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Published on February 10, 2020

10 Biggest Fears That Hold You Back from Living Your Best Life

10 Biggest Fears That Hold You Back from Living Your Best Life

Has your biggest fear ever held you back from doing something that you wanted to do before? For anyone that is trying to be a better person in life, the answer is yes.

Most people bundle their biggest fears into one big scary package of nerves, anxiety and inaction. But what if I told that there wasn’t just one biggest fear, but lots of them? And that each of them can be broken down and solved, with a little bit of practice?

It is likely that fear is the number one thing holding you back from living your best possible life. This article will highlight the most common fears that people have that hold them back and how to overcome them.

1. Fear of Failure

The fear of failure is one of the most common biggest fear that hold people back from living their best life. In a world that puts successful people on a podium, there can be shame on those who fall short or even worse, try in the first place.

In the wise words of Anthony de Mello:[1]

“When the archer shoots for no particular prize, he has all his skills; when he shoots to win a brass buckle, he is already nervous; when he shoots for a gold prize, he goes blind, sees two targets, and is out of his mind. His skill has not changed, but the prize divides him.”

Get rid of your fear of failure, your tensions about succeeding, and you will be yourself. You will be relaxed and at your most able. You wouldn’t drive with your brakes on, and the same goes for life.

2. Fear of Success

One of the lesser-known but very common fears that might be holding you back is the fear of success. How can anyone fear success you might ask? Well, success has its own set of problems and fears.

Success can come out of nowhere, and change everything when you aren’t ready. Once you have success and get comfortable with it, it can vanish in an instant. People hold back not just because they are afraid of success, but because they are afraid of getting it and losing it.

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The solution is similar to that of the biggest fear of failure – you just have to live your own life and see what comes your way. Both success and failure are inevitable in any worthwhile endeavour, so relax and embrace both of them.

3. Fear of Loss

Fear of loss is most likely one of the most prominent and powerful fears that is holding you back. The biggest fear of loss often stimulates negative emotions like anger that stop you from being the person you can be.

Think of the last time you were angry and search for the fear behind it. What were you afraid of losing? What were you afraid would be taken from you? That’s where the anger comes from. Think of an angry person, maybe someone you’re afraid of. Can you see how frightened he or she is?

In order to get over this fear, you have to confront the fear of losing things so that you can actually enjoy everything that you love. You have to leave your attachment behind, so you can live with the joy of what you have.

4. Fear of Being Judged

This biggest fear is one that is known for keeping people in their shell, in their place and away from everything that they could achieve.

You might have heard the fable of The Man, the Boy and the Donkey. They were walking alongside their donkey to the market when a man scoffs at them and says that the donkey is a wasted creature if no-one is riding it. So, the man helps his son onto the donkey and before long they are interrupted by a woman, who can’t believe that a youngster with fresh legs would make his old man walk. Then, the man jumps on the donkey, and the boy steps off. They continue on, before a passer-by calls the man a lazy lout for making his young son walk.

Try and please everyone, and you will please no-one. You are going to be judged no matter what you do, so you may as well live your life as you want.

5. Fear of Losing Our ‘Identity’

Your identity might be something that you cling on to as if it were one of your most prized possessions – often without even realizing it. As humans, we weave these stories in our heads about who we are, what we want and what people like us do.

These stories are easy to create but very difficult to escape once set in stone.

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Abstract and mostly made-up concepts like careers and identities come into conflict all the time, and often blend into one as a sort of compromise.

The same is true in other situations. How could you ever just walk up to a pretty girl and start a conversation? You are the type of guy who is shy and keeps themselves to themselves. How could you ever take a day off when you are tired? You are a productivity machine that can never take a day off.

Having an identity can be reassuring for a short while, but it doesn’t take long for it shut every single door to change. If you are unhappy with where you are right now, it’s likely that there is a part of your identity that you are fighting fiercely to protect.

6. Fear of Losing Control

The biggest fear of losing control is another big fear that holds many of us back from living our best life. Many people substitute improvement and happiness with control and comfort, and that is where you can go wrong.

In order to be truly happy, truly free and live the life that you want, you have to be willing to surrender control. For anyone that wants to progress, playing the same video game level over and over eventually gets boring. At some stage, you have to take a leap into the next level and surrender the control and confidence that you had over the lower level.

A lot of people are falling short of their potential but they don’t mind because they are in control. In order to get over this fear, you need to accept that you never have total control anyway. Our plans are at the mercy of the weather. Our Friday nights are at the mercy of what our friends want to do and our lifespan is at the mercy of something outside of ourselves.

When you realise that you don’t have as much control as you thought to begin with, it makes it a bit easier to overcome the fear of losing a bit more control when the time is right.

7. Fear of Time

Fear of time is an entirely modern phenomenon that according to Psychology Today, only originated around 10,000 years ago. More specifically, it is the fear of not having enough time.[2]

Whether you worry about not having enough hours in the day or worry about how fast life is going by, these are forms of something called ‘time anxiety’.

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Time anxiety can lead you into habits and behaviors that leave you far short of living your best possible life. It makes you rush things that you should be relaxing and enjoying. It makes you agitated rather than content. Although it can make you more productive, you often act out of compulsion rather than freedom – and no-one wants that.

The best way to get over the fear of time moving too fast is to firstly, define what ‘time well spent’ means to you. Secondly, make more space for these moments and activities. Finally, cut out time-consuming distractions that take over your precious moments when you don’t want them too.

8. Fear of Who You Really Are

According to a research paper[3] on the subject, it is estimated that 70 percent of people will experience something that is known as ‘impostor syndrome’ in their lives. This is the condition where you don’t feel worthy or deserving of the success that you are receiving.

One of the main reasons impostor syndrome is so prominent is because no-one knows us better than ourselves. You know what your guilty pleasures are, you know what you secretly hate and secretly love. You know where you come short where others might think you excel and you know where you are better than what others give you credit for.

The good news for you is that everyone is in the same boat. Everyone has dark sides that they aren’t proud of, actions that they regret and shortcomings that they wish weren’t there. The difference between those things holding you back and you reaching your goals comes down to forgiveness and acceptance that who you are is more than enough. Broken pieces and all.

9. Fear of the Loss of the Known

Many people think that when we are scared of the dark, scared of the shadows or scared of making a big change in our life, it is because we are scared of the unknown.

It’s not that your biggest fear is fear of the unknown. You cannot fear something that you do not know. Nobody is afraid of the unknown. What you really fear is the loss of the known.

This response is perfectly natural. Back in our hunter-gatherer days, any loss of the known was almost always the path to certain death. Whether we found ourselves outside of our tribe, eating food we had never tried or anything else outside of the known, we were often in trouble. It is hard-wired into your brain to keep the known close at all times.

But you are no longer a hunter in the savannah. Your primitive mind doesn’t realize it but your higher, intellectual mind does. Your primitive mind sees any loss of the known as a threat, whereas your higher mind sees it as an opportunity to grow and learn.

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Whichever mind is louder in your head is likely to guide your actions – so feed the intellectual mind as much as possible.

10. Fear of What’s Next

Nobody knows what comes after this life, and all of the fears on this list can be whittled down to the biggest fear of dying and whatever is next.

It is common to purposely drown out your attention in the politics, stresses, worries and plans of daily life in order to avoid thinking about the bigger question. However, it is only when we come to accept our own mortality and stare it in the face that the fear of it starts to disappear.

While some people fear that thinking about this bigger truth will liberate them from all responsibility, that nothing they do actually matters and that they’ll live a life of apathy, the reality is that it forces action the other way – it scares them into responsibility.

It means that there’s no reason to not love ourselves and one another. That there’s no reason to not treat ourselves and our planet with respect. That there’s no reason to not live every moment of our lives as though it were to be lived in eternal recurrence.

It’s a big responsibility to be here, but life is too short and too precious to fear anything other than a life unlived.

Overcome Your Biggest Fear

Although there are biggest fear that can arise in your own personal path to greatness, each of them can be solved in their own unique ways. Ironically, your biggest fear is not something to be feared. Fear is a natural part of life and all fears have a source that can be discovered and overcome, one step at a time.

Featured photo credit: KAL VISUALS via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] goodreads: Anthony de Mello Quotes
[2] Psychology Today:Why People Worry Much More Than They Need To
[3] International Journal of Behavioral Science: The Impostor Phenomenon

More by this author

Daniel Riley

Daniel is a writer who specialises in personal development and helping others become the best version of themselves.

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Last Updated on July 9, 2020

How to Stop Being Passive and Start Getting What You Want

How to Stop Being Passive and Start Getting What You Want

Have you ever wondered what keeps you stuck in a state of passivity each day? You tend to know exactly what you need to, but you never have the energy, motivation, or willpower to do it. You know you need to learn how to stop being passive, but how do you do that?

You are not alone. Being passive can leave you stuck in a bit of a rut that is difficult to escape from. This article will help to shine some light on your predicament by not just exploring the methods of how to stop being passive, but also the finer and very important details about what causes passive behavior, as well as an important distinction between positive and negative forms of being passive.

Let’s dive straight in.

What Causes Passive Behavior?

Passive behavior is often the leading cause of people feeling stuck either at work or in their life. It occurs when your life situation is unhappy, but the only thing you “actively” do about it is complain. This, of course, doesn’t change anything. Passive behavior in this sense leaves people feeling stuck, hopeless, and miserable for the vast majority of their life.

Passive behavior can emerge from a number of different sources, but there are three main ways that tend to be the most evident.

Lack of Motivation

Perhaps the most common and most obvious cause of passive behavior is the simple fact of being unmotivated. In the conventional sense, motivation gives rise to action. When you feel motivated, you go and do the things that you set out to do. When you don’t feel motivated, you don’t act.

You might wake up one morning and be eager to get a nice, long, satisfying workout in, so you head to the gym. On another morning, or for a number of consecutive mornings, you might not feel motivated at all. As a result, you don’t get a workout done.

Not being motivated and not always doing what you set out to do is fine. It is part of the natural ebb and flow of life and all of its contents. However, it is a myth that motivation needs to be preceded by action. The secret of successful and seemingly “always motivated” people is that they know that that is a myth. They also know that, quite often, it is usually action that leads to motivation[1].

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Don’t believe me? You have probably experienced it many times yourself. You have forced yourself into your workout gear and then suddenly felt ready to go. You forced yourself to begin writing a report and then all of a sudden you’re in full flow. You forced yourself to meet friends just for one drink and ended up having the time of your life. Action, and then motivation.

Motivation sometimes leads to action, but motivation only comes around every so often. However, motivation that follows action is always in your control. It may seem counterintuitive, but whenever you feel unmotivated and passive, just do something. Anything. And you will usually find that motivation and productivity follow closely behind.

Lack of Goals

Another common force behind passive behavior is the lack of any meaningful goals that you are striving towards. If your life consists of going through the motions, doing the same boring tasks every day, and eating the same sort of stuff, not only can it quickly begin to feel like Groundhog Day, but it can also begin to eat away at your life energy. Anyone with experience of these sorts of patterns will be able to directly relate.

When your only goal is to make it through another day or make it to the weekend, that is a massive portion of your life that you are throwing away. Discovering and creating meaningful goals in your own life can radically change all of that.

Ideally, because you spend large portions of your life at work, you will want to start by finding some meaningful goals within the work section of your life. You can strive towards creating something amazing and valuable for your customers or brainstorming ways that your business can become further integrated into the community. There are a number of ways to create meaningful goals at work. If you really cannot find any, then a goal might be to find a place or line of work where you can.

Thankfully, though, life doesn’t exclusively consist of work. Meaningful goals can be spread out across all areas and interests of life. Maybe you set yourself a goal of setting up a local football team in your neighborhood. Maybe you volunteer for a charity that means a lot to you.

Meaningful goals almost always involve other people, and this kindness, generosity, and good-will not only grows in others and your community, but it grows inside of you, too. The growth of these qualities in your life inevitably leads you out of passive behavior.

Analysis Paralysis

You might be shocked to realize that anything that involves analysis is one of the leading causes of passive behavior. Yet, it is this “analysis paralysis” that occurs to varying degrees in various people over time that is a big contributor to passivity and ultimately not getting what you want out of life[2].

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Analysis paralysis is so common in the modern era due to the infinite sources of information that we have available to us via books, websites, podcasts, YouTube, etc. Because of this, a child who didn’t know any better would probably spend hours upon on hours watching YouTube videos, studying textbooks, and analyzing different expert’s opinions on how to ride a bike rather than actually just getting on one and learning through experience.

It is common for you to slip into this same trap as the child in many other areas of life. You want all experts to agree on something before you take any action on it. You want to memorize the instructions front-to-back before you start on step one. You want a 100% guarantee that something will work from start to finish before you try it for yourself. Of course, that guarantee never arrives, and you remain in the same place.

Forget all of that. Your brain is great for many things, but it is actually more likely to keep you stuck in the same place than it is to move you forward towards your goals. It will give you ten reasons why you shouldn’t for every one that you should. This is where listening to your intuition is important. There are countless examples of people living extraordinary lives and accomplishing truly wonderful things after they followed their intuition and ignored their “intellectual impulse” to have all of the details figured out first.

Experience is not only the greatest teacher, it is the most direct route to experiencing, learning from and enjoying reality. Whatever goes on in your head is a projection. Whatever actually happens is reality. Spend less time reading about bikes (which is passive behaviour disguised as active behavior), and start getting on that bike for yourself.

Is Being Passive a Bad Thing?

As already highlighted briefly in the introduction, it is important to distinguish exactly what is meant by “passive” in this article. Here, we are talking about passivity and how it relates to things like boredom, frustration, unhappiness, feeling stuck, and all other connotations. The passivity that we are talking about is living a relatively unhappy existence and not really doing anything about it.

Passive is not always a bad thing, though, and while the positive meanings of being passive aren’t the focus of this article, they are worth pointing out so that you don’t avoid passivity altogether.

Passive can also relate to peace, contentment, and even things like creativity and inspiration. It is very rare for somebody who is in an active state all of the time to produce anything original and not completely burnout. Great individuals throughout history that put a lot of emphasis on stillness, reflection, and the “good” form of passivity include Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Mahatma Gandhi, and many, many others.

There is an important distinction to be made between the passivity that is causing unhappiness and the passivity that is to be used in intervals to take your life to the next level. In this article though, we are focusing on the former.

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How to Stop Being Passive

Now that we have established some of the causes of being passive and the different faces of passivity, it is time to explore ways in which you can stop being passive (in the negative sense) and start to find effective methods of allowing more happiness into your life.

1. Be Proactive, Not Reactive

One of the most effective ways to stop being passive is to stop reacting to other people and situations as soon as they unfold. Your knee-jerk reaction is rarely the best course of action to take, and yet, it is a deeply-seated habit of all humans to respond angrily to anger or to see an unexpected situation as much more of an issue and struggle than it actually is.

To stop being reactive, you can start being proactive. The best thing you can do in this sense, paradoxically, is to simply watch your reactivity as much as possible[3]. What feelings flare up and cloud your judgment in certain situations? How do you respond when things don’t go your way or to plan? The closer you can watch, and the more honest you can be, the less automatic your reactions become, and the more proactive and effective your responses to situations and people will be.

You can also try to imagine different scenarios about how things might play out in the future. Thing about what might go right and what might go wrong so that you can anticipate and plan your action ahead of time. However, it can be difficult to predict the future, which is why I always emphasize starting with yourself.

2. Consider the Future and Act in the Present

Closely linked to the point above, while you can never accurately predict the future, it is always useful to give some consideration to how it might play out. What goals do you want to achieve? What circumstances do you want in your life? What obstacles might arise, and how can you either avoid them or be effective in dealing with them?

Considering all of these questions and any others that are personal to you will give you an excellent basis for action.

From this position, you can now focus all of your attention back into the present moment. The future is important to consider, but don’t live there because it doesn’t exist. All that exists is the present moment. You can only ever take care of the things right in front of you. Focus only on taking care of them, one thing at a time, and you will find that your entire future and life will fall perfectly into place.

3. Address the Emotional Side of Passivity

As we covered earlier when discussing lack of motivation and its direct influence on passivity, the reason that you are being passive is probably because you are invested in the story that you need to be motivated before you can take any action.

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Being passive, unmotivated, uninspired, or any other great word that you want to throw an “un” in front of is often an emotional issue that needs addressing. For you, addressing the problem might simply mean taking action and letting the motivation follow. It might be attaching something emotionally rewarding (a treat of some kind) with action that you want to take that, for now, isn’t emotionally rewarding in itself.

There is usually some sort of emotional gap that needs to be bridged before you can truly step out of being passive and step into the life that you want to live.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has managed to shine a bit more light on being passive, where it comes from, how it keeps your life stagnant, and what to do about it.

As you already know, reading about riding a bike doesn’t teach you how to ride a bike. Even more sneakily, it is inaction disguised as action, because deep down you know you just need to do it.

Going from passive to active living is exactly the same. You have read this article, you know what to do… now go do it!

Your new life awaits you on the other side.

More Tips on How to Stop Being Passive

Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

Reference

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