This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. But I’ve come to the realisation that a lot of us (including myself) live in fear. It’s not a direct type of fear that you can immediately identify (for instance, fear for your life), but it’s more of a subconscious type.
I’ve observed that all of my friends (and other acquaintances) live in this state of fear where they dig out this niche for themselves in their own life, and reach a level of contentedness, having avoided all risks and opportunities (plus obligations). I know that they don’t like changing their surroundings if they’re already comfortable with their life; even if it’s living at home, on welfare, or working at a coffee shop, or working in your chosen field, yet living your life as if you expect to be homeless at any moment (keep in mind they all have degrees and live at home). I know that they’re afraid to make big decisions that will put them on a completely different track of self-development, career development and ultimately life-development. They’re the type who say “Think of what could go wrong” where they always focus on the negative, on their fear.
The problem with this mind-set is that, once a person grounds it in themselves that they won’t make any major decisions that will derail from their mediocre existence (and possibly lead to an exceptional existence), based on the premise that “something could go wrong”, you enter this cycle of thought. Perhaps every now and then you’ll make a small step in a direction that requires you to take risks, and if something doesn’t work out the way you expected, you quickly retreat back into that niche, into that familiar shell, and you (sub)consciously reaffirm that thought to yourself, that something will go wrong, and because it did, it’s best to stay where you are; thus the cycle ensues. Or if you know someone who ends up taking those risks that you’d never see yourself doing, you might think “that’s crazy, don’t they see how risky that is?” and if it turns out that things didn’t go to plan for that person (a business start up fails for instance), you enter that cycle again where you reaffirm that thought pattern to yourself, of avoiding anything that takes you away from your comfortable, mediocre life.
I know that this mindset isn’t limited to my friends, but to many other people. I once harboured such fear driven thoughts, “think of what could go wrong”, and looking back it was silly of me to think in such a way because now I see what opportunities I have missed out on. But I’m not the type to dwell on the past. I don’t like this type of mindset, and I know that it’s hard to change your surroundings, to throw yourself into something unknown, but isn’t that what everyone’s life should be about?
These days it’s all about getting that secure job (we all want stability, but at what price to our inner freedom?), all about pleasing everyone else (at what price to our integrity and confidence?), all about getting into that monotonous routine that will guarantee you a safe, near stable life, where you won’t have to venture outside of your comfort zone, because by then the breaks you applied to your mind years ago have completely stopped any progress and all there is left to do for you is wait and die.
Another fear driven action is doing a job that you hate, but you’re afraid to quit because of the pay, because it brings you financial stability, security, etc. Aren’t you better off to be doing something that you genuinely love to do, and not doing it out of fear? I realise people have mortages to pay off, families, and so on, and in those instances there isn’t a whole lot I can say, but I’m mainly talking about people who are mostly independent of such obligations (or who have the choice before they take on such obligations).
We shouldn’t have to do things because of fear, rather because of the happiness that comes about. Another example is pursuing a relationship with someone because of the fear of being alone. I won’t get into explanations on this one but it revolves around the whole idea of living in fear. Basing your life actions/choices on fear will ultimately lead to unhappiness and this is the reason why I think a lot of people these days are unhappy. They’re either in a job they hate (but it’s too late to quit or make a dramatic change if they have a mortage/family) or they’re in a relationship with a person whom they know isn’t right for them, but are afraid to be ‘alone’. There’s also another fear driven lifestyle; people who are afraid of what others will think of them, so they act accordingly, they don’t show their true selves, and by the time they realise this, they don’t even know who their true self is.
I just want to add this great quote by Theodore Roosevelt. It relates to my post because it shows what it means to live a life as a fearless human:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
It’s from a longer speech of his, which you can read here.