Fear is a strong motivator.
At various points throughout my life, I’ve accomplished a good amount because I was driven by what could go wrong if I didn’t work hard.
When I played competitive soccer, I worked hard because I was afraid of what it would feel like and what would happen to my playing time and my team’s overall success if I didn’t play well.
In school, I studied hard because I was afraid to not score high enough on my exams.
At my job, I worked hard and took risks because of a fear of not progressing my career.
While I found “success” in those 3 areas and more, it took me too long to flip the narrative.
Fear, though effective, shouldn’t have been my motivator.
Inspiration and excitement at the prospect of what I could accomplish should have been.
It’s never too late to flip that narrative.
Sometimes we don’t even realize how much of our lives are driven by fear of an uncertain outcome.
Fear is also a paralyzing obstacle.
There are also times when rather than being an effective motivator, fear can make you question whether or not you’re capable of tackling a challenge in your life.
But when you face the source of your fear, is the obstacle or challenge really worthy of the fear you have for it? Is it actually scary, or is it your mindset that’s limited?
An Astronaut, A Bicycle, and The Fear Mindset
I recently came across an idea while reading Polina Marinova’s The Profile.
Astronaut Chris Hadfield explains this idea using a very simple example:
When you first learned how to ride a bike, you were fearful because you could crash and hurt yourself. Then, as you got better and more confident in your skills, you never gave it a second thought. A bike was no longer something to be afraid of.
Yet the bike itself didn’t change. It remained just as dangerous as it always was.
You are the one who changed. The lesson here is that competence breeds confidence.
Why don’t we apply that same lesson as grown ups?
Instead as adults, many of us find ourselves in equally simple situations as the child and his bike. But we often over complicate situations and let fear drive us more than it should.
What is the Fear Mindset?
The fear mindset (much as the name says) is when your mindset is controlled by fear, worry, doubt and dread. These emotions drive your thoughts, actions, and decisions.
While these emotions are strong motivators that can still be quite effective in helping you reach great success, this mindset can cripple you in many ways — mentally of course, but also physically by causing stress to your body.
How To Overcome The Fear Mindset
Whether fear has helped you reach success but you’re looking for a healthier alternative, or fear is paralyzing your progress, here are a few suggestions for overcoming the fear mindset to help you transition from fear to a life driven by excitement and inspiration.
1. Learn to recognize patterns
In order to overcome the Fear Mindset, you must first learn to recognize patterns within yourself. In other words, learn how to recognize when fear is driving (or hindering) your decisions.
Awareness comes with practice. Work on your self-observation skills. Self-observation is an awareness practice where you turn your attention inward, and non-judgmentally watch what you think, feel, and do. Imagine that you are a kind, neutral third party with full access to your inner world. As that person, neutrally describe your thoughts, emotions, sensations, etc. as they occur within you.
If it helps you to write this down, keep a journal or jot notes down on your phone periodically throughout the day. Alternatively, simply use this idea to guide your reflection, or use it as a prompt for discussion with a close friend.
2. Define your fear: determine the source of your anxiety
Once you’re able to recognize when you’re driven by fear, use what you learned through self-observation to define your fear and identify the source of your anxiety.
In my earlier personal example, I determined that fear of failure (whether in soccer, school, or at work) was the largest source of my fear, the biggest driver of my actions.
This was my first step towards changing the narrative for myself.
3. Practice embracing the Growth Mindset
Fear of failure, rejection, etc. are all linked to whether or not you have a fixed or a growth mindset (not sure the difference between the two? Read more here).
Everything is a growing opportunity.
That one simple sentence is the antidote to fear. It strips fear’s power away.
Whatever you defined as your fear, break it down into a list of what you would learn if your fear came true. For each item on that list, see if you can then list opportunities created from what you would learn.
A list won’t solve all your problems, but its a step in the right direction.
Living by the Growth Mindset takes continuous practice. But once you’ve identified patterns in your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and have a clear grasp on the Growth Mindset, you can improve your inner dialogue and are better equipped to correct patterns.
4. Clarify and strengthen what inspires and excites you
Last but not least, in order to be driven and motivated by hope, inspiration, and excitement, you must first be clear on what that means for you in all areas of your life.
Try the following journal prompt.
Similar to gratitude journaling, the prompt brings your focus to positivity in your life, and focuses your mindset on people, ideas, activities, places, etc. that light a fire of excitement, passion, motivation, (whatever it may be) within you.
It’s natural for this list to evolve — you must evolve with it. Keep it close by as a reminder, and so you can add to it whenever inspiration hits.
This list will be your main tool in conquering your fears and replacing them with what excites you in life.
You can learn how to stop living in fear or letting fear drive your life. You don’t have to live stuck in the Fear Mindset.
May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears.