Doing it Scared: An Exercise

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

Get out a pen and paper. No, seriously. (Though you’re welcome to use a pencil. Or a quill. Or a keyboard.) This post will still be here when you get back. Back? Lovely. Now that you have some form of writing implement or technology, mark down four things you want to do yet haven’t because you’re scared. It could be anything from skydiving to starting a business to telling a friend you like him/her to learning how to swing dance. Just make them as specific as you can.

Does looking at your list cause you to feel a shiver of excitement as well as a whole lot of terror? Fantastic. You’re doing great. Now write down what you’re scared of. Why haven’t you done or achieved those things? If you want them, then what’s holding you back? No vague platitudes of “it’s scary” for this part; you should give concrete, detailed reasons and explanations. Take your time to think it through. Once you have all that down, try to guess what’s coming next. Probably something along the lines of “everything you want is on the other side of fear”, right? A motivating speech best read in Morgan Freeman’s voice complete with dramatic pauses so you can feel inspired to get out there and achieve your dreams despite fear. Cue the thunderous soundtrack! Actually, you’d be wrong. Keep reading. Fear is a powerful motivator. So much of what we do or don’t do has underpinnings of fear, even if we don’t realize it. But reacting out of fear is all about avoidance, escape, and negativity. It forces you to be reactionary instead of proactive, befuddling your decisions and preventing you from seeing situations objectively. Fear is blinding. If you’re making a decision based on fear, even if it’s to escape that fear, you’re doing it from a negative place. A negative emotion is driving your actions and pushing you away from something, even if that’s simultaneously towards something else. Essentially, you’re letting your fear dictate the dynamics and potential outcomes of a given situation. Does that sound like a great idea? Didn’t think so. Okay, back to your list. On it are four things you want but are scared to achieve for whatever reason. You also have a sublist of all the reasons you’re scared to make those great things happen. No, don’t go out there and do the things despite your fear. This is an exercise. Just hang tight with your list a bit longer. The point is not to do anything despite fear, because then a major motivating factor is simply escaping the fear. Fear is therefore still pushing you. No, the point is to do away with fear entirely.

You may take a moment to allow that to sink in. Now look at your list again. First, assess whether your four things are things you actually want, all fears aside. If there’s something you don’t really want, then let it go. Just because you’re afraid of something doesn’t mean you now must do it in order to have a fulfilling life (unless you’re an adrenaline junky). That done, move on to the list of reasons. Read through them and decide if they’re legitimate fears. Rationalise. Talk them over with someone else. Work through them. Ultimately you want to reach a point of not being afraid. By doing away with your fears, you can start looking at your goals through a prism of positive emotions, with the drive coming from a place of strength, positivity, and achievement, instead of fear, negativity, and escapism. You have great (and little) things to accomplish. Fear doesn’t have to play a role in how you approach them. Acknowledge the fears and work through them, but don’t involve them in what you want to do. Still left with some nerves? Nerves are normal. In fact, nerves can be called excitement. Both feelings manifest the same way with the only distinction being in your mind. So reframe those butterflies and choose to feel excited. Now get out there and make those goals happen.

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