For my whole life I have intense phobia for snakes. Just seeing photos of snakes will give me a panic attack, let alone seeing a real snake.
One evening my boyfriend and I were casually walking in a beautiful garden. He said there was a snake on the sidewalk.
I immediately started screaming and running away but hme kept encouraging me to go near and look at it. He said it’s just a baby and non-poisonous. He kept persuading and I kept running.
I know he wanted to push me to face my fear and overcome it, but at that moment I just wanted to punch him. Why didn’t he hug me tightly and protect me like a romantic Korean boyfriend?
Afterwards when I thought about this incident, I realise that I always react the same way whenever I face fear and discomfort. I run away.
I hate difficult conversations, so I avoid having them altogether. Whenever I have an argument with people, instead of talking it through honestly and resolving the conflict, I keep resentment and anger in my heart. When I need to do something I’m not confident about, I either procrastinate or say something like, “This sounds like a good idea, but from the practical point of view, I think….” I make up ten thousand excuses why I shouldn’t try. I thought I am being rational but mostly I’m in delusional denial.
Fear comes in many forms. Sometimes it sounds like we are concerned and worrying, like a mother protecting her child from falling. Sometimes it sounds like logical thinking.
I have a friend who is known for being critical and analytical. We used to admire his strengths, but after seeing him doing nothing for a long time, we realise that he’s just fearful. He is just too afraid to fail. All the big plans he has? He doesn’t even need to try, he just analyze and he knows the plans won’t work. He even analyzes for his friends and tell them why their plans will not work. Does this sound familiar? I bet you have a friend who always says he wants to do something but doesn’t.
The key is to find the sweet spot between fear and courage.
The next time “what-ifs” pop up in your mind, ask yourself, what is the worst thing that can happen? What are the probable scenarios?
And the last question, what are the costs – financially, emotionally and physically – if you do not act upon it?
I thought about all these questions after listening to Tim Ferriss’ TED talk about fear-setting. What I found out is the cost of inaction was far greater than the cost of action. I will regret if I don’t try, so I have no choice but to take the risk of trying though there is a slim chance of success. This gives me the courage to take a small step forward.
How ever uncomfortable and difficult it is, you can take small actions and face the fear. Fear is paralysing, but if you can acknowledge and tame it, it becomes your fuel.
“Measure the cost of inaction, realize the unlikelihood and repairability of most missteps, and develop the most important habit of those who excel and enjoy doing so: action.”
By the way, back to the story, I didn’t go near that snake. I walked another route with my legs shaking and palms sweating. Maybe next time I will try to be slightly more courageous. Maybe.