by Paul Kaye
September 26, 2017
Are there monsters under the bed?
Everyone wants to be successful. We all set out to leave our mark. We want to build a legacy that will live on long after we’ve gone. What we want may differ from person to person just as how we perceive success will be uniquely our own. But it is my belief that everyone wants to succeed in their chosen desires and achieve the life they have always dreamt of.
At the start, we push ourselves, we learn and we improve. With each improvement comes another layer of success; we’re a step closer to realizing our dreams. But, why is it that some people achieve what they set out to and others do not?
Many things make our pursuit of success challenging. You need strong resolve and determination to overcome the many obstacles that will inevitably present themselves. You must be able to get up from the failures you encounter, dust yourself off, and try again. However during our pursuit of success there appears to be one significant obstacle that holds so many of us back…something that prevents us from digging deep and pushing harder. Fear!
Fear of the unknown has the ability to bring our journey towards success — and our dreams – to a sudden and grinding halt. It leaps out and paralyzes us. We become frozen. Apprehension surges through every inch of our being and we are no longer able — or willing – to take that next step forward.
Fear of the unknown engulfs us when we don’t rationally know what an outcome may be and our mind jumps in and fills the blanks for us. Our minds are incredibly good at exaggerating situations to make them seem much worse than they actually are; we then use this fictitious picture our mind has created to justify our action… or lack of action.
This fear of the unknown has been with you all your life. As a child you were scared to let your leg dangle over the edge of the bed as you slept. Was there a monster under the bed that could grab you? You have been scared to walk down a dark corridor; petrified of what might be lurking somewhere in the shadows? What about skydiving? Ever talked yourself out of doing that just in case it’s your parachute that doesn’t open?
You had no idea what might be hiding under the bed or whether there was something lurking in the shadows or if the parachute would actually open, but your mind filled in the blank and exaggerated it. It made the outcome significantly worse than it was likely to be – Our imaginations have the power to be far more frightening than reality!
The irrationality that lives in our mind does make sense; our minds are programmed to be cautious. The mind tells us that to be able to continue forwards we must know what is out there. Our mind wants — no, needs – to control the situation in order to keep us safe. This way of thinking was conditioned into our minds back when we lived in caves and pretty much everything outside of the cave had the potential to kill us. This part of the brain has been very successful over the years in keeping us out of harm’s way, after all we survived those saber-tooth tigers eagerly waiting for us on the outside of our cave. If our mind doesn’t know what lies ahead how it is going to be able to control the situation and keep us safe? It is our own mind that doesn’t want us to take the next step forward.
When the fear of the unknown presents itself it makes us afraid of exploring new ground. We become paranoid and anxious of losing what we already have. It creates a sense of uncertainty deep within us. It makes the pursuit of success feel insurmountable.
Working with talent, it is not uncommon to find that it is the fear of the unknown preventing them from reaching their fullest potential. They are unsure of what taking that next step may mean for them. What will people think? What if they no longer fit in? What if they are judged? What if the next steps they take hinders them? What if they fail? They are paralyzed by ‘What Ifs’ and the more they listen to these inner fears the more they start running away from being the best version of themselves and the success that may be waiting for them.
But, how do you prevent fear and build the life you want? The old adage to ‘face your fear head on’is a good place to start. You must recognize that the fear of the unknown, when you distill it down to its purest form, is just an unwillingness to try or deal with anything new or unfamiliar? It’s an internal conflict between what you want and what you already have. It lives within you and therefore you can control it. Use the power of visualization to imagine, vividly, the positives of taking the next step. What will you feel like when you succeed? What are all the things that could go right? How do they feel? How do you look when success comes? Creating a positive outlook on what comes next is the crucial first step to beating fear. Spend time each day reliving the positive visual you create for yourself.
You need perspective to deal with fear. Ask yourself what is the worst that could happen? Evaluate the situation and rationally determine the worst consequence of you taking action. Seek input from others to help you determine these potential outcomes. It helps to learn about the fear you have. Learn about the real risks. When you identify that you’re not in real danger you’ll be more likely to fight through the fear — rather than running in the opposite direction.
We often know what needs to be done, but fear is sat on our shoulder like a little devil trying to talk us out of it. And damn that devil is effective! It can be a useful exercise to ask yourself what you would do if you weren’t afraid. Vocalize the answer. Share these thoughts with others. Write them down and re-visit them often. Remove your self-imposed irrationality, so you can make a well informed decision about the next step you will take.
The way to deal with the fear of the unknown is always through rationality. It is the irrationality of fear that creates our uncertainty. But, uncertainty is a way of life. We have no way of knowing what lies around the next corner. What we do know is that people who take action find success. They get the best chance to realize their dreams. They take risks and keep pushing onwards. It is the continuous small steps that they never stop taking that propels them forward. Those who stay in one spot paralyzed can’t achieve more than they have; and standing still is often moving backwards. The most successful people have stepped into the unknown, failed more that most of us, but kept on going. The only way to beat the fear of the unknown is to take the next step…