Sunday, 15 September 2013

Nothing to fear but fear itself

Fear. It leaves us feeling confused and unsure about making decisions. It stifles us and leaves us cringing and quivering in our corner afraid to face challenge or change or even sometimes opportunity. The confusion makes it difficult to see opportunity. When everything is tinged with fear it all seems very dangerous and fraught with the possibility of failure, hurt, betrayal, ridicule and more. No wonder we spend so much time listening to it. By listening I mean to the little voice that tells us all the reasons why we shouldn't do something or why something can't or won't work. To take away the power that fear has over us all is to unleash new possibilities and new opportunities for life.

Now I know there is such a thing as healthy fear, and I think most of us recognise that when it arrives. It's the one that says be afraid of cutting the corner because yes, there might be something coming the other way. Or don't grab the red hot poker because it's going to burn like crazy. Your brain soon tells you what is healthy fear, or common sense, but that doesn't stop the occasional or constant attack of unhealthy fear. I'm not sure if that's the best term for it, but you know what I mean. I mean the kind of fear that stopped me from getting up and dancing at a dance because I thought I'd make a fool of myself. Or the kind of fear that stops me from talking to a neighbour or someone in the supermarket queue. The kind of fear that stops you from taking a chance on something that might make your life better in case it backfires on you. 

Changing perspectives; changing your thinking, can turn that around if you let it. What if there was no such thing as failure? What if there was no such thing as mistakes or wrong choices, but just opportunities to learn something about yourself, about other people or about life itself? What if you were less focused on outcomes and results and more focused on the processes of doing things and of what you can learn along the way? What would you do if there was no way you could 'fail'? My perspective changed when I read a book by Susan Jeffers called Feel the Fear and do it Anyway. In one part of the book she offers the thought that there is no such thing as a wrong decision when you are faced with two reasonable options. These are the ones that generally give us the most problems. When the choice is clear, it's not a problem. When there are two or more equally viable options that can put us into an agonising spin as we look at pros and cons, possible outcome and probabilities. Her comment on this kind of decision making has changed my life. I can make decisions more easily realising that either way I am likely to learn something and that life will take the turns it will. I can't control everything. I can control my own input, responses and legacy, but not that or those of others. It's better to make a decision and get on with moving towards your goals, whatever they may be, than it is to be stalled in the decision making process for so long that the opportunity disappears all together.

My life in recent times has been undergoing a lot of changes. It is challenging and sometimes I feel scared about making choices and decisions. Sometimes I feel worried that I will choose wrongly and make a fool of myself. In reality I will not make a fool of myself. The greater fool I would make of myself if I never took a chance on life. I'm lucky. I like change. My biggest fear in a sense would be living a life in which I felt dulled and trapped by sameness. The thing is that I wouldn't allow that to happen to me. I have come far enough in life now to make the changes I think I need to in order to keep working towards my personal goals. My goals centre around the kind of life I want to live, the kind of contribution I want to make to the lives of others, and the kind of impact I want to make on the planet. I consider many things when I make decisions and mostly I take my time to consider how my actions will impact on others around me, especially close family and friends. It is important to think about things but not to be caught up in the thinking for too long. I find it helps me to write things down. Writing a list of pros and cons for two options can quickly reveal that one or the other is definitely a better option, or that you are actually loading one side with pros because that is what your heart really wants to do. Either way, it can be helpful in making choices. 

Sometimes our paths are straight and easy to follow. Sometimes we come to a fork in the road and we have to make a decision. Right or left? Right or wrong?

I think it's important to try and focus on what you want, what you're going to do about it, and what you will do if things don't work out the way you think you'd like them to. Think ahead about the idea of looking for the learning in a situation or finding ways to grow. You may find that it's not so scary if you think that you can't make a wrong decision. Whichever way you go, you can't do both and you can never know what could have happened if you'd chosen another option. 

Live your life in a spirit of adventure. Look for opportunities to try something new or to add value and richness to life. Take that trip, even if it's just a day trip. Currently I'm looking at the walks we have here in Tasmania and planning to do a lot of the easier and medium ones to build up to the harder ones. It's a sensible choice to make. I am not afraid of doing a hard walk, but I am being realistic. I want to enjoy doing a harder, longer walk when I do it, and I know I will have a better chance of enjoying it if I put in some work before hand and build up to it. Countless thousands of people have run marathons. Had they just got up one morning and gone out the door to run a marathon, most dare I say would have failed, hurt themselves and perhaps been the subject of some ridicule. Most of them start with some training and build up to the big run after months of preparation. You can maximise your chances of success by doing your preparation, but everything we do contains some element of risk, so take a chance. Write a list. Break things down so that you can be prepared to give it your best shot. Then get out there and live. The biggest risk really is in doing nothing at all. 

Have you made a decision and regretted it? Have you looked at what the lessons were in the things that didn't work out? Did you look at why your decided course of action was a 'failure'? Was it really? Perhaps you just haven't found the lessons yet. 

Always love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments. Please feel welcome to share!

1 comment:

  1. Thought provoking as always Kerry! I wonder if living a life in the comfort zone is one that is dulled by sameness. And always difficult to make choices in life when there are friends and family to consider. At times i think it would be quite nice to be selfish and just do what i wanted without having to concern myself with the affect it would have on others. Hoping to do a walk with you in Tassy one day! Love & peace be with you, K x