Is Fear Fucking Up Your Life?

September 19, 2010

If It Makes You FlyIf you keep putting things off, because you’re scared shitless, it’s easy to avoid the cold hard truth. Your life will be over in the blink of an eye, and if you don’t grab the opportunity, it will be gone forever.

But it’s rarely the actual act you fear, it’s the consequences. Most of us spend way too much time worrying about shit that might happen, instead of considering the possibility that things may just turn out amazingly well.

What Death Can Teach Us about Fear

Dr Elizabeth Kubler Ross devoted her life to working with dying patients. And she used what she learned to educate the living on how to live. Not once did she speak to a dying patient who regretted the things they’d done. Their only regrets were not doing the things they wanted more than anything, before it was too late.

But I’m not here to lecture you about risk and fear – that would be hypocritical. You see, although I’ve improved a lot over the years, I’m still a wimp when it comes to facing my own fears. And the more I want something the more terrified I become.

Avoiding Risk Robs You of Time – And You’ll Never Get It Back

Sometimes the thought of a negative outcome has stressed me out so much, that I’ve avoided taking risks at all. I’ve stayed in bad relationships because I was afraid to end them. Doing that for a year or two is bad enough, but 17 years is complete stupidity. The trouble is, when you end a relationship, what you really fear is the unknown.

And I’ve put off doing things I wanted to do, and focused on what I thought I had to do. For years, I was afraid to become a full-time writer, because it was easier to focus on what other people wanted me to do.

I was so scared of failure that I was always looking for a back up plan. But the problem with Plan B is that it tends to suck up most of your time.

You know, the only times I’ve felt truly happy, is when I’ve said – Fuck it, I’m going to stop worrying and take a risk. And my only regrets were not doing what I feared way sooner.

Some Numbers That Might Scare You into Action

If I’d known what I know now:

- I would have left that bad relationship when I was 19 – instead I waited until I was 35.

- I would have focused on writing full-time in my twenties, instead of waiting until I was 41.

Of course, these are not my only mistakes. I’ve let fear get the better of me more times than I care to remember. But I tell you none of this to complain. I just want you to understand how much of your life you waste when you let your fears beat you.

The more times you are able to face your fear, and just do it anyway, the easier it is. But, it’s still bloody hard. And the more you want something the tougher it gets.

So how do you get from where you are to where you want to be, without terrifying yourself into not even trying?

You Have to Understand How Short & Fragile Your Life Is

When you’re young, the end of your life doesn’t seem real. It feels too far away to even worry about. And it’s a shame because if you realised how fast your life is going to whiz by, you’d be less likely to fritter most of it away.

“It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

7 Steps to Overcoming Your Fears

1) Focus on your goal
– instead of worrying about shit that could go wrong.

2) Don’t be afraid of failure
– No matter how scared you are, it’s unlikely that you have only one chance to get it right. If you trip up, get up off your ass and try again.

3) Listen to your instincts – Try to get used to listening to your own instincts, before you start worrying too much about the consequences. If you have a gut feeling that something is right, it usually is.

4) Ignore well meaning advice – it is often clouded by other people’s fears and judgements. When I spectacularly sank my third business, plenty of people advised me to get a job.

Looking back, it was crazy because one fuck up out of three isn’t bad. But I
wasted a good couple of years, feeling torn between what I wanted to do, and
what other people thought I should do.

5) Spend more time with positive people who are not afraid to take risks
– If
everyone around you is apathetic and afraid to make positive changes, it’s
going to rub off on you – no matter how strong you think you are.

6) Don’t Be A Martyr:
It’s easy to become a people pleaser – I’ve been there. But you’re only here once, and you should never let anyone suck the life out of you.

If these people really cared about you, they wouldn’t expect you to sacrifice your hopes and dreams to fit in with their plans, or make their life easier.

7) If You Want To Do Something – Just Do It.
“Live so you don’t have to look back and say: ‘God, how I have wasted my life.’” Dr Elisabeth Kubler Ross.

Image Credits

Feel The Fear (If It Makes You Fly) – by Ibrahim Lujaz.

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