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Day 10: How to Make Fear Your Inner Compass

Compass on deck of derelict fishing ship
Photo Credit: Mike Baird via Compfight

In this 30-days to Mastering Your Fears Series, The Skool of Life and The Fear Project are collaborating to blow the doors off our most primal emotion. Today’s substitute teacher is Erin Kurup

What does fear feel like to you?

My stomach turns. I go cold. The blood drains from my face. I feel the spike of adrenaline surging through my limbs. I can’t think straight.

Being startled by an unexpected sound, taking an important call, skidding on an icy road, making a big commitment — the object of my fear doesn’t matter. This process happens like clockwork. I can’t stop it.

When you’re physically in danger, fear is the body’s alert system, putting you on your guard and preparing you to fight or flee. We need that fear. It keeps us alive.

But what about the fear of a high-stakes meeting, or of asking that certain someone out, or of stepping up and owning your dreams? It’s tempting to view this kind of fear in the same way: as a stop sign, a warning to turn back and stay safe inside our comfort zones.

This fear, though, is far better put to a different purpose. This fear signals that you want something badly enough to actually consider doing it — whether you realize it or not — and some part of you is trying to warn you off so you don’t get hurt.

Let’s look at an example. Think about a common fear you’re not actually afraid of.

I, for instance, have no fear of vying for promotions at work. I bet a lot of people who dream of climbing the corporate ladder are really afraid of what they might meet on their journey, whether they have what it takes, whether the rewards will be worth the struggle, the sacrifices, the stress. Going for this goal involves a fair amount of risk.

Me? No interest…and therefore, no fear.

The people who want to climb that ladder are afraid because their minds sense that they might actually do this potentially crazy, dangerous thing. But I don’t have to bother being afraid because I have no desire whatsoever to go promotion hunting. My mind has nothing about which to warn me.

I have other fears that show me what I really want. They may not scare you at all because they’re not among your dreams. After all, this kind of fear isn’t universal.

You can use your unique set of fears as an inner compass. It can show you the road to take, if you learn how to follow it. But too many people are afraid of their own fears.

If you treat fear as a stop sign instead of an arrow pointing you forward, you’ll never reach your dreams. You’ll get stuck, paralyzed like a deer in headlights. You’ll be miserable, because the things you want stand behind a wall of fear you’re unwilling or unable to grapple with. You won’t even realize you want them, because they’ll always look like fears to you.

Instead of allowing fear to cow you, let it be a catalyst. Let it push you forward. Lean into it, push back, get inside it and see what it’s really made of. You’ll start to see that this fear isn’t really your enemy.

Fear is there to protect you. You could get hurt chasing your dreams. You could mess up. And so your fear, seeing these things as threats, warns you away.

But your fear can only see the danger. It can’t see how much you stand to gain.

Heed its warnings. See them as signposts. Use them to make your map and guide your path. Learn to move toward your fear instead of away from it.

Make your fears your compass and together you will be unstoppable.

Erin Kurup is the editor, remakeable, and pioneering spirit behind {re}made by hand.

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