“Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.” -Suzy Kassem
Do you ever worry that you’re not capable of achieving what you want or being who you dream to be?
Do you ever accuse yourself of being lazy?
Have you ever told yourself you don’t deserve what you want?
Or that if you go for it, people will judge you?
Or that perhaps it isn’t even worth all the effort and fuss anyway?
These concerns or thoughts probably stem from fear, and they’re likely blocking you from cultivating purpose.
What do you think these people are afraid of?
Jack grew up with parents who worked because they had to, not because they liked it. He came to understand that we often have to put up with our jobs to get the bills paid and we shouldn’t expect much else from that part of our lives. He ended up going into lawn care and successfully opened his own business, but doesn’t exactly care about the work or find it enjoyable. He does the job because he thinks has to. Jack feels pretty bored but isn’t motivated to change his circumstances. Randomly it occurs to him that he could do something else but he dismisses the idea as fanciful, unrealistic thinking and distracts himself.
Nora always dreamed of being a lawyer and worked her butt off to get into law school and graduate with honors. Now, a few years into a corporate law career, she has discovered she doesn’t believe in or enjoy the bigger picture of her work. She would rather do something more impactful and hands-on, like field conservation work. But she shudders at the idea of negating the many years of hard work and a great deal of money that was invested in her education. Likewise she hesitates to choose a path that is far less prestigious and so outside of who she has come to see herself as. Perhaps people would see such a significant switch as erratic and unreasonable.
Dakota has been offered a promotion at work that would change her responsibilities in a way that would increase her sense of purpose and passion. However, she is hesitating to accept the position. She’s worried that it’ll take her time and focus away from her kids, who she is raising primarily on her own. Dakota feels like even though the opportunity is right in front of her it is outside her control to take it, as she could be seen as selfish or negligent choosing to invest more in her career when she already has a family to focus on.
Jump to “Fear Fallacies” if you’re looking for a rough taxonomy of common purpose fears.
That being said, fear isn’t a bad thing. Evolutionary theory implies that It wouldn’t be a part of our lives if it didn’t DO something for us. Fear can be seen as an ally when we learn to appreciate that it is trying to protect us from something, it also can show us what we care most deeply about, and it can help us prepare for challenges.
When we realize we have something we care more about than our own comfort, fear becomes something we see the value of working with (and potentially through).
**BEFORE YOU DIVE IN** Before we jump into fear as a hindrance to purpose it’s important to emphasize that fear is an especially complex topic that we’re not going to solve or completely understand by reading a handful of pages on the internet- it can take a lifetime of contemplation and experimentation to untangle our relationship with and patterns around fear.
The offerings on the following pages are intended to inspire insight and empowered action, not cure you of fear itself! You’ll learn about the nature of motivation, the values our fears point us towards, the opportunities that stem from seeing fear as an ally, and exercises for clarifying the fears that direct us.
Learn some psychological theory behind motivation with carrots and sticks. Spoiler alert: The carrot IS the stick. Fear is present in both motivation towards and away from something.
This page is chock full of resources to help you uncover and identify what you’re really afraid of when it comes to purpose. Some of our fears show up in the form of limiting beliefs or behaviors like boredom, laziness, and perfectionism.
Learn why it’s beneficial to consider fear your ally. Try some exercises that will help you increase your tolerance for discomfort and failure. And finally, figure out how to take action with your fear.
The Fear Section
This series of pages on fear explore fear specifically in the context of purpose and work. Fear is a huge topic that can manifest in every area of our lives and takes on many forms.
This is the homepage for fear on A Meaning Of Life. It dives into the nitty gritty on a broader scale than the following pages, encompassing more science and more topics beyond purpose and work.