What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

I’m a grumbling, breathing, walking fabrication of fears.

At any one moment, I’m nurturing two very unlikely anxieties with a couple more on the back burner. There’s the fear of failure, of judgement, and of the wide mysterious chasm that is my future.

Perhaps that’s true for everyone. I’m guessing everyone carries a set of their own apprehensions – everything that has ever weighed us down can be rooted in fear.

We pack our fears in the dark corners of our minds – never giving them the opportunity to shrivel in the light. Eventually, we let them determine our paths.

We grow up dreaming big dreams. But as the years go by, life has a way of coming in and crushing our dreams out of us – with financial insecurity, with social obligations, with fatigue, with heartbreak.

So we lock them up. We tuck our dreams away and we settle. All of our life’s experiences have suddenly become the invisible shackles that tie us down.

Fear is the ominous thing that makes us believe that every little failure of ours will be the end of the world. Fear is what makes us have that constant ache right in the pit of our very being.

If I think back to the things I’ve feared most in my life, they were usually hard and uncomfortable changes I needed to make – decisions that shifted my worldview from the status quo, or a leap of faith that risked ridicule or failure or both.

It’s a vexing, frustrating order of operations with a small window of success – so why do I constantly put myself in these situations of torment?

‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough’

Undoubtedly, you’ve seen this quote before – probably written over an image of a sunset. But how much do you wholeheartedly believe in it?

If you think about the achievements of some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, it all started with a dream. Surely, it scared them. But that didn’t stop them. Instead, it fuelled them.

Sheryl Sandberg connects the value of personal growth in the face of fear (Lean In, 2013). Sometimes it all comes down to confidence, to visualising the end goal, and to realising that even your role models have plenty of doubts of their own. And reminding yourself constantly that the point of life is not to resign to one part of it and bask in the familiarity of safety and comfort!

I’m not saying that we should expect to live a life without fear – that’s just impossible. But what we can do is learn to embrace failure, judgement, heartbreak and uncertainty.

I always face situations that I fear are beyond my capabilities. I still have days when I feel like a fraud, and times when I feel my efforts are never enough. At times like these, I know to take a deep breath and keep my chin up. Maybe the Instagram quotes superimposed on sunsets are right: We are supposed to do what scares us.

Fear might be an obstacle to living our dream but waiting for success and safety is never-ending and spectacularly unlucrative. When a system is stacked against you, you need to learn how to dance around it. To live your best life, you need to thrive at the intersection of fear and hope.

If you don’t act on your dreams today, you might wake up one day with your pockets full as they may be – but your heart empty, echoing the faint whispers of ‘what if’

Now that we have that sorted, there’s really only one thing to address:

What is the one thing you’d do today, tomorrow, this year, if you weren’t so afraid?

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