4 Ways to Turn Fear into Fuel

What if discomfort were an opportunity for creativity?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The more accomplished we get, the more the unknown seems to inspire reflexive fear in us.

Deep down, we still doubt ourselves.

We tend to minimize our achievements or the efforts it took to get to where we’re at because we’re not yet where we want to be and we lack trust in our abilities.

We know ourselves to be resilient and adaptable and yet we wonder about the limits of our creativity. Perhaps we’ve already peaked or it’s too late for another chance.

But what if getting clear on fear could afford us the opportunity we need?

#1 — look at your fear

Do you even know what you’re afraid of exactly or are you just experiencing general malaise about your station in life? Ours is a culture of instant gratification so we tend to forget that process and progress take time, more time than we ever allow for them.

Are you afraid of failing or of running out of steam before completing the process that could eventually trigger progress? Maybe you’re wondering how to keep going because you’re somehow disheartened by the results you’ve achieved to date.

But if you’ve already achieved results then it stands to reason you can achieve more although the conditions you do so may need tweaking.

#2 — listen to your fear

Does your fear even make sense once you start unpacking it? Can you find distinct reasons for it rather than an overwhelming sense of apprehension and doom? Our interconnected lives can get overbearing and fear is a filter we default to when we forget to engage critical thinking.

Ask yourself whether something really matters to you and why you’re afraid of it and you’ll soon find out that it’s because you don’t know enough about it.

The unknown should be silence, not noise, so if your fear is verbose, it likely has an opinion about something, not information.

#3 — talk to your fear

Now that you know what you’re afraid of and why, find out where your fear comes from and what triggers it on an intellectual level. Then observe how it spreads to your emotions and whether it has any physical consequences.

Often, you can reverse the latter by being aware of them. For example, controlling your breath might lessen the physical symptoms of anxiety and calm your mind. We think better when we’re not in a state of panic.

Calm doesn’t spread as fast as fear but excitement does and taking a counterintuitive approach could help.

#4 — team up with your fear

Make it your friend and your advisor but never your mentor, use it instead of fighting it or letting it paralyze you. Fear is a form of self-awareness that can help you pinpoint areas that need urgent attention and improvement.

It’s your personal alert system going off and warning you about something, your instinct kicking in, but it’s not always right. For example, anxiety is out of control fear, a big hairy tarantula that crawls out of your mind every time it’s overwhelmed.

Catch the critter, shove it in a jar, and observe it until you’ve set eyes on its every single hair then name it as you would a pet. It’s mightily difficult to keep taking anxiety seriously once you’ve given it a curious name like Isambard or Perpetua.

You’re never going to make Izzy or Pet redundant so get to know each other so you can work together without butting heads every step of the way.

You need to sit with your fear for a while:

  • look at it
  • listen to it
  • talk to it
  • team up with it

Trying to run away from it will likely make it chase you because fear is a predator that zeroes in on our deepest insecurities. And yet, if something scares you but stands no chance of killing or ruining you or anyone else, why not try it since you’re curious about it?

We forget fear is a form of curiosity, and curiosity is the precursor to creativity.

If you knew fear was priming your creative brain for action, would you welcome it instead?

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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