You can start small, or go the whole nine yards, so to speak. It doesn’t matter. Taking action, doing something meaningful is what matters. Going against fear is what matters more.
Do a pre-mortem. What could go wrong? What’s the worst that could happen? What can I do for a start? You’ll still be alive after right?
A lot of the consequences we foresee from our actions is imaginary. Thought-up constructs of our mind to protect us from hurt and pain. Unfortunately, these just stand in the way of our growth and progress, both professionally and personally.
What’s the worst that could happen? Is it even real?
I’ll still be alive after that.
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
“Dune” by Frank Herbert, 1985
Wikipedia Article on Amelia Earhart