Fear Holds you Back and Courage is the Remedy
It's no secret that we humans have not evolved fast enough to keep up with our technological and societal advances. One such survival technique we've passed on from the Paleolithic days is fear. Fear is a primitive emotion that protects and alerts us when there is imminent danger.
While fear is extremely useful when and if you come face to face with a giant bear or mountain lion, in today's society fear can hold you back. For example, we are might fear being rejected by our peers or are constantly concerned about losing our jobs. The day to day experiences we have often lead us to be more concerned about protecting ourselves emotional rather than pose any true serious threat to our lives.
Psychologists conducted numerous studies to determine how the brain considers risk of loss versus the potential of gains. One such study included a coin toss whereby participants were asked if given a 50-50 chance of winning $30 or losing $20, would they take this bet. Those who are risk-adverse put more weight on the possibility of losses than on the possibility of potential gains. This is to be expected for those who are risk adverse. However, those who gave the possibility of gains and losses equal weight were more likely to take the bet. In general, the psychologists discovered that the brain is more sensitive to potential losses than to potential gains.
"We have to trust in ourselves that what lies ahead for us is nothing compared to what lies within us, knowing we can never become who we truly want to be unless we are willing to let go of the safety ropes that keep us where and who we are." - Margie Warrell
This explains why I myself chose to stay with a Big 4 accounting firm for as long as I did despite the fact that I didn't believe it was for me. Rather than pursing something I truly enjoyed, I rationalized to myself that by avoiding the risk of looking for another job, that was the safest choice to make. However, I failed to consider the potential gains both monetary and emotionally from working at a different company.
How do we start? How do we become more courageous?
Being courageous is not something that comes overnight, but can be achieved through small steps. Do something the scares you everyday. This could be asking that girl you've had your eye on out on a date or asking your boss for a promotion. Each time you step outside of your comfort zone you are working towards building a larger comfort zone. As your tolerance for risk increases so will your confidence.
"Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway." - John Wayne
One of the best ways to be more courageous is to consider what you have to gain if you take that chance. Too often we dwell on what we have to lose. Every time I'm at a bar and I see a girl I want to talk to, I ask myself what do I have to gain by walking over and talking to her. We can hit it off and/or I just made my comfort zone slighter larger. Yes, we can run a number of scenarios where the boyfriend might come over and try and throw a punch or you are left both physically and emotionally damaged. But, if you worry about that, you won't go over there and introduce yourself. More likely than not, you won't be physically hurt by just talking to the girl.
When faced with a dilemma, ask yourself if you don't do this will you regret it ten minutes from now or a day from now, what a month, or even a year? If you answered yes to any time frame at all, then you need to have the courage to "just do it".
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