Can you have courage without fear? By definition, courage is the ability to confront fear and uncertainty. You really can’t have one without the other.
Some of the best things you can do for yourself require courage. Fear is what holds you back. But the two are so interlinked that you can never quite separate them.
What you can do is understand fear and its nature. There are some underlying truths about fear. Once you understand them, they can help you build courage to do just about anything.
1. Fear only goes away with experience
The first time you try something new is always the scariest. The unknown is a scary place as you face uncertainty. But once you’ve gone there, the fear decreases.
It’s simple. The more you do something, the less scary it becomes. I was extremely afraid the first time I made a presentation to a large group of people. Now that I’ve done it dozens of times and gained that experience, it’s no longer scary. Familiarity lessens fear.
2. The best things worth doing are scary
Turning on the TV isn’t scary. Neither is reading a book or going to eat. Sure, they’re fun activities, but they aren’t exactly life-changing either.
In contrast, moving to another country is scary. Changing careers and getting married are also scary things. But these are the life-changing ones that can radically improve your life. They’re also the things you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Making big changes is scary. That’s why people stay in bad relationships and jobs they hate. But big changes have the biggest payoffs. Watching TV will never have the same payoff.
3. It’s never as dangerous as it appears
Sometimes I look back on some of the scariest moments in my life and wonder what it was that frightened me so much. I felt a lot of fear before traveling abroad for the first time. I had it when I applied to grad school and when I went whitewater rafting.
Now my fears look ridiculous.
Fear is always highest right before you try something new. But it often overblows the danger and underplays the positive things that will happen. So far, nothing I’ve done has ever been as dangerous as I’ve imagined beforehand. Things are usually not as dangerous as you think.
4. You either control fear or it controls you
When evaluating decisions, it’s important to weigh the potential dangers. Being a good decision-maker means knowing about potential pitfalls. But it’s important to make sure that fear doesn’t control you.
Deciding not do something because you’re consciously aware that the dangers are too great is fine. But if you do it because you’re too afraid, you’re letting the fear make the decision for you. Letting fear control your decisions is a great way to miss out on life changing opportunities.
5. Fear is an emotional, not logical response
Most fears are ridiculous and based upon an emotional response. Fear isn’t something you base upon logic; it’s all emotional. What you’re truly afraid of might have no truth in reality.
This becomes apparent when you ask people about their fears and compare them to statistics. I wrote an entire post about this when it comes to travel fears. Most people name crime, disease or even terrorism as their biggest travel fears. No one ever mentioned the biggest statistical danger in traveling abroad: traffic accidents.
6. There are different kinds of fear
Fears aren’t generally alike. For instance, the fear of public speaking isn’t the same kind of fear as the fear of death. You can be in total control of one and still have tremendous fear in the other.
Fear is sometimes battled on a case-by-case basis. I’ve conquered many different types of fear, but I know there are others I haven’t yet. For instance, I don’t fear public speaking or flying, but I’m still frightened of sky diving. So far I don’t have any desire to conquer that fear, but maybe one day I’ll get to it.
7. Even courageous people are afraid
It’s easy to look at someone who’s doing something scary and think they have a special quality that makes them courageous. You might even think they never experience any fear at all.
Everyone experiences fear. Even those people who do extremely bold and crazy things get fear. They’ve just learned to control fear in a way that other people can’t. The fear is definitely real and present for them; it just doesn’t stop them from doing what they want to do.
Overcoming Fear, Building Courage
If there’s one last truth about fear and courage, it’s this: you’ll always have to deal with fear, but you might not always have courage. Unfortunately you need courage to achieve things in life; it’s required to get wherever you want to go. On the bright side, understanding fear can help you make sure fear doesn’t control you and keep courage out of your life altogether.
photo credit: Halley Alexa
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