Fear is a wonderful motivator

In two weeks time I’m running 21km in a girl’s school uniform, and I’m woefully under-prepared for it.  I’m scared that I’m not going to make it to the finish line.

In five weeks time I’m handing in my security pass and walking away from a cushy six figure job to try to make a location independent living.  I’m scared that my hopes, dreams and next year’s income will amount to pretty much nothing.

In six weeks time I’m boarding a plane to Thailand.  My current passport expires in a few months, so until I get my replacement I can’t get the visa I need.  I’m scared it won’t come through in time, and I don’t have a plan B.

The friend that is staying with me at the moment has just moved half way across the world and is trying to set up as a location independent health writer.  She is scared that she’ll run out of money, contacts or both before she even gets things off the ground.

There’s a lot of fear floating around my apartment at the moment.

And I’m very pleased about that.

If I didn’t have a fear of not finishing that half marathon there’s no way that I’d be motivated to get out and do the training I’ve been doing.  Whether I actually cross the line or not, the practice I’ve been doing makes me a fitter, happier person.

If I wasn’t scared of failure, of making less money than I need to survive, then I wouldn’t put in the effort I need to succeed.  I wouldn’t sit in a dingy guesthouse or internet cafe for hour upon hour writing and working on websites.  I’d just go to the beach and drink cocktails instead.

If my fear of not getting my visa in time wasn’t so high, I wouldn’t have been chasing up the passport office with such monotonous regularity.  I wouldn’t have bothered to get my new photos done in such a hurry, or filled out the forms and sent them off so quickly.

If my friend wasn’t so afraid that her bank balance will hit zero and she’ll have to return to corporate mediocrity, she wouldn’t have been sending out dozens of emails and wearing out the buttons on her phone every day, making contacts, writing up proposals and trying to work out what the hell her potential clients are actually looking for during late night conference calls.

Fear is a wonderful motivator.

Most people spend their lives doing everything they can do avoid being afraid.  That’s perhaps not a surprise – we’re told from a very young age that fear is a bad thing.

It isn’t.

We feel afraid when we are uncertain of the outcome of something we are doing.  This can only possibly happen when we are trying something new – how often are you worried about the end result of something you’ve done a hundred times before?

We’re scared because we’re pushing our boundaries.

We’re scared because we’re taking a step – or a leap – outside our comfort zone.

Because of that fear we try a whole lot harder than we otherwise would.  We run a whole lot further even though our legs scream at us to stop.  We work a whole lot longer even though the beach is calling or we can barely keep our eyes open.  We pick up that phone time and again when all we want to do is give up and avoid another rejection.

And after all that extra effort?

We are a damn sight more likely to succeed.

So next time you’re feeling scared, don’t turn away from it.  Don’t fight it.

Don’t even try to overcome it – you probably never will.  The great thing is that you never need to.

Instead, look it in the eye, stare it down and embrace the hell out of it.

Take it as a sign that you’re doing something right.

[Image via Poppy Thomas-Hill]

8 Responses to “Fear is a wonderful motivator

  • Anthony Secco
    6 years ago

    With fear i always know that im doing something worthwhile.

  • Who was it that said that a person will change only when ‘the fear of staying where you are is greater than the fear of change’. Amen.

  • From our experience, the more you step into uncertainty the more doors that open.

    You’ll rock it.

  • echoed everything i wanted to say really. this november i’ll be doing the everest base camp trek. and the fear of not being able to finish the trek has kept me motivated to go running and work out the past few months. thank you for writing this post. 😉

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