Fear drives us toward the best opportunities, Dave Kaiser writes, so we need to embrace it.
Lots of people give you advice on getting past fear, suggesting that if you can break free of the shackles of fear, you will be unstoppable.
OK, all well and good. It is important to master fear in order to feel free and to get things done. BUT, I want to tell you that a world without fear would be simultaneously more dangerous, less rewarding, and just plain flat.
So, given that we have spent so much time wishing that fear would just GO AWAY so we could get on with things, why would we actually want to cultivate fear as a friend? Three reasons, actually.
The first is, fear is an excellent guide to opportunity. Think about it. Do you get more flustered and tongue-tied when you meet the girl (or guy) of your dreams, or someone who is just not that attractive? Which is scarier, making a presentation to the CEO of your company or to a bunch of your peers?
Which feels worse, the thought of failing at your dream job or failing at some temp job? (Hint: that’s why some people NEVER chase their dreams. Sad, no?) What’s the common thread here? Fear is showing you what is important, what matters to you. If you didn’t have fear to guide you, you might not know that! Not so bad, right?
Next, fear motivates us to action. The way I see it, those of our ancestors who didn’t run away in fear when they saw a tiger running toward them simply didn’t survive to reproduce. Fear is a call to action.
Now, most of us don’t face serious physical threats like hungry tigers every day, but we do face crazy bosses, angry clients, and public speaking. In these cases, our fear is still motivating us to DO something to enhance our chance of survival. The trick is being able to transcend our primitive Lizard Brain and do something useful. Running away or throwing a spear may work on tigers—not so much on bosses.
So, what can you do? Practice your presentation so you know it cold. Build your network so you hear what’s going on in the office and avoid trouble. Prepare for a meeting with a cranky client, maybe even set a backup plan with your colleagues. Let fear provide the energy and motivation to do what needs to be done to ensure your (metaphorical) survival.
Lastly, fear lets you know you are alive. Why do we like roller coasters? They scare us (in a mostly safe way). Same for suspense movies.
What exactly is a “thrill?” It’s doing something scary and surviving. Without “scary,” you don’t get “thrill,” it’s a package deal. Imagine life without thrills. Pretty dull, eh? Is it worth losing thrills in order to avoid facing fear? I’m thinking “No.”
So, bottom line, fear can guide you towards what’s important for you, motivate you to take action to improve your odds, and you give you a rush from staring into the Dragon’s maw and living to tell the tale. Don’t we all need that kind of friend?
Originally appeared at Lifehack.org.