Fear. It’s a powerful thing.
In some ways, fear is a good thing – it keeps us safe and prevents us from doing things that might harm us. It’s fear that keeps us from venturing into dangerous places and from doing things we’re not prepared for. A healthy dose of fear is a wonderful thing to have.
On the other hand, fear can prevent us from doing things that would be great for us – if we could only figure out a way to face and overcome those fears.
I’ve been thinking about fear a lot lately – about how it’s affected my life and about what kinds of things I’m afraid of. I’ve heard so many people say, “You’re so brave to ride a bike from Alaska to Argentina” and yet I don’t think I am. I think I simply acknowledged my fears and went anyway.
Way back many years ago when my husband first brought up the idea of quitting our jobs and taking off on bicycles with our children, I thought he was nuts. I was convinced the man was stark, raving crazy for thinking we could ride bikes thousands of miles with children. I mean – that’s not exactly what parents do!
But as time marched on and he kept talking about it, I realized that what was holding me back was fear. Fear of failure.
At the time, I had convinced myself there was no way I could ride a heavily loaded bike all day and keep all four of us fed and healthy and set up the tent every evening and take it down every morning. There was no way I could do all that and still be Mom to my precious sons.
You’ve been there, right? You know you can’t do something so you don’t even try? That’s exactly where I was.
Then one day, I had my EUREKA moment. I realized that if I didn’t try, I would fail for sure. If I loaded up my bike and took that first pedal stroke I figured I had a 50/50 chance of success, but not trying at all meant a 100% chance of failure. When I looked at it that way, it didn’t make sense to not give it a go.
In my mind, I had convinced myself it was better to fail by not even trying than to face the humiliation and agony of defeat when we gave up down the road. I would rather deal with regrets later in life than the (very real) possibility that I wouldn’t be able to do what I set out to do.
But by doing that, I didn’t give myself the chance to experience the exhilaration of success.
Can someone tell me how that makes any sense?
A few days later we headed to the store to buy bikes and the rest, as they say, is history. We spent a whole year cycling around the USA and Mexico, then another three years cycling from Alaska to Argentina. Those four years I’ve spent on my bicycle with my family have been some of the best years of my life.
And they never would have happened if I hadn’t faced my fear and climbed on that bike.
What fears do you have? What is it that’s holding you back from living the life of your dreams?
I’ve come up with a list of what I consider to be the top fears preventing people from living their dream. Maybe by identifying what it is that’s holding you back, you’ll be more able to stare it down and live your dream anyway.
Fear of running out of money or not having enough time
It’s the whole time versus money conundrum. If we have the time, we don’t have the money. If we have the money, we don’t have the time. If we take the time now, how will it affect the money in the future? Truth be told, this fear is nearly always just an excuse – a smokescreen, if you will – to hide the true reason. If you truly want to live your dream, you’ll find a way to get the money and time.
Fear of reactions of others
Nobody wants to be ridiculed or scorned. Human nature dictates that we want others to like us and support what we’re doing. That desire is so strong, in fact, that there are times when we’ll deny ourselves true happiness and fulfillment in order to make them happy. Does that make sense? Surround yourself with people who support your dreams and move away from those who don’t.
Fear of the unknown
Fear of the unknown is the scariest of them all and is, in my opinion, the most common thing that holds people back. What’s out there? If I pursue my passion and follow my dream, then what? Will it be fabulous or dreadful? Will I meet kind generous people or thieves, rapists, and murderers? Will I like it? Will it be good for me? There are a million different questions and all the answers are unknown. It’s scary. The only thing you can do is head out and cross the bridges when you get there.
Fear of being inadequate or unprepared
OK, so you don’t have enough knowledge or experience to live your big dream yet. Notice that word YET? Get moving. Take baby steps to get that experience or knowledge. There is not a single person on this planet who set out to do some big thing without taking many, many thousands of baby steps to get where he felt capable of doing it. Sir Edmund Hilary climbed many smaller peaks before summiting Everest; Amelia Earhart flew hundreds of short jaunts before taking off to fly around the world. You can learn what you need to know, but you won’t learn it sitting in your rocker.
Fear of future career implications
This one really belongs up above in the “unknown” category, but it’s such a huge unknown I decided to put it on its own. Can I realistically take time away from my career and then go back? Will it work? What if it doesn’t? It’s scary not knowing how it’ll turn out. Will pursuing my passion negatively affect some other aspect of my ‘planned & structured’ life? Will I have enough money for retirement? Will I miss out on a work related opportunity? What if? If you truly want to live your dream, then do it and deal with the consequences. Maybe you’ll change to the point where you don’t want to reenter your previous career path anyway? Once you know you CAN pursue your passion, you can do anything – even if it means heading down a different career path.
Fear of achieving your dream
This one sounds bizarre, but I think many people use it as a real excuse for not pursuing their dream. Lisa Wood, blogger at New Life on the Road, said, “It sounds weird but people usually talk about “Big Dreams” that they are going to do one day, yet when that one day comes around and their dreams come true, then what?” If you live your dream, then what do you have left to dream of? I can attest to the difficulty of this one. When we finally reached our goal of Ushuaia after three years of cycling, I felt totally lost and disoriented. I likened it to drifting on a sea of options. But really, is that a good reason to not even start?
Fear of failure
We all like to believe we could achieve our dream, and sometimes it’s better to hold on to that belief rather than facing the possibility of learning otherwise. As long as it’s just a dream it is still there and attainable – someday. If you do it and fail, or it’s not at all what you thought it would be, you’ve lost the positive possibility. You’ll never know if you can do it until you try.
Fear of not knowing how to make it happen
Many people have forgotten how to dream or weren’t raised with people who encouraged it. My friend Jennifer Miller recently spent a couple months exploring the US with a dear friend of hers and their (combined) eleven kids. Her friend believed that “dreams” were nebulous things you pined for, but never really happened unless you were “lucky.” In addition to needing to believe your dream can actually happen, you need to have the boots-on-the-ground knowledge of how to attack a dream, break it down into bite-sized chunks and make it real. That’s hard stuff for a lot of people. Fortunately, there are people out there (like us!) who will happily help you make your dream a reality. It’s easier than you might think.
Fear of how it will turn out and if it will be good for all involved
After being afraid of failure, this was my second biggest fear – would it be good for my kids and would they enjoy it? Was I taking away other important “normal” experiences that my kids needed for proper development? It didn’t take long for me to realize this fear was ridiculous. What kind of message did I want to send to my children anyway? To take risks and live life to the fullest or to cower away in a closet in order to be “safe”?
Fear of medical concerns
This is a biggie. We all fear that major medical situation that we know might arise. It might happen, but more likely it won’t. Is it worth tabling your dreams because of fear of disease or a major accident that may happen along the way? Accidents can and do happen at home as well.
Fear of kids’ schooling/socialization
If I take my kids out of school, will I be sacrificing their chances at attending university and future opportunities? Remember that millions of families homeschool their children and the kids turn out just fine. Many opt to go to college; many opt for other career paths. You are not handicapping your children by teaching them to reach for the stars.
Fear of just plain ol’ not liking it
After the countless hours/days/weeks/months/years planning and preparing to live your dream, what if it’s not everything you thought it would be? Trust me, it probably won’t be. Living your dream won’t be all rainbows, unicorns, and puppy dog tails. You’ll go through some of the hardest times you’ve ever faced, but will also experience the best of the best. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it, but why not head out the door and find out rather than speculating?
Researchers have found that:
- about 40% of the things we worry about never happen
- 30% are in the past and can’t be helped
- 12% involve the affairs of others that are not even our business
- 10% percent relate to sickness, real or imagined.
- That means only 8% percent of the things we worry about are even likely to happen!
Worry is just interest paid on trouble before it comes due. And in most cases it never comes due. When you worry, there’s a 92% percent chance you’re paying interest on a debt that’s not even yours!
Fear. We can allow it to stop us from living life fully or we can choose to embrace it and live anyway. What’s your choice?