Fear is a driving, often, seemingly unstoppable force. Many people feel it and abruptly stop and go in the other direction. Many people enjoy a bubble of security and familiarity. Anything outside of that bubble is viewed as a dangerous enemy, to be avoided like the plague. This keeps us from rising to challenges that are even associated with fear. Fear is a good thing that can save lives and inform us of approaching danger. This is not the kind of fear I’m talking about. The kind of fear that I am referring to is a self-perpetuating, irrational, and procrastination inducing demon.
This fear stops us from trying new things, and it makes us dread new situations and discomfort. Facing fear can seem like trying to run through water. We are always in danger of loosing our footing and getting swept away into the deep. These feelings are often irrational. Tim Ferris asks you when facing fear, and the prospect of failure: to imagine how you would feel if the worst iteration of your situation was upon you. And to ask yourself this simple question: “Is this the condition I so feared?” This mental exercise is designed to show us that our fear is most likely a drummed up, unrealistic, and irrational feeling. It only serves to keep us bound to our bubble of security and to a lack of growth.
In this case the only way through the problem is… through it. We have to accept the fear and put one foot in front of the other and realize that we will emerge on the other side having grown. We will find ourselves pondering why we felt such fervent resistance to the obstacle in the first place. We should always take a deep breath, and view the challenge, whatever it is, as a chance to expand our comfort zone and grow!
In the movie Saving Private Ryan there is a scene where a young soldier sits in the main level of a building during a battle. Upstairs can be heard the sounds of an allied soldier in peril and, in spite of this, the young soldier does not go up to assist him. Because of this, the allied soldier dies. This is an extreme example of the consequences of not facing our fear, yet its principles apply well to more common fears in life. If we let our fear hold us back, there will be consequences. They could be in the form of being too afraid to seek out a better job, leading to financial stagnation. Or being too afraid to get out of a bad relationship.
Hear is another example, think of Einstein’s famous thought experiment. This is a paraphrasing. There is a group of people who have spent their whole life siting with their backs to a cave’s entrance. They simply sit inside of the cave and watch the shadows of others go by in the fire light. When they are finally allowed to turn around, and they see what was causing the shadows and the sounds they heard. It was shown to be other people who were slaves carrying out their tasks just like the original people who had only inhabited their comfort zone their whole life.
The original slaves then turned back around. Preferring to go back to what they had always known. We have to do what the original slaves in the story would not: face the unknown and that which induces fear. We have to be bold and seek to run at that fear which seems unconquerable to us. We must ignore those who perpetuate taking the easy path, and overthrow that which paralyzed us before.
In 218 B.C. the battle of Terbia was fought between the Carthaginians and the Romans. The Carthaginians were led by one of the greatest generals in history: Hannibal. The Romans were led by a Roman consul named Publius Cornelius Scipio. Hannibal won the battle, and Scipio was grievously injured. Scipio only survived due to the incredible bravery of his son who rode back into the battlefield and rescued his father.
Observe the stark contrast between our military examples. The first being from the film Saving Private Ryan and the second being from the real life events from the battle of Terbia. Both men faced great fear and the true possibility of a gruesome death. One was able to push past his fear and save the life of another, and you know what happened in the other case. Now this is about the most extreme example that it is possible to give, so let us back up and apply this to life in general. Not every time you move past your fear will you be rewarded for doing so. And likely not in such a black and white way. However, fear will limit and handicap us in life, and no matter how difficult it may seem we must surmount it. Yes, it will not turn out perfectly for us every time we try something new, yet we can accept a few failures and gaffs in comparison to the massive, comprehensive, and awe inspiring failure that is not living up to our potential due to irrational fears.
When we view challenges that are intimidating and full of fear as chances to grow; their edge gets smoothed over a little. Because who doesn’t want to grow? Allow me to answer my own question here; those with a fixed mindset. This is the mindset of those who, like we talked about earlier, stay in their zone of comfort and familiarity.
If this is you and you want to change something, anything, you might want to take a scalpel to your mindset. And discover whether or not it is holding you back! Introspection is rare and quite needed in our world. In conclusion, we need to face our fear with gusto and grit, and not allow it to hold us back from being the person that we have it in us to be. We must always strive to improve. Yes, even if it is tiny, it still counts. Bit by bit, day by day. Just as Brian Johnson has talked about, getting better by one percent day by day by day!
Your challenge is to pick something that really scares you, and do that thing at the end of each week for a month. It could be anything. Just something that breaks you out of your comfort zone. Something, within the bounds of reason, that kind of freaks you out. This is so that you can get use to the feeling of being out of your element. This is also supposed to show you that it is probably not that bad, when you really look at it. Learning to face fear and overcome it opens up new possibilities. You can either rule your fear or be ruled by it.