Across the years, great leaders and successful people have said that we need to find courage, face our fears, and do what’s necessary. Amid a pandemic with everyone a little scared, this isn’t a call to ignore safety measures. But we do have to find the right ways to indulge our penchant for risk-taking and harness it positively.
When things go back to normal, will you also settle back into an uneventful life? Or will you be more deliberate about identifying what makes you afraid, and confronting it for your growth and enjoyment?
Embrace being scared
At Halloween events, your family might scream in genuine terror; your friends and colleagues might do the same when you take them on a roller coaster. But even though we feel stress at the moment, the sensation of fright can do us some good. Research has shown that scary experiences can reduce stress, boost mood, and help you deal better with subsequent stressors.
Getting scared triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response. You get a shot of adrenaline, which is nature’s way of equipping you with the strength and endurance to make it out of emergencies. After the adrenaline rush fades, your brain floods with dopamine, a feel-good chemical that gives you increased confidence.
Maybe you have a beautiful voice, but you can only muster the courage to sing in the shower. Or you jog around the neighborhood every morning but never dared to run a race or hike up a mountain. And many people are too scared to walk up and introduce themselves to people, whether it’s at a networking event or a mixer for singles.
Fear comes in many forms. It can manifest in any aspect of our lives. Embracing your fear can give you the rush of energy you need to deal with these situations. In the process, it opens you up to the resulting opportunities.
Dare to have fun
Beyond the potential for short-term excitement and the doors it might open, there’s also a possibility to achieve a form of lifelong fulfillment through facing your fears. You might be more familiar with this in the concept of a bucket list.
Some people have bucket lists that read like travel itineraries. Go on a road trip across the country, have a romantic holiday in Paris, or head out on an African safari. Others are packed with literal challenges and thrills, such as skydiving or getting into mixed martial arts.
The premise is simple: in the end, your life would feel incomplete without these things. When you think like that, the logical approach is to push your limits. You want to pursue activities and destinations that are on the inaccessible, extreme end.
Often, however, when we crave excitement, we’re really after a reprieve from the monotony of daily existence. We go about the same routine every day, dealing with mundane concerns, looking forward to nothing more than a good night’s sleep and our favorite show on TV (or Netflix).
When you allow this monotonous cycle to dominate your lifestyle, each day fades into a blur of sameness. Years pass by, and you feel like you’ve done nothing and are headed nowhere. You don’t need a bucket list to solve that; you need quality memories. And doing that takes a different sort of courage. You have to dare to do something different and allow yourself to have fun each day.
Pursue personal growth
At an amusement park, or in a theater watching a scary movie, you know you’re not facing any real danger. That element of control and safety is the key to harnessing the power of this fear factor. It’s also why many people get it wrong when they deliberately seek intimidating challenges.
It’s always better to have the confidence to take on something new or set big goals for yourself. But failing in some areas is all right; in others, there can be grave consequences for mistakes.
If you’ve never been incredibly artistic, learning how to paint can be a fun, if slightly embarrassing, way to grow your creative skill. On the other hand, accepting the task of designing marketing collateral for work can prove too much for your beginner’s ability. Delivering subpar results could, in turn, have a negative impact on your job.
Being brave enough to tackle a challenge must be combined with a reasonable assessment of the difficulty and risks involved versus your own capabilities. If you get it right, you’ll be able to find your ‘stretch zone’ and yield optimal personal growth.