Fear and discomfort are scary, from an evolutionary standpoint fear and discomfort are a large part of what has kept us alive and allowed us to flourish as a species. Imagine you are isolated on your own out in the wild, you pass a bush and as you walk by a strange noise emanates out from the leaves. You instantly leap out of the way, and as you do a large mountain lion leaps out to attack… because of your split second decision the cat misses you and you are able to fend it off and survive another day. You learn to fear noises in the bushes, and eventually you learn to stay away from the bushes all together. In the future you don’t get eaten by any mountain lions and your fear has served its purpose by keeping you alive, but what about the opportunities you miss by avoiding the bushes all together? What will you do when a mountain lion comes out of a tree or attacks you in the open?
Our fear serves the purpose of protecting us from danger and perceived danger. Danger is actual palpable risk like: an animal attacking us, being caught in a car accident, being assaulted by a criminal. Perceived risk is fear of an event that hasn’t happened yet and might or might not ever happen. In a “danger” event we have little time to plan or think about what we do, our fear heightens our senses and often allows us to act in extraordinary ways. In a “perceived danger” event we spend time worring about a possible danger, we create internal stress and worry about what could happen. “Perceived danger”, when used in planning, helps us to better prepare for adversity since those with a plan to overcome obstacles are often more successful than those without a plan; however, when “perceived danger” causes the opposite effect: when it causes us to refuse to take action and hide away from anything that “could” go wrong it severely hinders our progress throughout life.
Comfort is the absence of adversity: the culmination of security. Fear is a form of discomfort that causes us to avoid situations in which we may be uncomfortable. Most of us can deal with discomfort for short periods as long as we can be sure that more comfort is coming soon, but thats where fear comes back into the equation.
Imagine someone tells you that if you quit your job and live homeless for 2 years that you will receive 100 million dollars in cash in exactly two years, you sign a contract and have it notarized and you know the person is good for the money. A large number of people would be willing to try and stick it out for the 2 years. Imagine the deal instead is to quit your job and live homeless until you have worked hard enough to EARN 100 million dollars. The number of people willing to stick it out will drop drastically with the added uncertainty. The fear of “what if”, the fear of the unknown will cause us to pass this opportunity. This is why so many people are stuck in jobs they hate with no chance at real career advancement, because they would rather make 30,000 dollars every year for a set 40 hours of work per week, then take the chance of building their own business and risk losing everything or making millions on their own.
So why should fear and discomfort pull you forward instead of push you back? Fear and discomfort must be experienced to gain in life. If you want to make the millions, you have to be willing to lose everything, you have to be willing to work hard, and struggle for a while. If you want a relationship to last forever you have to be willing to go through the arguments and bitter discussion. If you want to get stronger or more fit, you have to push through the pain of exercise. If you want to stand on top of a mountain, you have to be willing to climb to the top.
People tend to seek security and comfort; people tend to seek that which is familiar and safe; people often run from anything new, uncomfortable, or difficult. Most people allow fear to hold them tight in mediocrity: better to stick with a life that is safe and mediocre, than risk losing everything for what “could be”. Its funny, most people expect the lottery or betting it all in the stock market to save them from their sorrow, but they are afraid to take a chance and follow their dreams. These people believe its more likely to become a millionaire with a lotto ticket than it is through hard work.
Develop the habit of every time you feel internal resistance to something new ask yourself “Why?”. Why do I have this fear, and what am I afraid of? Often times you won’t find a good answer at all, usually you’ll get an answer like, “Because I’m not like that, or that’s not me.” But really, who are you? Are you the person that cowers away from challenges and personal growth, or are you the type of person who craves to be better, to wake up and be more amazing than you were yesterday? Since you are reading this right now its all the proof you need to know that you desire to change, you desire something more. You change through doing things that are hard, by pushing into and through discomfort, by tackling your fears and running into a hostile world of uncertainty. On the other side of pain there is great pleasure, on the other side of fear there is greatness awaiting you, all you have to do is take a step towards the adversity and fight your way through.