I believe that fear gets way too much air play. So many people say, people don’t take action because they have too much fear or fear is holding people back and I think this is so common in our language, to the point where it’s almost comedic. It’s ridiculous, it’s like what are they fearful of? What are they scared of? We live in the modern world right now where there aren’t all these impulsive fears that are driven by a physical reality to be safe.
We aren’t being chased by animals that are trying to kill us, often. Most of the fears we actually have are negative contemplative thoughts that we’re re-running too often and we associating so much pain to that that now it becomes convenient. Oh it’s fear, as if fear is some big unknowable, scary awful thing, when mostly it’s not. Most fear is just bad management of our own mental faculties. It’s not an impulsive physical thing generating in our brain, telling us to fight or flee and everyone wants to use that as an excuse.
We still have all these biological psychologists and people running around saying it’s an impulsive thing people can’t understand or be conscious of. It’s the unconscious fears that are wiping us out. It’s like get over it! Neuroscience has shown that we have much more powerful capabilities than most of us think we do, when the reality is that most fear, once you understand what it actually is and it usually is a contemplative process, then it’s like they know they can overcome it.
What is fear?
What are we so scared of? What is this thing that we fear is going to bring so much pain in our lives? Ever thought about it, what is it? What is the thing that we’re so scared of that’s going to bring in all this pain to our lives? I remember figuring this out for myself and when I did I wasn’t so scared anymore. Sometimes once you understand things more they aren’t so terrifying. Once something becomes knowable then you can develop competency around it and once you can develop competency around it then you can develop confidence around it.
There’s this old thing in psychology called ‘competence confidence loop’, which is the more you understand something the more confidence you have in that area. It’s the same thing with anything that does happen to impulsively generate some fear in yourself and now, once you understand what it is, you can deal with it better because what we all fear basically is three types of pain, three areas where we might experience pain in our lives. Then, once we understand that, we can re-orient our mindset around those things and no longer be frustrated or stopped by fear.
The first thing we fear as pain in our lives is what I call loss pain.
This is, if I change my life or do this new thing I’ll experience loss and because I experience loss I don’t want to do it, so I’m scared to try it because I might lose something that I like, that I care for or adore. If I make that big change in my life I might lose my job. I might lose my relationship with my spouse, lose my connection with my kids or lose a passion or a benefit.
I remember when I wanted to start my own business and everyone was generating all this fear in me by saying be careful this is very dangerous, Brendon, you don’t want to quit your job and lose all that security you have. What about your 401k, Brendon, you’ll lose that. All these things most people think they’re going to fear and the reality is that part of that was true. As I thought more about the situation I was concerned and fearful that I would lose the security I had that the job provided.
I would lose the steady paycheck we all want. I would lose the predictability of my career path. I would lose that nice process of having managers around to coach and consult me into higher levels of performance. I would lose the peer set, I loved my co-workers. I would lose some of the work that I loved. I would lose that great lunch and cafeteria. So you think about all the things you’re going to lose and that stops you from making the decision to quit.
It’s the same thing, as people are going to try to quit smoking or to try dieting and they become fearful they’re going to lose that smoking break that gives them the peace, comfort and sense of calmness from breathing in deep, even though they’re breathing in death. They’re fearful that if they change their diet they’re going to lose the foods they love so much, so they aren’t going to change. That’s what people do, they fear loss.
So part of re-orienting our lives is focusing not on the things we’re going to lose, but on the things we’re going to gain. I might lose my security for the short-term, but over the long-term I might gain freedom. I might lose that coaching and person who will develop me in terms of that organizational structure, but over here I’ll gain greater challenges and grow faster, because I’m going to be doing things faster on my own. Oh you know what, I’m going to lose that 401k, yes but I’ll make a million dollars over here and focusing on those gains.
What happens in the fearful mind is it starts asking the question, what if…? It follows that phrase with a negative statement. What if this terrible thing happens? We generate and stew within our gut these acids and fears that literally trick our minds into thinking we can’t change. But once you understand that loss pain is something you’re dealing with you start focusing more on the things that you will gain and you’re getting over a hurdle.
The second thing we fear so much is process pain.
This is changing, which in anything is going to be difficult. The process of change itself is hard, let alone what we’ll lose in doing something new. It’s hard. When I thought about starting my new business I was terrified. I knew it would be hard and I didn’t know how to do many things yet, and I don’t have any competency in those areas. I don’t know how this will go. I’ll have to work 24/7 to start this business and work really hard for three years. I might not get any support and help. The process is scary, so we don’t change.
It’s the same thing for that person who thinks of quitting smoking. They’re not thinking of the freedom of quitting smoking and living healthier. They aren’t thinking of being able to breathe and get up the stairs, they’re thinking about the process of dealing with quitting the addiction, withdraws, frustration, potential shakes and addiction to the nicotine and how challenging that is. The person trying to start the new diet is experiencing the same thing. Process pain, they’re thinking I’ll have to shop in new places to get fresher food. I’ll have to learn to cook new meals. I’ll have to start exercising, how hard is that going to be. Think of all the things that will be hard in doing those things.
Part of the mastery of life is learning to see change as a game, learning to see challenges as something that we can joyously enter, to become the joyous master in the processes of our lives, to understand that yes they may be challenging but challenge is good. Challenge will develop us. Challenge will help us reach our highest self. Challenge will help us live that fully charged life, in that the process can be engaging, fun, exciting and new. It can bring variety and spice into our lives, so we can look forward to the process of change. When we switch our minds that way then we start to change more often.
The third thing most people fear is outcome pain.
They’re scared that, what if they lose all these things in changing. What if they go through all this terrifying and difficult work and then the grass isn’t greener and the outcome is no better than what they had at the very beginning. I was terrified about that with my business too. I thought, what if I begin this business and do all these things working my butt off, but I don’t make it? What if I don’t earn anymore money or have a better lifestyle? What if I don’t grow as fast? What if, on the other side of the fence it’s not any better? So we sit and think, what if it’s not better, and I would have to go through all that?
If we’re stuck thinking that way we never change. Part of the maturity and the mastery of life is realizing that instead of focusing on the outcomes that are negative, we can start thinking and dreaming about, visualizing and giving our attention, our focus and powers of attraction into those things that would be powerful, good, satisfying, fulfilling, happy and joyous on the other side of that fence. The things that would turn out to be wonderful and magnificent if we change our lives.
If I quit the smoking I’ll finally be able to feel good again. I’m not going to have to be addicted to something that’s killing millions of people and feeding these huge organizations that are killing people over and over. I won’t perpetuate a disease in my body or in my family. I’m not going to make everybody carry on my addictions. In that new area too, I’ll feel fit, happy, vibrant and energized on my own again.
When I start that diet I’m going to enjoy tasting some new foods because I haven’t tasted good food for a long time. I’ll actually enjoy going out with people again. I’m going to enjoy shopping again to find clothes that fit my body. If you start thinking about all the things that are positive from that change and when you do that you start to master your mind and direct it better.
When you’re obsessing about loss pain, process pain and outcome pain, the more you focus on those the more you obsess about those types of pain and your brain and body go no, don’t do that, I don’t want to experience that. We’ve been gifted with this incredible contraption that is unbelievably driven to avoid pain and when we realize that then we have to stop suffering in our minds and stewing in our minds about the pain we might experience if we do the very things that would improve our lives.
You and I both know what would improve our lives, why aren’t we doing it? Because somewhere there we’ve probably associated a lot of loss, process or outcome pain to it. So today might be a great day to sit down and say, what do I really want in my life? Why have I not been progressing faster? When you explore that question you might discover loss, process and outcome pain at work. You can flip it and focus on the gains, the joys and the positive outcomes. When you start doing that you’ll find yourself being that joyous master, getting further ahead in life and you might just find that life can feel fully charged once again.