Remember when you were a little kid and every night you went to bed scared that the monster in the closest was going to eat you?
Maybe that was just me. Whatever. I’m still pretty sure there’s something living in my basement.
What I mean to say is that when you’re a little kid, it’s pretty common to take a mildly uncomfortable situation and turn it into a giant, scary nightmare.
Then, of course, you grow up. You know what happens then, right? You take mildly uncomfortable situations and turn them into giant, scary nightmares.
Nothing really changes.
When you’re just a youngster, you don’t have a lot of experience looking in closets, under beds, or in basements, so it’s natural to be afraid of the really scary things we don’t know don’t exist yet.
For some reason though, when you grow up, you stop being scared of the monster in the closet and start getting scared of all the monsters in the big, wide world. You don’t know what’s out there, so it’s easy to assume it’s something harmful to be avoided.
Then you get old. You’ve long forgotten the monster in the closet and you’ve seen some of the world and realized it’s not so bad.
But there’s this really scary generation of new people growing up and you don’t know what they’re going to do to the world you worked so hard to build. So, you lament that all these new, scary people are going to destroy your country, and then the whole world.
Nothing really ever changes. We think we grow out of our fears, but we don’t. We just find something new to be scared of.
Worryin’ Away the Time
On any given day, there’s so much we don’t know. It’s a lot of work and, sometimes, even stressful to confront it and figure it out, so instead we fear it.
We fear and avoid it. There has to be a reason we feel that way right? It’s for our own good. Our own survival.
In each phase of life we’re certain of something new that’s going to ruin us, yet here were are. We make it anyway, not to mention everyone else that made it before us.
Boy, were we lucky, right?
Here’s the thing. Our brains are crazy. Every day they lie to us about how terrible things are or how bad they’re going to be, but when we finally ignore the fear and look in the closet — when we finally quit our jobs, climb our mountains, travel the world, have kids, start businesses, get to know people — we forget all about how scared we were before and realize everything’s pretty much okay, the world will keep turning, and we’re going to survive.
Fear is always worse than reality. Just look at what happened when I went skydiving.
It’s so natural to assume the worst case situation any time we do something unfamiliar, but reality bears the truth again and again that the worst case scenario is so unlikely that it’s not really worth worrying about.
As Seth Godin puts it, “Worry is the act of experiencing failure repeatedly in your head before it ever happens.”
What a waste of time, right?
Rather than spending all your time planning for the worst case scenario, why not plan for the best and do a little preparation for the possible realistic failure? How can you ever really succeed if the number one thing on your mind is how bad failure could be?
Getting Lost in the Woods
When I climbed my first mountain, sure I was a little nervous, but what good would it have been to repeatedly worry about getting lost in the woods and dying? That would have been the worst case scenario, right?
I don’t know that I could have even taken the first step if that’s what was on my mind.
Instead, I planned on climbing up and down in great weather and having a good time with my climbing partner. I prepared for bad weather and I was equipped to spend a night in the woods if I got lost and things got really bad, but I wasn’t about to waste my time thinking of how awful it would be to die on a mountain.
In fact, thinking like that is a great way to talk yourself into giving up if you ever did get in trouble. And you know what, we did get lost – a few times, actually. But, because we were prepared for a realistic worst case scenario and continued to plan on a great climb, we worked our way out of it.
If you ever want to take on something incredible, but you’re too nervous to make the leap, just remember every other situation you’ve ever been in where things could have gone wrong… but didn’t.
Remember that the worst possible scenario that you play out in your head is completely unlikely. Remember that worrying is experiencing failure before you’ve even given yourself a chance to fail. Remember that you’ve got a whole bunch more fears to get over in the future, and get on with today.
How do you remind yourself that your fears are always worse than reality? Let me know in the comments.
Image by: Zephyrance
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