Contemplating Fear

Our ancient programming around fight or flight served humans for thousands of years. It’s what helped us as humans prosper and outlast many other species.


But our lives are vastly more complicated and nuanced now, we’ve rewritten and layered our mental operating system with many more demands and expectations than our predecessors ever needed to consider. The thing is, we’ve developed the new code on top of that same primitive code.

Nowadays, fear isn’t always something we should run away from.


We’re not fleeing from sabre-tooth tigers anymore, our fear is usually about things that aren’t life threatening at all. They’re status-threatening.


Many situations that we consider too scary can alternatively be thought of as “exhilarating and unknown”.


Fear sometimes signifies a challenge and opportunity that we should run headlong into.


The feelings of fear and excitement feel very similar. The increased heart rate, the little bit of sweat. It’s difficult to recognise the difference between the two until you’ve practised it.


So when you face a situation, you can choose: do you want to listen overwhelmingly to your fear, or do you want to use this opportunity to access your bravery?


It may seem counter intuitive, but instead of focussing on what is at risk when we take a chance, consider the risk of doing nothing. As Seth Godin says “If we were rational about change, we’d understand how much it costs each of us to stand still. We’d see how expensive it is to not move forward.”


It’s normal to resist change. We resist change as it offers to push us forward just as much as when it threatens to pull us back. Subconsciously we often sabotage ourselves from changing our social status. We ignore or turn away from opportunities that offer us the chance to succeed so much that we might need to think of ourselves differently. We are just as fearful of success as failure.


When we operate from a place of fear, we’re constantly concerned about what we might lose. We worry about injury, shame, loss of respect, money, time and status.


When we operate from a place of bravery, we concern ourselves with what we stand to gain. Respect, rewards, knowledge, experience, strength, confidence.


(The two lists are very similar.)


The irony is that the person afraid of what he might lose is probably already concerned that he doesn’t have enough of those qualities, while the person who is constantly accessing her bravery is more likely to be confident in what she’s got and knows that succeed or fail she’ll live to fight another day.


The choice is yours. Which would you rather be – fear-filled or brave?

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