A practical essay on using fear to live a courageous, exciting, and fulfilling life.
Fear Is Not Cowardice
In my life, I have often confused moments of fear with weakness.
When I felt afraid, I thought it meant I was weak or inadequate or a coward. But I was wrong. Experiencing fear does not make you a coward. It makes you a bold spirit that has opted to seek discomfort in a world optimized to maximize ease and pleasure.
Choosing not to confront your fears is weakness. Failing to act out of fear is inadequate. Sitting on the sideline as your fear prances through your head is cowardice.
Acting despite fear is courageous.
A life without fear is one of avoidance and complacency while a life guided by what scares you, to a reasonable extent, is a path of growth, exploration, and fulfillment. In this way, ensuring you experience a healthy dose of fear on a regular basis is a useful metric by which to guide and measure your life.
Take my mom, for example.
At the age of 59, she’s running her first half marathon this year. It will be the first and only race she has ever run. She isn’t a lifelong runner. If anything, her battle with knee pain that started in her twenties gives her the perfect excuse not to run. She was nervous and scared to start the 16-week training program and has butterflies when thoughts of race day creep into her head.
But despite her fear, she forged ahead.
She started the training program and completed every single training run to a tee regardless of the weather or how busy her schedule was. She has already blown past her previous personal bests and longest distances. And this Saturday she will courageously toe the starting line and run every single kilometer, no matter how good or bad she feels on that particular day.
She isn’t a coward for experiencing fear. She is strong because she acted in spite of it.
We all have our own battles. Do not judge yourself by what strikes fear or hesitation in you—everyone is unique in that matter. But do not let that fear prevent you from taking action.
Fear has something to teach all of us.
But to overcome the initial hurdle, to put ourselves in a position where we are not turning away from our fears but instead leaning into them, we must unparalyze ourselves by reframing the situation.
The Hunter: Is that fear I hear in your voice, Jack?
Jack Reacher: I’m gonna break your arms. I’m gonna break your legs. I’m gonna break your neck. What you hear is excitement.
Fear, just like stress, when experienced for short periods of time is a good thing.
It prepares your mind and body for what’s about to come next.
Yet our relationship with fear is often one of avoidance or shutting out. We don’t want to feel it, so we ignore it. But that only makes the fear grow stronger and become ever more elusive.
Instead, we must lean into fear.
Listen to it speak and let it guide you, then stop thinking about it and go take action. Fear in its initial stages generates the necessary motivation and excitement to conquer its source.
But as fear grows stale it festers and sprouts hesitation.
The moment you feel even the slightest twinge of hesitation, you must take action, or the longer you wait, the stronger the fear becomes. If fear is winning the battle, try to reframe your relationship with it.
Use fear to your advantage.
Thank it for preparing your mind, body, and spirit for the challenge at hand. Allow it to seep into every corner of your being and relax you with the understanding that it has prepared you to welcome uncomfortable circumstances and uncertain outcomes. Instead of allowing unchecked fear to generate resistance, reframe it as a source of energy and power.
By developing a new relationship with fear, it will no longer restrict your options and dictate your choices, but instead, guide you to uncover the things that make you feel most alive.
The people I respect all share the greatest fear:
The thought of waking up one day after a life lived on autopilot, wondering where the time went, with little time left to make up for what they lost.
— Dan Koe
Go now. Walk with courage towards your fear.