Dealing with fear

Fear is sharp-sighted and can see things underground, and much more in the skies.
Miguel de Cervantes
1547 – 1616

I read certain comic strips on a regular basis. Many days they’re funny, but sometimes, they also contain unbelievable wisdom. A Luann strip from several years ago fit in the latter category: it contained a world of wisdom in just four small panels.

The main character of the comic is Luann, a teenage girl, but this particular strip was about her older brother Brad, a single man employed as a firefighter.

Brad has a crush on Toni, a beautiful young firefighter from another station. He wants to ask her out but is deathly afraid to act, so he asks his father for advice. Brad says he would be crushed if Toni refused the date but terrified if she agreed. He’s paralyzed: he does nothing but agonize over what to do.

The father explains that, in his experience, “crushed” and “terrified” don’t last, but being paralyzed lasts forever.

I see this same behavior in people every day — not about asking someone for a date, but about much more important things in life: changing jobs, getting married, moving, and other life-changing decisions. People would be crushed if their decision didn’t work out; they have a fear of failure. And they’re also terrified that their decision could work out, which would draw them out of their comfort zone. They’re stuck because of the fear of success.

So what happens? Nothing. They become paralyzed because either result will cause temporary discomfort. What they fail to realize is that temporary discomfort is just that: temporary. But paralysis is not. It can keep us trapped in our current circumstances. We’d rather stay in discomfort than move toward a position we perceive as risky.

You really need to get this concept fixed in your mind. If we undertake any new venture, failing is rarely more than temporary discomfort — and if we’re astute observers, that failure can become a learning experience. We can and should profit from our temporary failures.

Success can bring a new set of challenges, but that’s no reason to avoid new ventures. We only learn and grow when we step out of our comfort zone. But being paralyzed by fear of failure and fear of success keeps us trapped by indecision. Weigh the risk of failure or success. Understand the risk and then take action.

If you truly want to achieve success in your life, you must overcome the fear of failure and the fear of success. You must break whatever is keeping you paralyzed. Remember, feeling crushed or terrified is only temporary. Overcoming your fear brings permanent growth in your life.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
Eleanor Roosevelt
1884 – 1962

Copyright © 2013 John Chancellor


Dealing with fear — 3 Comments

  1. John, I love that your lessons are applicable whether one is 10, 20,40 or older. When I was a kid, I used to think that when I got older, trying something new wouldn’t be so scary. But the truth is, while it may be different things that intimidate you, there’s still plenty to be scared of even when you’re older. What changes is that you’ve had more practice facing your fears, and that alone makes moving forward a little bit easier.