You know the drill. It's time to take inventory on the year and consider changes, drop old habits or pick up new ones, maybe shed a few pounds.
There are so many things you can choose for your new year self-improvement movement. Leaving your fear behind, in all its forms, is a very worthy suitor.
You see, fear will never, ever, stop if left unchecked.
Science teaches us that fear negatively affects us in these five primary ways:
1. Fear disrupts the preparedness of our mind for being inspired.
Inspiration is the Holy Grail of motivation--who wouldn't want more of it in their life? But fear greatly compromises our ability to focus, be present, still our minds, listen and reflect--all the necessary state of mind ingredients for inspiration to appear.
I've been in meetings where I was so fearful of how I was going to come across that it inhibited my ability to be present in the moment and be inspired by the ideas flowing around me.
2. Fear blocks action.
If we can work around fear to be inspired by something, it then engages in a second stage of interference, keeping us from being inspired to.
As organizational behavior expert Kevin Cavanagh from Case Western University articulates in his study on inspiration:
"Individuals who do not feel psychologically safe (are experiencing fear) in their work environment may still be inspired by the work they are doing, but feel unsafe in taking the risks to act out being inspired to do something."
Emory University neuro-economist Gregory Burns (how bad-ass is that, neuro-economist) brings it right down to our brain functions for the New York Times:
"The most concrete thing that neuroscience tells us is that when the fear system of the brain is active, exploratory activity and risk-taking are turned off. Fear prompts retreat (the opposite of progress)."
At the times in my career where I felt the most fear, I also felt the most paralyzed and unable to take a course of action one way or another.
3. Fear dissuades discovery and growth.
It creates a stasis that prevents us from discovering new ideas, uncovering new interests, and engaging in things that might bring improvements to our life. Employees working for me that had become stuck and stale were in this state for a reason--quite often it was their fear of failing if they tried something new.
4. Fear engages our brain in the wrong conversation.
Instead of encouraging the imagination of inspiring possibilities it narrows our scope of thinking and steers us towards an obsession with limitations and negative thoughts. I've learned to reframe my own fear over the years by reminding myself that when you fail you don't get hurt, your ego does (and you and your ego are not the same thing).
5. Fear distorts reality.
It unfairly creates inaccurate, unfounded, but self-accepted truths that sap our self-belief and happiness.
Fear is a formidable enough foe, a killer of creativity, that two prominent authors, Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat. Pray. Love.) and Steven Pressfield (War of Art) have personified it in an attempt to keep it at bay. Gilbert likens it to someone who goes along on a car ride with you while you are trying to create. Fear can sit there quietly, but can't touch the radio and most certainly can't drive.
Pressfield calls the force which keeps us from progressing our creative endeavors "Resistance", a force (like procrastination or a blockage of disciplined effort) which draws its power from our fear of it.
The good news here is you don't need to go so far as to put a face to your fear. You just need to face it down--and stop letting fear limit you.
It's time to tear the bubble wrap off your life.
There is simply too much at stake to stay cocooned. When we press past our fears and venture forth "unprotected", we discover. We set new limits. We imagine. We feel our strengths strengthening and our self-doubts dashed. We learn we can take a punch, and are better for it. We see opportunities, not opposition.
I experienced all of this when I got past my fears to leave corporate life and become a full-time speaker and writer. So I can tell you from experience that when we tear the bubble wrap off our lives, we become inspired once again.
So spring forward in 2018 and make it the year you left your fears behind.