The other year, I had the opportunity to go on a cruise with my husband, Chris. It was our first one, so we decided to go on a five day adventure to test the waters. While I was excited, I have to admit, I was also a little apprehensive. I heard stories from people who got sea sick, and others that talked about people who got sick from the food from a norovirus outbreak that happened a number of years ago. While these thoughts kept going around in my head, I decided I needed to focus instead on the warm January weather, as the trip was already booked and we were all set to sail. Turns out, we had a really good time and met a lot of fun people from around the country and world. The food was also excellent and guess what? No sea sickness! Good thing I didn’t allow myself to dwell on all of those negative thoughts and ruin a good time.
It is funny how we all can let our thoughts make us feel uneasy, or anxious at times. We even allow them sometimes to inhibit us, or hold ourselves back, but why is it that? The answer in many cases is fear. While we all experience fearful thoughts from time to time, for some people, fear can be over-powering and can sometimes cause debilitating outcomes. So what can we do to prevent this from happening? In their book, A Guide To Rational Living, authors Albert Ellis and Robert A. Harper tell us, “we need to force ourselves to move through our fears if want to create a new way of being. In fact, they say we should force ourselves to keep trying “fearful” acts and don’t think: act!”1 The great philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson tells us, “Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.”
Another reason we sometimes allow our thoughts to hold us back is fear of failure. While we may want to try for a promotion, find another job, or lose that extra twenty pounds, etc., many people give up before even trying because they feel overwhelmed and are afraid of not being able to accomplish their goals, or achieve their dreams. For example, some people may stick with a dead-end job, because they are afraid they won’t be able to find another one with as good of pay, or benefits, etc. and instead are unhappy with their work. Others may be afraid to change how they eat even though they know deep down they need to lose weight. While a life-style change of eating healthier foods, and exercising more, could have a positive affect, many people get stuck on the idea of going on a diet and depriving themselves. Instead of just gradually adding in more fruits, vegetables, and grains and incorporating a walk, or some other exercise into their day, they allow their fear of to take over and may just avoid acting altogether.
Kristen Neff, in her book, Self Compassion, tells us however, “the learning opportunities provided by failure can actually help us to achieve our dreams. Restaurateur, Wolfgang Puck, says, ‘I learned more from the one restaurant that didn’t work than from all the ones that were successes.’”2 Most people learn from their mistakes and in the process of making them become wiser and more confident.
So how are you conquering your fears? Are you taking actions to move forward, or are you allowing your thoughts to paralyze you? Remember—the choice is yours, but taking action always leads to a happier, healthier outcome.
Thanks for reading!
1 Brian Johnson’s Philosophers Notes—A Guide to Rational Living. http://www.entheos.com/philosophersnotes/notes/all/A Guide to Rational Living. pg. 4
2 Brian Johnson. The Optimizer. Failure =Life’s Apprenticeship. January 26, 2015 Daily eNews. pg. 1