It's strange that we live in an age in which we're healthier, wealthier, safer and living far longer than previous generations ever dreamed of; yet, it doesn't seem that we feel more secure. Indeed, the more we know, the wealthier we are, the longer we live, the more fearful many of us become.
- Remember the days before seat belts, airbags and bike helmets?
- Remember the days before you thought that every lump and bump were warning signs of cancer?
- Remember the days when you weren't worried about the stock market plunging because you had no money to invest?
In those days you were actually more vulnerable, yet less focused on your safety. You enjoyed life more because you knew less. Now I'm not an advocate for ignorance. And I don't believe that we could possibly go back to knowing less. But I am saying that we need to learn ways to live with more courage and less fear. Why?
Because a fearful lifestyle restricts our actions, constricts our thinking, pinches our choices, and squeezes all the juiciness out of life. Not good.
If someone had a magic formula for calming your fears, how do you think your life would be different? If you weren't so worried about expanding your comfort zone, what would you do? Who would you be? Take a few moments to answer these questions instead of just skimming through them. Your answers will give you an indication of what a fearful lifestyle is costing you.
When you restrict yourself from engaging in activities that could bring you joy, what remains? Two things: the routine, mundane stuff that we all need to tend to and the tragedies and crises that none of us can escape. What a shame. For life is to be lived.
Yes, we can be careful and cautious. And yes, fear is an adaptive emotion that exists to protect us. But when you are forever on the alert for danger, fear becomes a mindset. You respond with trepidation even in non threatening situations. You feel hemmed in by the world rather than feel free to explore it. You view living as a burden, not an adventure. You develop a pattern of reflexive nay-saying to feed your insatiable hunger for safety.
Although you may fantasize about a life that's safe, secure and sheltered, you cannot achieve it. There's no such thing as absolute safety, only relative safety. Life is a risky business.
By living, we risk dying.
By loving, we risk losing,
By feeling, we risk getting hurt.
By doing new things, we risk feeling stupid.
By trying, we risk failing.
By speaking up, we risk being ridiculed.
By succeeding, we risk reaching our limits.
Can you take steps to minimize these risks? Yes, but you can't eliminate them. So, how then can you live comfortably, keeping fear at bay?
You must become more courageous. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is not courting danger. Rather, it is recognizing that there are more important things in life than safety. And so you conquer your fear by taking actions that are frightening but that will move your life forward.
When you can say, "Yes, I did what I thought I couldn't do," or "Yes! It was scary but I took a deep breath and did it anyway," or "Yes! I was shaking in my boots, but I didn't let that stop me," you will know that you have been successful.
Perhaps Maya Angelou expressed it best when she said, "Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, 'I'm with you kid. Let's go!' "
Copyright © 2012: Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach who specializes in helping people overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. If your life is one long disconnect between what you intend to do and what you actually get around to doing, check out my new book, How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age.
At my website SixStylesofProcrastination.com, you can take a personality quiz. View a chart that describes the thinking, speaking and acting modes of each procrastination style. Read inspirational quotes just for procrastinators. And if you're pleased with your accomplishments but recognize how much easier it would be with a tailwind at your back, explore my coaching services.