Do Your Fears Serve You... Or Rule You?
By Margie Warrell
Now, more than ever before, we are bombarded daily with a litany of reasons why we should play it safe, avoid risk, fear change, distrust and stick with the status quo. For this very reason, now, more than ever before, we need to be mindful about the potentially oppressive impact of fear and increasingly discerning about which ones we pay heed to.
Firstly let me just clarify what I mean by courage. Courage is neither fearlessness nor absence of self doubt. Rather courage is choosing to take action in the presence of fear (and all those little voices in your head telling you to play safe). When you choose to speak up about a sensitive issue that is upsetting you; when you pick up the phone and extend an invitation to someone you'd like to get to know better; when you walk into your bosses office to discuss promotional opportunities; when you voice an opinion that may ruffle feathers; when you end a relationship that isn't working to create space for one that will; when you pursue a dream which requires trading safety of the known and predictable for the possibility that life might hold something bigger and better in store for you.
Living with courage begins with taking a good honest look at the choices you are making today and challenging the assumptions, stories and excuses that are driving them. Whilst I've written an entire book about courage, and the many different ways we can apply it to enrich our experience of life, here are three simple questions that will help you identify where fear may be undermining your happiness and limiting your success.
- What do I REALLY want?
If there is an area of your life in which you feel a clear level of dissatisfaction or unhappiness then that's the key place to focus first. What would need to change in those areas of your life to have them be the way you really wanted them to be? Don't get stuck on the external stuff here like, "I want a top job, a big house, a hot car and cute babe/bloke by my side." Rather focus on the feeling that you think these things would give you. I.e., "I want a job that is both challenging and rewarding. I want a relationship with a self-assured and honest person whose conversations are stimulating and company fun. I want to live in a home that is great for having friends over..." Get the drill?
Unless you get clear about what you really want - in your career, your relationships, your life - you will have Buckley's chance of actually getting it. So get clear about it: If you trusted yourself completely and had no fear of failing or looking foolish, what would you do or say or become?
- Where is fear holding me back?
Fear is not a 'bad' thing. Far from it! Rather it's a question of whether or not your fears are actually serving you (protecting you from REAL threats and enabling you to thrive in work, relationships and life) or if they are holding you back (keeping you stuck, tip toeing through life and achieving so much less than you're capable of).
So what is it that you are afraid might happen if you begin taking action in the direction of your goals and dreams? That you will be humiliated, that you'll go broke, be rejected or 'found out' as inadequate? Whatever your fear, own it. Unless you own your fears, they will own you. The exercises in my book Find Your Courage! are designed to help you identify and rise above everyday fears just like these.
- What's the cost of my inaction?
Research has identified a psychological phenomenon whereby we human beings tend toward discounting the cost of our choices even when it's obvious they are not benefiting us. The reason why? Reality ain't pretty. The result? We kid ourselves everything's hunky dory when really, it's anything but and all the while life sails along in a direction that's taking us far from the life we'd truly love to live. The very act of acknowledging that we are stuck or unhappy is an act of courage all its own, but getting present to the steep price you are paying for letting fear and doubt run your life (or even part of it!) is absolutely crucial to re-creating it the way you want it to be. Only once you have done so can you find the guts to put your fears in their rightful place can you rise above them and into action toward whatever tugs at your heart.
Stepping beyond the confines of your comfort zone will call on you to dig deeper into yourself than you have up to now; to dare to accomplish things which have no guarantee of success and to trade the 'fine and good' for an experience of life that is far better, deeper, richer and infinitely more gratifying to your spirit.
The world has more than its fair share of people living lives of immaculate mediocrity. There are things that you and only you can do; things that will never be done if you do not dare to do them. So don't sell out to your fears or, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said "...tip toe through life only to make it safely to death." You are capable of so much more than that. The universe, and all we mere mortals in it, need from you so much more than that.
So take your 'fear bully' by the horns and dare to dream more, do more, say more, live more, give more and be more! Life's too short to be lived any other way.