Fears that Ruin Your Potential
How to find the strength to do your best work no matter what.
Why is it so hard to follow through on our plans and reach our goals?
Whether it's to lose 15 pounds, start a new business, or finally make a dream come true, our most important desires seem to quickly go off track and disappear.
Rarely is it because they don't see or want what they need. The vast majority of us know what we need and want it very badly. Also, it's usually not a matter of information. For example, setting aside a few minutes for your photography hobby is hard, but it's not adroitly complicated.
Fear is the main reason we don't do what we could do.
In particular, there are a few core feelings of fear that get in the way of our most important goals and desires.
Figuring out how to recognize and name these feelings of fear is a key part of finally making progress in your ongoing battles so you can do your best work and realize your true potential.
What does it mean to be afraid?
Is it an answer? Stumbling over your words, avoiding eye contact, staying out of the spotlight, running away? Is it a tendency? Something in between being afraid and being restless? Is it something you really feel? Tightness in the chest, weak legs, a racing heart, muscle tension, and palms that are wet with sweat?
All of these are visual ways to think about what dread looks like and how it feels. Still, the best way to think about fear is to think about what it's doing in the real world.
Your breathing rate goes up to get more oxygen so that your muscles have more energy to fight or run away.
Your heart rate and blood pressure go up so that the oxygen you're getting can get to your muscles faster (by means of your veins).
But even if that's the case, why does my body react with fear when I'm not really in danger?
The problem is that your body has a hard time telling the difference between real risks and dangers to your life and things that look like risks and dangers:
Getting chased by a tiger with saber-toothed teeth? You can be sure that your breathing rate, heart rate, and muscle strain will go up!
Getting laughed at when you tell your friends about your great idea for a new business?
The first is a real threat to your strength, and the fear is good. The next? It's embarrassing, but your patience isn't being tested, so a fear response is usually pointless.
The problem is that if you react to your friends' laughing and making fun of you in the same way you would to a saber-toothed tiger—by running away, avoiding similar situations in the future, worrying about and being on guard for future scary situations, and so on—you're teaching your mind that both are real. This means that the next time you face what's happening, your body will react with a much more grounded (but still illogical) fear.
The more you try to avoid and fight your body's fear response, the worse your fear gets. Also, the worse your fear gets, the less real your world becomes and the less you can do.
How would you get back at them?
Figure out how to tell the difference between your body's mixed-up fear response and a real threat.
When you're scared but there's no real danger, just write about how you feel. List the ways your body, brain, and heart feel. Notice them, draw them, and know what they are. But don't judge them or tell them they need to go away.
Train yourself to deal with your body's fear response and still go after your goals. This is the way to have courage and keep going, and in the end, the result will matter to you in any field.
You can only get over your fear if you're willing to deal with it.
You're worried about missing out on a big chance.
If you're a millennial or live with one, you've probably heard the term "FOMO," which means worry about missing out on a big chance.
In the last 10 years, it's become a big social image and standard because it speaks to something a lot of us struggle with: we're afraid of missing out on things because we think we'll regret it later.
You know you should write because that's how most books are written, but you can't stop thinking about what's going on on Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter. So, you spent those three hours of writing time going back and forth between your writing and virtual entertainment, never really getting much done, because you were afraid of missing a great chance.
You know you should spend the extra hour studying for your test tomorrow, but you're worried that the party you've been invited to might be a big deal, and you don't want to miss out on a big chance. You imagine all of your friends talking about how great it was and how bad you'll feel if you didn't go.
Even though it might seem like a joke to talk about your FOMO, nothing could be more serious.
We miss out on the important things in life because we don't want to miss out on small things because we're afraid of missing out on something big.
The worry that you'll miss out on a big chance is an infection. Slippery contamination gets into the way we act and, in a very sudden way, makes us give up the most important things in life, like our most important standards, values, and potential.
Help yourself remember that saying "yes" means opening a door. Keep in mind that every time you say "OK" to something, you're also giving up something else.
Each yes is a thousand no's.
Also, if you always say yes to things that are quickly exciting, there's a good chance you'll also say no to the main, important things. Also, you won't do much from here on out.
"Work requires inspiration" is not a joke.
Every once in a while, you get an electric shock that makes you feel ready and energised to take on the world:
Since inspiration does sometimes hit and make it much easier to do the hard work we know we want to do, we accept that this is how important work gets done. Sometimes, the dream is kind enough to visit us, and when she does, we do some hard work.
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But that model of inspiration also says that we can't do important work if we're not feeling it or if we haven't been struck by inspiration. This faith makes us sensitive. This weakens us. Any way you look at it, it makes us nervous.
Accepting that you need motivation to do important work makes you worry that you won't be able to do it when you're not "feeling it." Like an alcoholic who needs alcohol to help them get through social situations without getting nervous, a lot of us need inspiration to do our best jobs.
Most of the time, hard work is what gives people inspiration, not the other way around.
The more we write, the more like essayists we feel, and the easier it is to sit down and get our 1,000 words for the afternoon out.
For example, the more we work out, the more activity becomes a part of who we are. So, we feel more motivated to work out in the future, even when we don't feel like it.
The more we act like the person we want to become, the more that person starts to feel like us.
You're worried that you'll feel bad about yourself.
Just remember that you are a person.
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No matter what else that could mean, it means this:
You are hardwired to think a lot about how other people think, especially those closest to you, like family, friends, coworkers, and sweethearts.
Stop thinking that if you read enough books about self-improvement and go to enough therapy sessions, you'll stop feeling humiliated, embarrassed, or ashamed.
The truth is that you will always think a little bit about how other people think. Also, some awkward "social feelings" may happen as a result.
In some situations, you will feel ashamed.
Disgrace is a way of being. Not a big surprise. And don't be fooled by the fact that you can learn to take a better view of things, talk to yourself more rationally, speak with more self-confidence, and do a lot of other helpful things to calm your angry reaction to others thinking poorly of you. You will never be completely free of shame.
So figure out how to live with it and stop putting so much importance on it.
If you decide how to move forward based on how likely you are to get into trouble in the future, you're in a bad spot.
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Assuming everything else is the same, you should know that you might feel embarrassed. In fact, the more important, important, and challenging your goals are, the more shame, analysis, and self-questioning you should expect.
Get out whatever it is, you need to work on not being embarrassed and doing it anyway. It could be your work, your craft, your body, your energy, or your love.
Fear is also an illusion, but you can find the mental strength to deal with it.
“The truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.” — Steven Pressfield