Don’t be fooled by motivational posters or slogans. Fear isn’t always evil, and it isn’t always wrong. It isn’t something we always need to push past and beyond and conquer. How can we tell the difference? How do we know when we need to move on in spite of fear, or heed it and change course?
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The first thing I’d like to bring up about those who encourage us to proceed despite fear, through innumerous clichés, is that they have an agenda, too. Often, they have something to sell you, even if they just want you to subscribe to their blog or Facebook page. It’s not necessarily bad, but something to be aware of.
One size does not fit all. As I generally say, there is never one answer to any given question, and especially to this one. What to do or how to proceed is situation-dependent – dependent upon the people, places, things, times and circumstances involved.
Maybe your fears are there for a reason. In previous articles, I’ve written about using fear as a guideline or a wall – a wall that if you cannot get past, you must find another direction forward. Perhaps putting you in place to deal with something you may not want to but will be highly beneficial to your personal growth.
Life does that sometimes. Let’s give life a little credit for perhaps having a wisdom that we don’t. There were many times I wish I had listened to a fear. Aren’t there other clichés in society that tell us to pay attention to our gut – even if our gut feels afraid? I could’ve used those clichés some time ago. In another lifetime (10 or 15 years ago) I was a real estate agent, and I was encouraged to prospect for business by going door-to- door. I was afraid to, but I did it anyway. I did not listen to the fear because I thought it was only blocking me from succeeding. I was afraid to knock on doors, I was afraid to cold call, but I pushed that down and proceeded, however hesitant I felt.
Did I come through a conquering hero, creating so much business and selling so many homes and being so proud that I ignored my fear and succeeded? Was I ultimately a winner? No. It turned out to be a stressful, time-consuming, and regularly embarrassing project. It did result in one of my very few closings as a real estate agent, but there were much better ways to be spending my time. That’s what my fear was trying to tell me. It wanted me to know there was a better way to go about things.
It’s not that I was doubting myself, or afraid of failure, or afraid of success, or afraid of anything – that feeling I was experiencing, which was a mixture of anxiety, dread and doubt that I interpreted as fear – was life trying to hint to me that I was doing it wrong. I chose to ignore that, creating more doubt and anxiety, in a never-ending cycle.
If I could condense my experiences and lessons into something you could put in your pocket and take with you, it would look something like this:
- The feeling of fear in everyday life has a message behind it.
- That message is different each time.
- Understand what the message is rather than automatically pushing through or running from the fear.
So no, don’t always push through your fear. You’ll know when it’s appropriate to do so if you listen to life. And no, don’t always cease and desist due to fear. I encourage you to have faith that life will make it clear to you when you must do one, the other, or meet somewhere in the middle. It’s a faith I never had, and that’s probably why I didn’t listen to it as a real estate agent. I didn’t think life would make things so clear for me. But it did. It does. It can for you too. If you believe it can.
I encourage you to disregard the absolute rules that motivational posters, and the whole motivational industry pushes forth to the public. Note that I said “industry” – because people make money off of this. However optimistic we are about human nature, we have to accept that when people make a living from something, there is a chance it will compromise their values and cloud their thinking.
There are no absolute rules (except, perhaps, that there are no absolute rules) regarding how to live life, and especially in relation to fear. Life is a moment-to- moment judgment call, something we can assess situation-to- situation and make decisions using our best faculties.
Rather than heed a poster on a wall or a platitude espoused by a nicely-dressed motivational speaker, heed your own feelings. Use them as your guide. Find a clear space during the day, and see how you really feel about a fear or an obstacle. Understand if you, from the depths of your soul, feel you should proceed despite fear, or if you should use the fear as a guardrail and move away from it.
Making important decisions with your internal resources – your mind, your soul, your feelings – is a major step towards creating a life in harmony with who you really are. It starts by making decisions based on who you really are, not based on what people or companies say you should be. Realizing this is half of the battle. The other half is implementing it – living it. Thank goodness we get so many chances.