Feel the fear and do it anyway

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Fear is the biggest barrier preventing us from changing life and pursuing our dreams. Why are afraid of change? Why the unknown seems scarier than staying in an unbearable situation forever? How can you conquer your fears and become the bravest person you know?

Millenial on a plane thinking about life
Changing life and pursuing your passions is exciting, but fear might get in the way

Fear is the most common blocker getting in the way of changing life

A brave person is not the one that is not afraid. A brave person is the one that is afraid but does it anyway.

Let’s talk about fear. Fear is a word often associated with obviously scary things. Like the fear of death, losing a loved one or the fear of snakes or spiders. But what about that feeling, when you know you must act, or you know you want to be a certain kind of person acting in a certain way, but you don’t?

If you have a dream that you want to pursue or want to make a change in your life, big or small, fear is one of the most common blockers that get in the way. It is that voice in your head that argues with ‘Yes, but whenever you are contemplating something new and exciting.

You might still be in the career you resent or in an unhelpful relationship or in a city that isn’t right for you out of fear of making a change.

Why do we experience fear when changing life?

I won’t bore you with all the scientific evidence of how fear is an important instrument for survival (Google is your friend). But why do we fear supposedly not so scary things, like quitting a job to go travelling?

As evolved beings as we are, our instincts didn’t quite catch up. Only a few centuries back, if you were excluded from the tribe, it likely meant you’d be dead in a few days. This doesn’t happen anymore, many of us live alone and no one dies.

But what happens is, when you contemplate a contrarian move, something that 90% of the population aren’t doing, your brain presses the ‘alarm button’ and your primal brain comes into action.

Your brain thinks that if you quit your job and go travelling, while everyone else is not doing that, you will be excluded from the tribe and can die.

Now, the tricky bit is to realise that this fear stems from something that is completely unsubstantiated these days. No one will stop liking you and you won’t die.

When I planned my life experiment, I thought it through very carefully and was 100% convinced it was the right thing to do.

When I started socialising my decision, not a single person questioned what I was doing, in contrary, most people were very supportive and enthusiastic. What I found remarkable, however, is that despite that, I felt the need to explain myself.

It appeared to be that exact primal fear – fear of social disapproval and getting rejected from the society that led me to explaining my move to each single person I spoke to.

If you are contemplating a significant change or making an important decision, but are afraid, then you might do the Orthodoxies exercise, which I described in my previous post How to Overcome Fear When Changing Your Life.

But more importantly, try and recognise how much of your fear might be driven by unsubstantiated social rejection concerns. One way to do that is to socialise your decision stating it as a fact (e.g. ‘I decided to quit my job and go travelling for a year’) avoiding attaching any justification to it (‘I’ve been so stressed lately and lost my sleep, I really need a change. I have some savings so I should be ok for a year or two not having a full-time job.’)

Do that and see what happens. Most likely you won’t hear many ‘Yes, but’ and will see people being curious and inquisitive. If that’s the case – your fear is unlikely to have any significant ground and likely driven by your instincts.