Monday Spark: Are you paying attention to the wrong fears?

fear of failureThis could be a huge aha moment for you…so keep reading, and then watch the video at the end.

During the video author Karen Thompson Walker talks about fear, and how our fears are often expressed in the form of stories in our minds. If you are scared of earthquakes, you see a short story, or movie clip of that fear in your mind – the shaking, things falling off shelves, buildings falling, people being trapped and crushed.

She then talks about the decisions made by a group of sailors back in 1820. Their ship, the Essex, was sunk by a whale and the crew ended up in the lifeboats, over a thousand miles from the nearest land.

They didn’t aim for the nearest island, because they had heard there were cannibals there. They took a route that was almost twice as long, during which they knew they would probably run out of water and food.

Why take the second option? Because the story of that fear in their minds – running out of provisions – wasn’t as vivid or dramatic as their fear of cannibals.

I don’t think there is any science yet behind this idea, but personally I think Karen Thompson Walker is right. The more vividly you can visualize your fear in the form of a story, the more likely you are to react to it.

And this often leads us to make bad decisions. (Ironically, when those sailors did run out of provisions, they turned to cannibalism in order to survive.)

Now let’s look at this in the context of freelancing.

The thing that holds back a lot of freelancers, particularly when starting out, is fear. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being able to find work. Fear of being rejected by prospective clients. Fear of being found out…if they are asked a question they can’t answer, and so on.

This is a very vivid fear. They can absolutely imagine how they would feel at the moment of being rejected by a prospective client. The thought is immediate, concrete and painful.

But why did they consider freelancing in the first place? Probably because they wanted or needed a new or second stream of family income. They were scared of not having enough money, scared of not being able to pay the bills, scared of not having enough to retire on.

The fear of rejection is real, immediate and vivid. Just as with an earthquake or being attacked by cannibals, it can easily be visualized. It can take place within a compressed timeframe, within a single minute.

The fear of running out of money, or not having enough to retire on, is something that happens over time, in the future. It is gradual, not immediate. It’s not a short action movie in our minds, it’s a multi-hour documentary.

As a result, I think many freelancers respond to the wrong fear. They respond to the fear of being rejected, not being good enough and not succeeding. That fear freezes them in place and stops them from moving forward.

They would be better off ignoring that fear, and holding on to the fear of not having enough money in the future.

That second fear may not be as vivid, but it is the fear that will drive the more positive outcome. They could use that fear is a positive way, to drive themselves forward towards achieving their goals.

I’m still wrapping my own mind around this, so I may not be communicating the idea with the clarity it deserves quite yet.

But here are my own two takeaways so far:

1. Your most vivid and dramatic fears may not be the ones you should be paying the most attention to. You should perhaps be more concerned with those fears that are just as real, but less compelling as a “movie in your mind”.

2. Some fears stop you dead in your tracks, while others have a more positive effect, driving you to achieve your objective. In other words, don’t let your fears stop you from what you want to achieve, use them to drive yourself forward.

Now enjoy the video…

Related Resources:

My coaching service for freelancers…

My ebook – Affirmations for Freelancers

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.



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2 thoughts on “Monday Spark: Are you paying attention to the wrong fears?

  1. That was an interesting video. The end of the Essex story really took me by surprise.
    What I gained was that I should study all of the fears holding me back and discover the right one to drive me forward, the one that will provide the greatest results.

    Looking at fears as a story is a fascinating concept.
    Thanks for sharing, Nick.

    Steve Maurer

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