The corona virus is spreading and with it, fear and anxiety are spreading even faster. There are those that fear the virus and there are those that fear the fear. Fear is a negative emotion and all negative emotions can somehow be reduced back to fear, whether it is anger, jealousy, hatred – all of these are different expressions of fear. When we are in a state of fear, we are aroused, panicky, anxious and we lack the capacity for clear thinking and good decision making – the last thing you need at such times. So is there nothing good about fear? Here is one way I hacked fear to fuel me into changing my life around. It’s the secret door out of the fear trap. Are you ready to open that door?
Fifteen years ago, I was very comfortable. I had just gotten a long-term employment contract with an international firm in what we would today label “fin tech”. I had a great team of colleagues and enjoyed my work. I was in a stable relationship and had just signed a long term lease for an apartment that was twice the size of any apartment I had rented before. But shortly after signing this lease contract, an inexplicable fear crept over me. I felt anxious with the finality of the long-term lease. I imagined myself living in that same apartment, working at that same job, and raising my children in that same neighborhood… and it scared the crap out of me. I had wild dreams. I had ambitious goals. I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to serve humanity. Yet, all of a sudden the finality and the boxed in vision of my future scared me.
I decided that I was not going to be in the same place, twenty years down the road… and I chose change. Less than a month later, I had found a job in a neighboring country, had packed all of my belongings into my car and drove off into the sunset knowing that until further notice the place I had always identified with as “home” would no longer be my residence. With tears streaming down my face, I crossed that border all alone. Driving away from a future I did not want and driving towards what I could only call, the unknown. It would not necessarily be instantly better than the life I had led so far, but it was open ended. My future could have been a confining box and there, at that moment, I had taken the lid off.
Anyone who has ever been with a parent or loved one who is dying, knows that the one thing we should not carry to the end is regret. I recently said goodbye to my father and he did not worry about the mistakes he had made or the life choices he had taken that had or had not worked out, but he did have one regret. Regrets are about the things we did NOT do. The choices we did NOT make. The dreams we did NOT pursue. The trips we did NOT take. If anything, we should avoid regret. Regret is not fear. Regret is the feeling we end up with, if we let our lives be run by fear. Regret is the wishful thinking of what could have been, if we had tried.
“Fear is temporary. Regret is forever.” – Unknown
So what if we hack fear? Instead of fearing what might happen, if we choose change or risk, we can flip the script. We can choose instead to take the scenario of what most certainly does happen, if we choose stagnation and risk-free living. Imagine a future without change and see if that is very appealing to you. Chances are, this future is a scarier prospect than an open, undefined one. So now you know what you don’t want – now you fear the certain future, not the unknown. Use this fear as fuel, as a motivator to do something different every day. Whether they are a few big decisions, like what I did, or daily small decisions and changes that compound into a very different direction, take action to steer clear of the imagined, undesired future. Then replace the undesired situation with a desired one and work towards that.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
This is the path to a changed life… and do you know the funny thing about it? By embracing our fears, by stepping into change and out of comfort, fear loses its shine. One day you wake up and you are living a life that inspires others. You are following your own path and you feel at home in the world. So the next time you fear fear, think about how to use your fear to pursue your own goals. Finally, when you turn around and look back at the road you have traveled, you will find there was no secret door because the fear was of your own creation.