Are we really in “control” of our lives? What leads us to make our most important decisions?
Are we motivated towards what we want, or away from what we fear?
The answers are complicated, but it’s generally agreed that fear drives us more than we like to admit.
In the last two weeks I’ve heard two people say more or less the same thing about how fear held them back.
That is—because they were scared, they held themselves back from taking a job.
It was an odd idea to me, but having kicked it around with some people, I now see it more clearly.
Why Was It Odd To Me?
It’s hard for me to understand how fear could prevent someone from taking a better job because I couldn’t imagine fear holding me back from anything that I truly want.
I see fear as part of the package. I’ve jumped from metaphorical planes without a parachute, I’ve suffered plenty of fear, but I still keep leaping.
In doing what you want, you take the actions anyway, and train yourself to deal with the fear.
But that’s not to say I’m immune to fear… I simply face the same lie as the second guy I’ll tell you about.
Not Taking A Job Because of The Fear
One person told me that she didn’t take a job because of her fear.
It was a job she really wanted. It would have stretched her. She was sure she could have been successful at it, but she was scared.
Scared to take on more responsibility. Scared to have a higher profile as a leader. Scared to really put herself on the line.
So she didn’t take the job. She made up a story about how it wasn’t right for her, but she confessed to me it was about staying in her comfort zone.
Her story really kicked me in the gut because I could see how she’d been fighting that demon a lot in her mind.
To see that fear stood like an imposing bouncer blocking her exit made me want to drag that fear right out of her.
The Second Guy Was More Subtle
He said, “I do want the promotion, but that also comes with a lot of tasks, expectations, and responsibilities, and sometimes I just question whether I’m up for it.”
It’s subtle, right?
“Sometimes I question.” It’s not outright saying that he’s scared of the job, but he’s got that doubt (aka fear, aka pain) that gets triggered along with the goal.
It could just be a nagging splinter, and he might proceed anyways, or that fear could drive his decision.
See, and this is where it gets tricky.
When fear is dominant, it’s not like he outright “tells himself” that he’s scared of the job. Our self-protecting, fragile, rationalizing minds are more likely to lead us to question, “Well, do I really want it or not?”
This is how my brain lies to me. Because I’m often scared to admit to myself when I’m scared (and, hence, breakable), my brain tries to trick me into believing that I don’t want it…
To deal with this, you want to learn to trick your brain right back by asking questions like, “Well, imagine you were beyond any concerns, really loving it, how would you decide now?”
It’s obvious now you get to different ways of thinking, and likely different actions too.
Coming from a place of fear, he’s unwilling to really go for that job. He’s more inclined to hang back, see how it plays out, not commit himself or put himself too much on the line, and see if it comes through or not.
But from a place in his mind beyond that fear, where he’s really imagining his greatest success, he’s more likely to go for it.
In this way, we “manifest” the reality that’s within our comfort zone by only taking the actions that avoid triggering our fears.
The Boundary of Our Lives
Fear is like the game, Operation.
You put the tweezers in, that buzz goes off, arrrhh, you quickly withdraw your hand.
Similarly, the boundaries of our lives are drawn by where we trigger our fears.
It’s like the bumper cars at the amusement park.
You drive for a bit, bash into someone, get diverted the other way, bash into someone else, head off in a new direction, and so on.
Each collision is what dictates your path…
Until you choose to drive through that fear.