I’ve been reading a lot about fear recently. Gavin de Becker’s Gift of Fear was a great book because it teaches people how to use the right kind of fear. When we are in true danger, our lizard brain takes over and uses the rest of the supercomputer in our skull to calculate the how and why to get out of dangerous situations. I assume it’s how I just knew that I could help a crime victim with no danger to myself, or how to get my purse back after being robbed. I that last case, I was running and acting on pure fear. It’s also how I know when someone is being sketchy and when to escalate or deflate to keep myself safe.
But that’s the purpose of fear: to help save your life or health. All other forms of fear are useless.
…most of what people worry about has a low probability of occurring, because we tend to take action about those things we feel are likely to occur. This means that very often the mere fact that you are worrying about something is a predictor that it isn’t likely to happen!
The relationship between fear and worry is analogous to the relationship between pain and suffering. Pain and fear are necessary and valuable components of life. Suffering and worry are destructive and unnecessary components of life.
I have to say, while this quote alone may not have changed my life right this second, I’m working towards a time and reality where I can give it that kind of credit.
After that, I moved on to Seth Godin’s Linchpin, which I’m still in the midst of. I’m not too sure yet if it’s a great book, or a pseudo-positive thinking book with a good marketing strategy. But one quote really called out to me:
Fearlessness doesn’t really mean “without fear.” What it means in practice is, “unafraid of things that one shouldn’t be afraid of.” Being fearless means giving a presentation to an important customer without losing a night’s sleep. It means being willing to take intellectual risks and to forge a new path. The fear is about an imagined threat, so avoiding the fear allows you to actually accomplish something.
Clearly Godin and de Becker are using slightly different definitions. Godin’s fear is de Becker’s worry because it’s not about life-threatening situations. Since the former is in the business of saving lives, that makes sense. Plus, I think it’s a better way to define the words. Fear should be the instinct, worry should be the long-term anxiety that is unhelpful. It’s a false response in the body. So rather than being fearless, maybe we should all strive to be worry-free. By doing so we can come closer to the goal: courage in our everyday interactions. After all, as is said so eloquently by Anaïs Nin:
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.
How will you expand your life?psyche