Sometimes the answers to our problems are not nearly as complex or elusive as many of us seem to believe they are. Or as difficult as some of us make them. Sometimes our problems only exist in our head. Sometimes the journey from where we are to where we’d like to be is not nearly as terrifying as we imagine it is. In fact, it’s often kind of exhilarating and liberating.
That’s right; some of us make life hard. Our inability to make certain decisions or do certain things keeps us trapped in a reality that we don’t enjoy. Hate, in fact. And standing at the door of our self-created prison is a gate-keeper who only exists in our mind; fear. While other people can walk in and out of our prison (reality) at will, fear has kept some of us from freedom for far too long – telling us what to do, and what not to do, for as long as we can remember. Influencing, if not controlling virtually every area of our lives. For years we’ve been fearful of getting hurt in some way, fearful of getting fat, or being unloved, unwanted, poor, humiliated, of upsetting people or being discovered for the fraud we believe we are. And we’re petrified of being alone. We’ve lived so much of our life negatively, simply doing our best to avoid the ‘bad stuff’ and to survive, that somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost, or maybe never even really found, us; the us we still want to be, the us we could be and the us we’ve dreamed about since we were five.
It’s okay, you’re still in there.
Sometimes the seemingly insurmountable gap between our current reality and our own version of amazing (prison and freedom) is much smaller than we think. Much, much smaller. A mere step away in fact. With the only challenge being that sometimes the step we need to take is a doozy; the ‘no safety net’ step. And we love safety nets – that’s a big part of the problem.
Fear is a jealous gate-keeper and he wants you staying put in your make-believe prison. That’s how he operates. He doesn’t want you to see what’s out there, what’s possible for you. He can’t keep you in there but only he knows that. He’s been holding a pair of threes while you’ve had four aces in your hand for years, but he’s bluffed you every time. Stared you down, made you believe something that wasn’t true – that what you have in your hand isn’t good enough. Well listen up…
It is good enough. You are good enough.
This is not feel-good, positive thinking mumbo jumbo, its reality. But you need to make it YOUR reality. Fear doesn’t want you making decisions, taking chances or exploring your potential because that’s where he loses his power. He doesn’t want you hanging out with those ‘positive thinking’ types and he certainly doesn’t want you paying too much attention to articles like this one.
Healthy and unhealthy fear
Of course there’s a time to fear. If someone is pointing a gun at you and you are fearful, then that makes you normal, not gutless. We would call that healthy fear. But that’s not what we’re talking about today. Today we’re talking about the unhealthy, destructive and often irrational fear that controls and ruins lives.
People often ask me what I believe stops so many of us from fulfilling our potential and from creating our best life. In truth, there are many things on the list of likely obstacles: procrastination, laziness, ignorance, indifference, ego and a bunch of other stuff, but without doubt, at the top of most lists, is fear.
It’s true; we humans are fearful creatures. On some level we all operate on fear from time to time, and to a point, that’s understandable. Wise even. But beyond a point, it’s stupid. Destructive even. It’s about knowing where that line in the sand should be and staying on the right side. A little fear – good. A life controlled by fear – bad. Painful.
Far too many of our significant ‘life decisions’ come out of our fearful mindset, and as a consequence, many of us live a life of compromise, under-achievement and imprisonment. And repetition. And repetition. It’s like some of us are Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. And repetition. All of our days are just like the ones before. And sadly for some, tomorrow will be the same too. Because that’s what we do; the same – even though we desperately want different. The journey between where we are and where we want to be scares the crap out of us so we stay put. In Samesville. A.K.A. prison.
“I don’t really like my life right now, but at least there’s a level of familiarity and predictability about it. I know what’s coming each day and in a way, I’m comfortable with that. It doesn’t particularly fulfill me but it doesn’t terrify me either. So if it’s okay with you, I’ll stay here in a holding pattern for forty or fifty years and then I’ll die, just like dear old Dad did. There won’t be a whole lot of joy or fun, but at least I know what to expect each day.”
We love certainty (a dangerous thing to love in a uncertain world), we’re addicted to safety, we seek familiarity and we want risk-free (good luck with that). Ironically certainty, safety, familiarity and risk-free… is not where we grow, learn, adapt, change or improve. Or find our best life. In fact, quite often the things that we gravitate towards are our biggest handicap.
I have spent a lifetime watching people complicate the simple, avoid the obvious and not do the very things they should or could have done, long ago. Some people have been almost creating their best life for far too long. Some people have been standing at the threshold of greatness for years, twiddling their thumbs, wasting their time and talent and hoping in vain that success might somehow find it’s way to them. An interesting, if not totally unrealistic notion.
Some people have been in situations or circumstances that they really don’t want to be in, for years. Decades even. This is because they associate more discomfort / pain with getting out of their current reality, than staying in it. So they stay. Miserable and scared.
Some Personal Development Junkies are masters of this. Just one more workshop, one more conversation, one more mentoring session, one more self-help book and just one more day and then I’ll do it. Okay, maybe two more days. Sadly, they don’t understand that what they really need is not more time, books, workshops or more motivational fluff, what they really need is some balls. Excuse my honesty but some people are highly educated, very capable, extremely talented and gutless. I’ve met many of them. Give me someone with less talent, less opportunities, more adversity and some genuine courage, and I’ll show you how to get some real results.
I know this is not a message that’s often taught in personal development circles but I believe that’s a big mistake. I believe it should be shouted from the roof tops. We like to gravitate towards the feel-good (but mostly useless and disempowering) psycho-babble crap. It makes us feel warm and fuzzy for ten minutes but results in no long term positive change. Of course I believe there is a time for listening, for handing holding, for back rubbing, for hugging and for loving support and encouragement. The problem is, some people have had all of that for years and they’re STILL in the same place and still doing the same destructive things. Sometimes more therapy ain’t the answer. I know that’s not a popular thing to say but it’s true. There’s a time when some people need to suck it up, to stop looking for pity, to stop being a victim and start taking control of their own life. Simple.
So often we are taught that creating our best life is about talent, opportunities, planning, goal setting, vision, passion, discipline and a bunch of other stuff. And to an extent it is; it’s about all of those things. But there’s one non-negotiable ingredient that doesn’t get the attention it should; courage. Our ability to do what we need to do, despite the fear. If we have all of the ingredients but no courage, we’ll never get there. Wherever there is for us.
Fear and all it’s implications in the lives of us mere mortals is something which has fascinated me for years. I have watched it ruin many friendships, careers, businesses, marriages and lives. I have seen it destroy individuals. Like most emotions, on some level, we create it. It’s very personal and individual. It’s a personal response to, or interpretation of, an event, situation or circumstance.
I’ve also watched many people stare-down and overcome their fears and enjoy a life of happiness, joy and exhilaration that only comes with true freedom. I’ve seen brave people turn their lives around after years of frustration and sadness. And I’ve seen ordinary people do incredible things because they chose to walk out of that prison cell. Once and for all.
On the other side of fear is freedom.
Enjoy your liberty my friend.
You deserve it and you’re worth it.