Fear is a great motivator. It's also a pain in the ass.
On an evolutionary level, fear makes sense. Back when life was far more dangerous and far more survival-centered, a keen sense of fear was pretty effective at keeping humans out of dangerous situations.
But now that we are generally free from large predator-related threats, our fears often manifest in ways that keep us from moving forward.
These fears are no less natural than the fears our distant relatives must have felt, but they affect us differently because the world is different now.
Instead of being afraid of sinkholes, giant snakes and things that go bump in the night, we're now afraid of change, uncertainty and unfamiliar territory.
But here's the thing about fear: It hides all of the really good stuff. All of the exciting "next steps" and the big life changes are crouching behind some amount of fear, no matter how small. We will never find out what life has in store for us if we don't learn to walk through it.
So, here are five great reasons to feel the fear and then move forward anyway:
1) Fear means something important is about to happen.
For our primitive selves, this often meant imminent danger (refer back to the "large predators" idea). However, in our modern lives, the presence of fear much more often means that something is about to change, and with change comes opportunity.
There are essentially two types of people in the world: those who run from fear, and those who square their shoulders and face it even if their hands are shaking while they do.
It is easy to run from fear, but living in fear also makes it easy to stay in one place forever. You decide. The best gifts are often the hardest ones to unwrap, but does that mean they aren't worth the effort?
2) Embracing fear means embracing growth.
Sure you could stay at that old job forever. You know what's going to happen tomorrow; it might completely suck, but it is familiar and humans are wired for familiarity.
But here's the thing: If we aren't afraid at least some of the time, we aren't learning. A life of complete predictability and familiarity is not a life that is dynamic and ever-changing.
In order to become bigger, better, smarter people, we need to embrace fear when it shows up in our lives. This could mean dumping that dead-end job in favor of something that makes you happy, ending a relationship that isn't working anymore or moving to a new town.
It could mean learning to play the kazoo or committing to a walk-about in Scotland. Regardless of what "it" is, learning to feel the fear and do it anyway can only make you a happier, more capable person with some really interesting stories to tell.
3) Even if you "fail," you'll be happy you tried.
You know that saying: "Sometimes you have to jump and build your wings on the way down." Well, sometimes the wings don't come in all the way. They aren't quite big enough, or they don't show up at all, and you hit the ground a little harder than you anticipated.
But, hey, now that you're down here on the ground, you can head off in any direction you choose.
Moving into fear is hard to do because it exposes us to vulnerability, or the possibility that the scary new thing might not work out. So, sometimes we fly. Sometimes we crash and burn, but either way, we're guaranteed to end up somewhere new.
4) Fear happens; it's a good idea to make friends with it.
Life is scary, and freak things happen. Nothing is certain, and constantly running from fear means, well, constantly running.
But it's a well-known fact that people who can embrace their fears and face them head-on are happier, better developed and more equipped to handle the ups and downs of life.
So, sit down with fear. Get to know it; take it out for a cup of coffee, and find out where it came from. You don't have to love it, but it'll do you good to understand it.
5) Every time you overcome fear, you are stronger.
When we look back on the most exciting and growth-filled periods of our lives, we can see that they were also some of the most terrifying.
Think of it this way: When we are 85, we aren't going to remember that one Tuesday we sat at our desk for eight hours. We are going to remember skydiving, falling in love, falling out of love, moving to a new city, taking a huge chance, falling flat on our faces and getting back up again.
When we walk through our fears rather than run from them, it is impossible not to emerge as a stronger person.
Fear can be a hindrance, or it can be a motivator. If we let it, fear will hold us back forever. If we face it, regardless of how big and insurmountable it feels, we find that we are more capable and more interesting than we ever could have imagined.
So, pick up the fear; check it out, acknowledge it and then move through it, anyway.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It