Despite my work uplifting women and doing motivational speaking, and my experience studying and teaching positive psychology, I have a number of fears that I deal with regularly. I share some of my fears in this episode, and I invite you to think about some of the things that you fear.
Fears are not only natural, they serve a purpose in terms of evolutionary biology. I discuss negativity bias and the “fear brain,” also known as the “reptilian brain,” and how our ancestors needed to perceive threats in their environments in order to survive. In addition, the “fear brain” is physically closer, more closely connected to our brain stem and our central nervous system, which means that a relatively small amount of fear can feel huge and can impact us greater than the more rational part of our brain.
A principle called confirmation bias describes the way that our brain notices and gives more weight to things that support our fears, and dismisses or gives less weight to things that contradict our fear. Our brain does this with lots of our deeply held beliefs, but it’s certainly true of our fears.
Fear served as a protection mechanism for our distant ancestors, keeping us safe, but now fear can serve to hold us back, prevent us from taking healthy risks, and keep us from going after our dreams. Fear can keep us small, and you were not born to be small!
Carol Dweck, a researcher from Stanford, does a lot of work with mindset and identifies two main types: Fixed mindset and growth mindset. Put simply, a fixed mindset believes that either you’re athletic or you’re not, either you’re smart or you’re not. A growth mindset believes that you can become more athletic with practice, that you can become smarter through effort. People with growth mindsets tend to become more successful because they don’t see certain setbacks as failures, they see them as opportunities for growth. People with a fixed mindset are more likely to be paralyzed by fear, not wanting to be seen as failing at anything, and end up living small and live a less happy life.
If you are afraid of failure, think about it this way: There is no such thing as failure, because we can always learn from the experience, which will inform our next efforts and help make them more successful. Another technique for combatting fear is to detach from the outcome, which I address in this podcast as well, using one of my own fears as an example.
I wish I could tell you that you can stop feeling fear, but that’s just not the case. Instead, the big question here is, what can you do about it? How do we exist with fear but not let it take the driver’s seat, not let it control us and control our actions? To answer this question I offer several Purpose Power Tips, specific, actionable tools, to work with your fear emotionally and rationally.
Fear leads us to play small, and your playing small does not serve the world.
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May you live purposefully, may you love yourself, and may you love life.
Bye for now!