Ed’s note: This post was written by guest editor Rebecca Ray, founder of Happi Habits.
As 2018 opened its doors for business, you may have experienced a surge in motivation – the kind of spark that exists when all things are possible because the canvas is blank and the choice is yours. I love this time of year because potential is potent. It’s the time for taking our dreams seriously and boldly taking steps toward them.
But while you’re anticipating that first step, you’re only a thumb-swipe away from buying into the quotes on your Instagram feed that demand you follow your dreams fearlessly. Because apparently, fearlessness is the difference between where you are now, and where you want to be.
Except it’s not, because …
Fearless is a fallacy
Unless you have suffered a certain type of brain injury, or you’re a psychopath, being fearless is simply a two-dimensional statement reserved for social media feeds and late-night infomercials selling unmissable business opportunities.
It’s simply not possible. Our brains are hard-wired for survival and fear is the chief emotional messenger responsible for warning us of threat. To eliminate fear from the equation would be to reject our protection mechanisms that operate to identify when something is risky, unfamiliar, or downright dangerous for our physical and/or psychological wellbeing.
Okay, you already know that fear is essential when it comes to managing our physical safety. That part is not in question. Instead, my issue is with the implication that we can, and should, achieve fearlessness when it comes to living expansive, inspired lives.
Here’s the thing: Comfort zones might not be tangible, but the butterflies in your stomach and the warning bells in your head every time you approach your own perceived limitations will confirm you have one, too. We all do. And the fact is that living bravely happens outside our comfort zone. In other words, we must get uncomfortable to expand, to grow. We must get uncomfortable before courage arrives.
Being brave is not being fearless. If you’re waiting to feel fearless, you may wait forever. And who has that kind of time?
Brave is the new black because…
If we need to be fearless before we do big, important things, we may never do anything. If we aim to be brave (with a little fear on the side), the possibilities are infinite. Brave is the new black because it empowers rather than paralyses; it hopes rather than hinders; and it encourages transformation rather than stagnancy.
How? Courage holds fear’s hand and shows us how to turn it into growth. Even when fear is the quake in your voice and the shake in your knees, courage is the guiding light that moves us toward doing what truly matters. You see, humans are pain-avoiding experts – but you can’t possibly choose brave if you refuse to accept some discomfort – most likely fear – as a legitimate passenger in the experience.
I want the potential of 2018 to be yours for the taking. I want the canvas to be of your own creation. If you want that, too, then please ditch “fearless” as your modus operandi and choose brave as your guide with these tips:
Fear has a voice…
Accept fear will show up. And it will talk whether you like it or not (because that’s its job – to maintain survival no matter what). But you have a choice as to what you listen to and what you let play in the background. To be brave means to feel fear – you can’t have one without the other.
But courage gets to drive…
Make room for fear while not giving up your control to it. You may not be able to eliminate fear, but you can control how you choose to respond it. Choose your perspective: You don’t have to like it, want it, or approve of it. By disengaging from the need to be fearless, you can allow fear to be present but reserve your energy for courageous action.
Roundabouts versus highways
Aspiring to fearlessness will leave you circling a perpetual roundabout – going nowhere, waiting for the hard emotions to disappear before you dare take an exit to Possibility Land. Choosing brave is a wide, open road to doing what matters deep down. The hard emotions might still be along for the ride, but it’s your values and goals that direct the GPS. Although we need to remember that …
Brave is not on the map
Brave is not a destination. It’s a way of travelling. The aim is not to get there, it’s about how we approach each step.
There is a thin line that sits between fear and courage. It asks us to balance doubts of the unknown with the pull of discovery. We need both to move forward. May you give yourself permission to feel uncomfortable and to choose brave as your preferred means of travel. The best views are waiting for you along the way.
Rebecca is a writer, speaker, and clinical psychologist. Her message centres on the task of living bravely in the truth of our experiences as finders and seekers of inspiration and connection. Rebecca’s first book, Be Happy: 35 Powerful Habits for Personal Growth and Well-Being, hits the shelves in March, 2018. She is also the author Happi Habits, an e-program designed to boost wellbeing.