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One of the most important facets of everyday life is taking risks. Today, we’re going to be talking about three fears that stop most people taking risks.
Risk-taking is simply engaging in any behavior where you feel that there is a medium to high likelihood of failure.
Why risk-taking is necessary
One of the great tragedies in this world is that good people are often the least likely to take risks, which leaves the space open for the others to take risks, i.e. the delusional narcissists or the ruthless psychopaths, who have no problem with risk-taking because of grandiose arrogance about themselves or lack of fear.
This is one reason why we end up with such awful politicians, leaders and groups around the world.
I want more good people to start taking risks and to start taking up some of that space that’s usually reserved for the evilest and stupidest amongst us. To do that, I need to help you overcome the three fears that are stopping you from taking that chance.
#1 the fear of being unlovable, aka toxic shame.
This is where you believe that if you are seen for who you really are – if you’re exposed in all your vulnerable truth – you will definitely be disliked. That there’s something inherently wrong with you which will cause all people to reject you if they can see it.
This fear stops people from forming relationships, taking care of their minds and bodies, and taking leadership opportunities. Deep down they believe, “What’s the point? I’m going to be found out and rejected in the end anyway. So why even bother?”
Warning signs for this fear include:
- Social isolation, or playing it safe. For example, playing video games, staying at home, or just avoiding opportunities in general.
- Settling when it comes to friends – taking whoever you can get socially.
- “Dating down,” only dating people that you feel so unattracted to that you’re comfortable.
- People-pleasing and the massive raft of behaviors that go with trying to make people like you.
- Nice guy syndrome – trying to appear to be a nice person all the time.
- Blind faith and obedience – just following, without any sense of question or without any critical thinking.
The solution to overcoming this fear is as simple as it is terrifying: You just need to be more honest.
The great thing about this is you don’t have to dive into the deep end. You can just start taking little baby steps. Start letting people see a bit more of what you really think, what you really believe, what you really want, what you really feel, and what you really like/dislike. Start allowing people to see little bits more of this over time.
And here’s the key: If somebody reacts negatively to that, you move away from them. If somebody reacts positively, you move towards them. There’s no sense of “rejection” or being not good enough. You decide what role people play in your life, not the other way round.
#2 the fear of being unfixable, aka victim mindset.
Similar to toxic shame, this is a fear that you are so deeply broken, so unfixable at the core, that there’s no point in trying to improve yourself in any way because you’re guaranteed to fail.
This fear tends to lead people to avoid taking on new projects, to stop learning, to get stuck in careers without making progression, and to be resistant to coaching, mentoring or advice.
They kind of see themselves as a turd. There’s no point in polishing a turd; there’s no point in trying to fix something that’s going to always be broken.
Warning Signs include:
- Complaining about things that you could actually change.
- Focusing on things you can’t change and blaming them for your life problems.
- Any blame in general, even towards yourself.
- Resistance to support or advice, even from people you admire or who you know to be an expert.
- Being argumentative and controlling whenever any kind of suggestion of improvement arises.
- Hypocrisy, for example, telling people how to live when you don’t even know how to do it yourself.
- Having a lot of excuses about why it’s “too hard” for you to change.
The solution to overcoming this fear is to start with an assumption that you’re only living at 10% of your potential. The fear that you’re “broken” is actually designed to keep you in the comfort zone. You could be doing a lot better in the future, you just need to stop convincing yourself that you’re already at 100% potential.
Your job is to challenge that belief by trying to improve yourself by one percent every day, in some small, tiny way. Try to learn to do something a little bit better every day. After a while, you’ll build up so much evidence of improvement that you’ll no longer be able to believe that you’re unfixable or permanently broken.
One way that I personally overcame this fear was following the book Yes Man by Danny Wallace (there’s a movie with Jim Carrey under the same name). For a year, I just said Yes to every opportunity. A lot of these were learning opportunities: classes, travel, hobbies, and new experiences.
And because I was forcing myself to say Yes, I had to be exposed to a lot of things I was unfamiliar with and I had to learn a lot. I realized I am constantly capable of improvement. An unfixable person is not capable of improvement, so if you keep seeing that capability, you’re going to struggle to keep believing that there’s something inherently wrong with you.
I’d also challenge you to humble yourself to be open to advice, mentoring, guidance and support from people who know what they’re talking about. Any time you identify that somebody is better at something than you are, ask for their advice and then follow it. Do not allow yourself to ask for advice that you will not follow, and do not resist against advice from people who know more about the topic than you do.
#3 the fear of being incapable, aka fear of failure or success
This fear is all about not being able to get moving because you’re waiting for something.
You think that you’re missing critical information, that you don’t have enough talent, that you’re lacking skills, that you need more resources and support. You’re constantly waiting for those things to arrive before you take action. This fear stops people from taking action and moving forward because they’re overthinking, they’re over-researching, they’re over-planning, and they’re doing a whole lot of procrastinating.
They constantly delaying the next move because they’re waiting for some magic pill to arrive, to make the next steps easy and comfortable and certain.
Warning Signs include:
- Procrastination, starting things without finishing them or seeing them through to a final result.
- Shiny object syndrome (SOS) – constantly being distracted by a new thing to start without finishing your last thing.
- Avoidance of feedback and criticism, usually through avoidance of exposure, like not showing anyone what you’re doing or telling them about it.
- Playing it safe and sticking with what you know even when you’re over it or too advanced (e.g. not moving on from the beginner class).
- Asking for permission where none is needed – asking for other people to give you the green light on something when you can go without it.
- Being needy for validation and encouragement, not trusting your own instincts and always following rather than leading – you don’t initiate, you wait for somebody else to go first.
There are a few solutions to this. The most important one is to constantly expose yourself to new hobbies, classes, any sort of learning project – deliberately put yourself in a position where you don’t know what you’re doing, where you’re clueless, where you’re naive, where you’re a beginner. Expose yourself to the unknown so frequently that you become comfortable with it.
The other solution is something I call drafting, which is rather than trying to deliver one great, perfect result every time, you start with a first draft, then you do a second draft, and then a third, before you build up to the final result. Basically, you allow yourself permission to get it wrong the first few times.
Make it your mission to experiment, to do it quick, messy, impulsive and wrong. Fail forward rather than trying to start successfully.
As the cliche goes;
The biggest risk is not taking a risk at all.
The world around you is constantly evolving and changing. People are constantly growing and moving on. If you don’t take risks, you’re going to be left behind, and that is far riskier and more dangerous than taking a few chances and occasionally making mistakes.
Thank you so much for reading. If you enjoyed that or you have some comments to give, write them down below or share the post around, and please subscribe to my YouTube channel to help me build up my audience.
Of course, if any of these ideas hit home for you and you’d like more personal support, get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org and I can send you either more resources or we can get together for some one to one coaching.