“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Think about the question asked in the title of this article. What would you do in life if you truly didn’t have fear? If you weren’t scared of anything? I’m not talking about jumping out of planes or bungee jumping, (though, these acts could fall into this discussion) I’m talking about what you would do with your life.
If you weren’t scared of anything you would be free to chase your dreams without fear of failure. Or worse, fear of success. You would just focus on realizing your dreams and making the best of your life. Unfortunately, most people aren’t able to think this way. We tend to bog ourselves down with things like doubt, possible negative consequences of taking risks, and the fear of ending up worse than when we started. But the most successful people in life overcome these feelings. They push past these obstacles and focus on what really means something to them. And that’s exactly what you should do.
That is the litany of fear from the novel Dune, by Frank Herbert. I feel it perfectly encapsulates how you should think of and treat your fears in life. Yes, fear is a part of all of us. A necessary part, even. But you can’t let it overcome you. You can’t let fear direct your life. If the thought of doing something scares you, there’s a good chance it might be worth doing.
Again, I’m not talking about jumping off buildings or wrestling grizzly bears; we fear things as an instinctual way of staying out of harms way. This was great when we were living in caves and fending off giant predatory animals, but in most everyday situations fear is no longer a reasonable response to our daily lives. After all, how often do you find yourself in fear of wolf attacks while standing in line at the bank? Now, how often to you fear the thought that you might be wasting your life doing things that don’t make you happy?
So, to reiterate, if didn’t feel fear, what would you do with your life? Speaking for myself, I’d quit my 9-5 day job and put all of my effort into making a full-time career out of writing. And to be honest, I don’t have nearly as much holding me back from doing so as many of you. I don’t have kids, debt, a mortgage, or anything really tying me to the city I live in. I have a wonderful and supportive girlfriend, an awesome dog, and a chunk of money in savings. If I were to quit my job right now I would be fine for at least a few months without any income. So, what’s holding me back?
Fear. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t fear failing, succeeding, or ending up worse than I am now. I simply fear losing my sense of security. I fear losing the comfortable life I’ve built up for myself. I’ve struggled for a long time to get where I am now, and the thought of giving it all up for a dream is terrifying. But it might be necessary. Fortunately, I have a plan to ease some of my fears—and hopefully you folks can come up with one for yourselves. Because life is far too short to let your dreams drift off in the wind.
No matter how much making a big change in your life scares you, if you really want it you’ll do it. That’s what separates those who realize their dreams from those who just spend all of their time dreaming. But you don’t need to make one gigantic change, like uprooting your whole family on a whim and moving to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting. The best way to overcome what scares you is to break it down into small manageable goals.
You must create a plan, a backup plan, and an exit strategy if things don’t work out. Life isn’t a fairy tale; the real world has no obligation to let things work out for you easily. If it did, nobody would work in fast food or cleaning toilets for a living. If you chase your dreams, it will be risky and it will be hard. All things worth having are.
If you take anything away from this article let it be this: you have the power to change your life in anyway you see fit. It might not seem like it—especially when you have a family to support, are drowning in debt, or have medical issues keeping you down—but there are always ways to better your situation in life. It’s just a lot harder for some of us than others. We don’t all get a fair shake of things when the cards of life are dealt out.
When it comes down to it, though, you can respect yourself if you put the work in. If you do everything you can to realize a dream—even if you ultimately fail—you can at least hold your head up high knowing you tried. That’s a lot more than most people do. Most get into the daily grind of life and never realize their potential. They never leave that world for something better. But you can. You can be better. It just comes down to effort, smart planning, and overcoming your fears.
If this was helpful, please share it. Then check out these other great life articles.