Named must your fear be, before banish it you can.
— Yoda, from Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Novel)
In this article, I will discuss how your fears can often be conquered simply by defining them. After realizing how “the worst that can happen” is rarely life-threatening, you’ll see how easily you can get rid of fear once and for all.
I spent four years living the overworked, underpaid, and far-from-enjoyable lifestyle of a computer support technician. Each morning I faced my alarm clock with the same dread: I have to do this for another 30-40 years?
Like most people working a job they hate, the thing that was getting me to work each day was fear. At the time, being “the computer guy” was the only thing I’d ever really done — it was the only thing I believed I knew how to do well, and I wasn’t sure what else I really wanted to do.
I didn’t risk trying anything else because I was terrified it’d be a mistake. Under the belief that mistakes were impossible to recover from, I let my fears obstruct my path to a better future.
My standpoint was that of a pessimist: given the option to try and risk failure, or not try at all, I was choosing not to try. Consequently, I was choosing a life where I was generally unhappy. Nevertheless, I would continually choose this option because I preferred unhappiness over uncertainty.
There was someone in my life, though, who would cause me to tear down the walls of my comfort zone just to be with her. She lived over 600 miles away, meaning that in order to pursue a relationship with her, it necessitated several severe life alterations. Being with Cassie meant I would need to:
- Quit my job.
- Move out of state.
- Leave my family, friends, and everything familiar.
In other words, moving to live with Cassie meant taking risks. Having lived most of my life avoiding risks, I was terrified of what might happen.
Then something strange occurred. I began to imagine what might happen, and it didn’t appear quite so scary. Taking it one step further, I harnessed my inner pessimist and created the absolute worse case scenario imaginable:
I’d quit my job and receive disapproval from my colleagues, family, and friends. They’d tell me I was throwing my future away for a girl I didn’t even know. During my drive out to Michigan, I would stop somewhere to eat, and in that short time surely someone would break all the windows of my car and steal everything inside it. I’d drive the remainder of my trip with plastic wrap taped over the shattered glass, and end up getting caught in an unexpected blizzard. I’d arrive at my new apartment with the flu, and make Cassie sick. We’d quickly learn that we couldn’t tolerate one another and break up on the very day my car was stolen. I’d go into debt buying a plane ticket back to New Jersey, and once I got there I’d face everyone gloating about how they were right in their predictions that I would be a failure and that moving away was a mistake.
It was interesting how once I defined the details of my nightmare, it seemed less frightening. This was because after imagining the worst, it wasn’t hard to piece together a plan of recuperation if things went wrong:
I could find a studio apartment, and get a temporary job just to pay the rent. I could write home and ask my parents for money to buy just enough food to live off of. I could cut my spending habits and live within my means. I could use the public computers at the nearest library to access the Internet. I could begin developing my idea for a website, and pursue a paid career as a writer. I could make ends meet however necessary, since my options were many.
Knowing that it shouldn’t be difficult get get back where I was, let alone survive, the risks involved no longer appeared threatening — especially since the risks were both improbable and nonfatal.
In fact, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being a life not worth living and 10 being everything I’ve ever hoped and dreamed of, my so-called “worst that can happen” might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4.
On the other hand, the best that could happen is I manage to permanently alter my life to a 9 or 10: Cassie could truly be the woman of my dreams, and if I succeed in leaving home in pursuit of a relationship with her, it will undoubtedly inspire me to make even more positive changes in my life.
Therefore, my choice was simple: it made sense to risk the temporary loss of luxurious living in exchange for a chance at the permanent gain of a happier existence — an existence where I could choose my own fate, and look forward to facing the day rather than dread it.
Having faced my own fears, I’ve come to an after-the-fact realization: risks aren’t so scary once you take them. Furthermore, taking a risk doesn’t mean you must give up your current path forever — chances are high that you could easily pick up again where you left off if you had to.
The real question is, once you’ve conquered your fears and experienced an exciting life without them, would you really want to?
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