The holiday season seems to have come and gone more quickly than ever this year, and although this is one of my favorite times of the year, this last month — and year — has been a bit of a blur.
At this time last year, we had no idea what the year 2020 would bring, yet here we are. Hopefully, we’re foraging on, despite the challenges that have continued to plague us all.
Wrapping up 2020 and starting anew should be a good feeling, right? For me, though, I haven’t noticed that sense of renewal and relief that starting a new year usually brings; in fact, it’s been more of a fear of what’s to come, a fear of the unknown.
But, did you know fear can actually be a good thing?
When we hear the word “fear,” it usually evokes images and feelings of being afraid or terrified. Sometimes, fear keeps us small and prevents us from taking risks or moving outside of our comfort zone.
While fear certainly can cause these feelings, it can also be a positive thing. The right dose of fear can actually inspire self-discovery and help us achieve greatness.
Let’s examine the word “fear.” According to Merriam-Webster, fear is defined as “an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”
Additional words listed associated with the word fear include afraid, frighten, apprehensive, anxious, concern, alarm, dread, fright, horror, panic, worry, stress, and danger. Many of us would agree that fear is associated with all of these words, and we’ve most likely experienced many, if not all of these unpleasant emotions.
Now, let’s take a minute and associate positive feelings or experiences we’ve had when we’ve experienced fear. This is much more difficult. If we think about fear in a different light, however, this task becomes easier.
Think of fear as not being real; most of the time, our fear is only imagined. Usually, when we are afraid of something, it’s not the actual event we’re afraid of, rather it’s what we think may or may not happen that causes us to feel scared or anxious.
As human beings, our brains have the same reaction to any type of fear because it cannot differentiate between what’s real and what is imagined. For example, if you are expected to give a presentation at work and think about this presentation before it occurs, your heart may begin to pound, or you may develop anxiety, even if the presentation is weeks away.
But, if you can remind yourself that it’s not the actual presentation you are afraid of — it’s the thought of the presentation being a failure, or making a fool of yourself, that’s causing your fear — you can help alleviate some of those negative feelings.
If harnessed in the right ways, we can actually use fear to our advantage. Fear can actually lead to growth, self-discovery, creativity, and innovation. But how?
For this, I harken back to a quote by Thomas Edison, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
First, we must acknowledge our fear and then learn how to face it. Sometimes, when facing our fears and working toward overcoming them, we fail, and that’s OK. The important part is that we persevere.
When we pick ourselves up and try again, we learn, we grow, we stretch our minds, we think in new ways, and most importantly, we prove to ourselves that we can do it. This is where the feelings of achievement, self-confidence and greatness lie.
Another quote by Edison that I love — and use in my teaching — is “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” May you find the inspiration, courage, and perseverance to face your fears and use them to your advantage this new year.