When we experience pain, that pain fossilizes as fear. Now we’re afraid of doing the thing that hurt in the past. Over time we accumulate more and more pain, our fear grows, and we end up living in a cage created by our own fear, crowding out our spirit and life force.
This happens frequently in software development to. We had some problem in production, and we create a procedure around it. We’re afraid the more elegant solution might not work, so we choose the more safe but more clumsy solution. We’re afraid we can’t learn something new, so we stick with what we know even though it’s less optimal.
It also happens in life. We answered a question wrong, and our father or our teacher got angry. We said something at the dinner table as a child, and we felt strongly that was not an appropriate thing to say. We wanted something and strived for it, but we didn’t get it, and we felt bad for trying and our friends told us we were naive and pretentious for thinking we could get it.
And it happens in society. Every time some disaster happens, there’s a demand for laws against it. When people jump out from bridges, all the bridges must have fences. When someone dies in a scooter accident, all scooter drivers must wear helmets. Fear becomes institutionalized. This is happening in India as we speak, and it’s a tragedy, because India is the most vibrantly alive place on earth I have ever experienced.
The problem is that all this fear swallows up our life force. We die a slow death inside. We get trapped in our cage of fear. We’re less happy, less alive, less successful, less creative, less loving because of all of this fear.
We must find a way to reverse the trend. We must find a way to transcend and dissolve the fear that has built up over time.
The way to do that is to realize that fear is simply an emotion. It’s a signal. It’s a signal that tells us that here’s something interesting, something juicy. It’s telling us there’s some old pain in here, but it’s also telling us there’s excitement in here.
Fritz Perls, a famous therapist, once said: “Fear is excitement with the breath held”. And it’s true. When you’re on a roller coaster, what you experience as excitement is actually fear. But because you don’t usually buy into the fear, you’re enjoying it!
What I suggest you do is use fear as a signal that here’s something you should probably do. I like to ask myself the question: “What is the thing that I’m afraid of that’s most holding me back right now?” I guarantee you there will be an answer. Because what’s holding you back is always fear, in some form.
It may be the fear of doing something you want to do. It may be the fear of telling someone you love them. It may be the fear of asking for help. It may be the fear of loving yourself. It may be the fear of asking for a raise or starting a new company or giving a lecture or starting a blog. Whatever it is, there’s always some fear that’s the most important bottleneck in your life right now. Start being curious about what that is.
I suggest you adopt the principle of 20 seconds of insane courage from “We Bought A Zoo”. 20 seconds is usually all it takes. 20 seconds where you suspend your desire to give in to the fear, and do it anyway. 20 seconds of a racing heart and trembling hands.
Courage is not the absense of fear. Courage is feeling the fear, and doing it anyway.
But first, you must love the part of you that is scared. It needs your love.
I wish you courage. And love. Lots of love.