“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Eliot
Fear seems to be the brain’s favourite tool when it comes to keeping us safely within our comfort zone. From our logical brain’s perspective, anything that is not familiar and safety-tested carries the potential for pain. Whether that pain is real or imagined, emotional or physical, our brain is on constant alert for anything that might be a risk to our wellbeing and is committed to protecting us from pain at all costs.
Are you a creature of habit?
As young children we learn about the world by exploring it. We have the guidance of the adults around us to keep us safe and we learn pretty quickly when we push our limits too far into the danger zone. The trouble is, that the more we explore and fall, the more nervous our brain becomes about the unknown and so it makes us more and more nervous in an effort to ensure that we stay in familiar (aka “safe”) territory. Human beings are naturally creatures of habit and the older we get the more comfortable it becomes to stick to the same, safe routine. The trouble is that even when our safe habits are not contributing to our success, our brain will resist our attempts to change. So, when everything that is unfamiliar becomes a threat, how are we supposed to grow?
Time to scare myself
If you’ve been reading my posts for a while you may know that for the past year I have been on a mission to scare myself. Having recognized that fear was one of the biggest obstacles standing between me and my goals I decided to test the theory that “there is nothing to fear but fear itself” and to create opportunities to break out of my comfort zone. I hoped that in deliberately challenging myself to follow my fears instead of hide from them I would be able to take significant leaps forward.
What I’ve learned over the past 15 months is that I am capable of far more than I imagined and that some of the scariest things on my list are actually incredibly rewarding. I discovered a passion for public speaking and skydiving and I'm no longer hugely intimidated by the thought of people I don’t know reading (and commenting) on my writing. I’ve discovered that I am capable of walking into a crowded room by myself (although I still don’t like doing it!) and I learned that, when it comes to relationships and careers, sometimes you need to take a huge leap of faith in order to reap the biggest rewards.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that even when I take a leap and fall, I can get back up and use that lesson to redefine my path and create something even better.
Fear can have a surprisingly huge impact on the way we handle our finances. Fear encourages us to stick with habits that don’t serve us rather than making changes that have the potential to dramatically impact our future in a positive way. Fear keeps us in our financial comfort zone and often prevents us from building the level of wealth that we have the potential to achieve. Fear keeps us quiet when it comes to discussing money and financial goals with our partners, children and family and helps us keep the door of positive change firmly closed. Fear keeps us “safe” but it often keeps us from discovering our true potential and leaves us with a sense that we could have had/done/been more.
If fear is holding you back, then maybe it’s time to take a risk and follow your fears to a place where they no longer have the ability to scare you into standing still? I can’t promise you that it’s easy, I can’t promise you that you won’t fall along the way but I can tell you that the rewards are more than worth the discomfort it takes to find them. I still have a long way to go but I know that chasing my fears is going to get me there a lot faster and that definitely takes the edge off the apprehension that comes when I think about taking that next step.
If you have a story about chasing or facing your fears I’d love to hear it!