Among the most challenging things we humans face is the unknown. While at first blush that may sound obvious, consider what it actually means. “The unknown”, as ominous as it may sound, simply refers to that which we don’t know yet. Everything known, when you stop the think about it, was at one point a part of that most-scary-sounding “unknown”. What had to take place to change the category? A fleeting inquiry? A crash-course into a new subject area? Just asking the object of your affection to dance with you?
The thing that always struck me however is that as children, just about everything is “unknown”. We know so little empirically, we have had much less a posteriori knowledge than we will by adolescence. So if one of our greatest fears is that of the Unknown, doesn’t it make sense that as children we should be far more afraid of our world than we are as adults?
Here’s the kicker – sure, some children are timid by nature, or perhaps they fell off a sofa or out of their crib and therefore learned fear and the sensation of a painful consequence more early than others. Conversely, some children are daring and fearless, scaring their parents instead as they intrepidly defy the world to actually harm them. But compare that to how many adults have at least one debilitating fear. Maybe it’s a fear of heights, or of traveling fast, of falling (or worse, all three, with a fear of flying!), and then there is the timeless and near-universal fear of public speaking. Many adults are similarly petrified of confrontation, or of rejection. Then of course the aforementioned “Unknown”, which can weave its tentacles into many other fears, compounding their impact. This is such a wide array of fears. Where did they come from? One theory, which common sense appears to support, is that children have only a couple of fears to begin with – falling and loud noises. They have to learn the rest. So with years of practice, we adults have had plenty of time to perfect some of these fears.
Now fear, as with most emotions, has a purpose. It is part of our hard-wired Survival instinct. It’s a crucial component of our fight-of-flight response. But what happens if we generalize it, applying it where it isn’t useful? What if we actually get in the way of our own success, our own happiness, our own wealth, our own fulfillment, by applying this well-intentioned fear response inappropriately? If you’ve ever sabotaged your own success, be it in business, education, a relationship, or anywhere else, you know what I mean.
Fear can save your life, keep you from making a bad investment, or spending time with someone who could bring pain, harm, or disappointment to your world. But it can also cause you to hesitate when you should act, miss a great opportunity, or keep you from connecting with someone who can bring pleasure, profit, or some other joy to your world.
What I do here is teach you to know the difference, so you retain healthy fears that serve you, but break through fears that bind you.
Who do you think is more likely to marry the partner of his dreams – the guy who is too afraid to ask anyone out, fearing that even if he isn’t rejected, he will be hurt in the long run? Or the guy who realizes that not everyone will appreciate him, and that the only way he can find Mrs. Right is by daring to ask, inquire, to get to know people, and seek her out?
My suspicion is that the second person is far more likely to find his perfect partner. The first may spend his entire life alone, certain that it’s better than risking the pain he might experience if he dares to really live.
There is much more to being successful than just being brave, of course. We will look into all of that, you and I. But you have to begin somewhere, and the foundation, the beginning, the attitude, seems like a good place to start.