Let’s talk about fear for a moment. I’m speaking from my own experience of course, but I feel like this is true for a lot of people. There is much in my life that I never did and have yet to do out of fear. One weird thing that I have discovered about fear through this experience and the books I’ve been reading has been that the avoidance of fear often leads to complacency or even comfort for people. An illusion of safety. What are some of those people are unaware of? Never leaving your comfort zone can be dangerous to your psyche.
An excerpt from “The Icarus Deception” by Seth Godin:
Catching the Wily Fox
“Build an eight-foot-long wooden fence in the forest.
Lay out some bait and then go away for a week.
The fox is too crafty to be caught in a simple trap, and he will smell you and avoid the fence for days. But eventually, he’ll come and eat the bait.
At the end of the week, build a second length of fence at a right angle to the first. Leave more bait.
The fox will avoid the fence again for a few days, then take the bait.
At the end of the second week, build a third wall and a gate. Leave more bait.
When you come back at the end of a month, the fox will be happily prancing in his safe enclosure, and all you will have to do is close the gate. The fox will be trapped.”
The fox became too comfortable in his environment.
Are you comfortable?
I’m not saying that you need to walk around in the world full of paranoia about traps or taking outlandish risks but I am saying that living your life from a stance of pure fear avoidance can have considerable consequences. Perhaps not in the physical sense, I mean, if you never leave your house then what could possibly go wrong? Plenty, but what I’m talking about is the emotional/psychological dangers that stem from such an existence.
Let’s say that the captor decides not to dispose of the fox but keep it there and feed it for years and years on a regular schedule. One day a storm blows through and tears down the fence. How do you think the fox will respond? Would it be paralyzed by fear of the world it was imprisoned from for the last several years? That would seem strange wouldn’t it? Being terrified of the world you were locked away from in the first place. That’s how problematic complacency can be. The resolution to living the way everyone else does or living the way you’re told to live. Living with the fear of doing and being something different.
Maybe you work a job that does nothing for you in terms of fulfillment but eats up a whole lot of time. I’m not going to ask you to quit. Who am I to do such a thing?
There is just one question that I would ask and that is…
Why are you doing the work you’re doing?
I am only able answer this question for myself. Just as you can only answer it for you. Although it might sound like a simple answer for some of you, it may be difficult for others. Either way, knowing the answer to this question is important.
A little information about me before I get to my answer is that I currently work as a machinist. When people ask me how I got into the trade, I usually tell them that “I fell into the job.” Which is mostly true. Having no skills that I could market and doing the “post high-school scramble.” After a short stint in the military and a handful of odd jobs, panic set in and bills piled up. Evicted from my apartment, I moved back home with my parents. That’s right, I boomeranged back home. Yay, me. Thankfully my father, who is in the machining trade already, told me “Kid, you’re smart and capable, I think you’d do well in this field.” My father is a maker. He loves creating. If he had a hobby shop with CNC machines at his disposal to just make the stuff that comes into his brain then he would be unstoppable.
Why am I doing the work that I’m doing? Fear. My fear of failure combined with being highly risk averse has kept me in the industry up to this point. Seriously, I’ve spent the last 3 years making pliers. I moved from creating awesomeness from raw metals in my earlier jobs to a comfortable, cookie-cutter manufacturing plant where I feed a machine and it spits out parts. Which is an over-simplification but I digress. All this to the side, I AM GRATEFUL for the opportunities that this “cog in the machine” work situation has provided me. The repetitive work has allowed my mind to wander and to read when my boss isn’t looming over me. 🙂 My company sent me to Germany for 2 weeks to learn to work on a machine. That trip awoke a love in me that I had subconsciously suppressed since leaving the military. My love for travel.
For me, fear and travel go hand in hand. You have no idea what’s going to happen when you get there. What to expect from weather, people and food are things you can look up and research in advance but it is nothing like the experience of being there in the flesh. Facing the fear, discomfort, the sheer unknowingness of the situation that lies ahead.
Experiences like this present those feelings that I’ve mentioned before about having the faster heartbeat and beads of sweat. Situation like this brings out a sense of adventure and unending energy for me. Recently, I went to sing karaoke and experienced a feeling very similar and much closer to home if international travel isn’t your deal. 🙂 This is what I’m seeking.
I’ve said a lot about fear. As a matter of fact, talking about fear can be a little fear-inducing. Perhaps I even repeated some of what you already know or associate with fear. This feeling with the heartbeat and unknowingness can be used to your advantage. Use this moment to invoke the power of Courage. Moving forward into the darkness, despite part of you that wants to stay put, is Courage. Congratulate yourself every time you achieve this moment.
Courage is not merely something physical. It’s easier to see in movies and media because it’s typically portrayed as a monumental moment filled physical action but even all of that stemmed from an internal change. This doesn’t have to be a conscious change, something you had to think about doing. If it takes a pep talk to get yourself there take then by all means, get there. Just know that moments of courage can come from what is buried deep inside your being. Even though sometimes it feels like there was a massive buildup to reach the peak. Regardless, allow yourself to recognize and be energized by these moments. Not for the sake of the ego but to reinforce the idea that a fear was overcome and to be conscious of that feeling. A recommendation from me would be to take notes of when these moments occur, to be aware of the causes for you will allow you to perhaps understand and repeat moments such as these.
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” -Brené Brown
Have the courage to be present in the moment and not daydream about what could have been or live in the past. Make a conscious effort to actively step towards the darkness, to your future.
I can sit here and give you anecdotes or quote after quote about where courage comes from or what courage means to other people. All of this is unimportant unless you know what Courage means to you.
Finding that personal definition of Courage that rings through every fiber of your being could be the best thing you do today.
Are there people in your life you consider to be courageous?
A family member who lived through a scandal or hardship and chose to face it. Did they act rightly in spite of knowing the opposition they were facing?
If these people do not exist in your life, you might consider finding them. This is time well invested.
Lucky for you, the internet is a thing.
Books full of stories and fables, blogs and biographies are at the tips of your fingers. You don’t have to draw courage from a living person (although it helps with not having one-sided conversations), there are historical figures who were courageous. Mainly because of threats they knew were present and the choice they made to be present in that moment anyways.
They showed up and let themselves be seen.
I hope that this post has moved you to understand what contributes to both your fears and your courage. Remember what I’ve said about being different, it’s not always a bad thing. Overcome those fears and embrace your courage.
Be sure to comment if you loved this post or let me know if you hated it. I’m not trying to put gospel on the web. These are merely opinions and observations. I retain all of my human rights to be corrected and even change my mind. 😛 I love you guys.