I’m a heaving, grumbling, breathing sack of fears. At any given moment, I’m nurturing two trepidations with another couple on the back burner. Fear of what I don’t know, fear of what I’ll regret, fear of failure, fear of the unknown. Everything that’s ever weighed or weighs me down can been rooted in fear. Maybe that’s true for everyone.
Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being afraid. As Helena Bala put it, fear is human: “[A]s humans, we’ve inherited [fears] from our evolutionary predecessors. We fear things that we don’t know or understand because we weren’t always the top predators; long ago, humans were prey. To survive, we stuck to what we knew worked.”
But outside of dangerous situations, fear just feels like an unwieldy roadblock. Even if we all know, perhaps ironically, that our fears are often unfounded, we let them determine our path anyway. Worse yet, we pack them neatly in the dark cave of our minds, never giving them the opportunity to shrivel in the light.
If I think back to the things I’ve feared most in my life, they were usually hard and uncomfortable changes I needed to make. It’s a vexing, frustrating order of operations — one I’m constantly pushing myself to remember, to varying levels of success. What I’m saying is, all those internet quotes superimposed on sunsets are probably right: We’re supposed to do what scares us.
When I spoke to a life coach a month ago, she asked me to consider this question: “What’s one promise that, if you could keep it, would change your whole life?” I’ve been turning it over a lot. It’s a satisfying framing through which to challenge the status quo. The same format, I think, can be applied to challenge our idea of the future, if we re-frame it around fear: What’s one thing that, if you weren’t afraid to do it it, might change your whole life? Do you know? Have you thought about it? What’s one thing you’d do today, tomorrow, this year, if you weren’t so damn afraid?