Action reduces fear, so act.
Truth be told, this neat little quote isn’t my own. It’s one that I came upon while reading a summary of David Schwartz’ classic “The Magic of Thinking Big”. But it stuck with me.
For someone plagued by low confidence and self-esteem, the idea that action reduces fear could very well seem counter-intuitive. Because often, it’s when we need to take action on something — especially something important — that fear arises.
There’s the fear that we’ll mess something up, and that, as a result, people will judge us and ridicule us. But there’s also the fear that we might successfully carry through with our endeavor and advance to a higher level. — We’d have expectations coming at us from all sides! And responsibilities!
Whether it’s one or both, or some other fear, fear associated with taking action is definitely real. So, why would anyone claim that action reduces fear??
To find the answer, take a moment to think about another topic that seems to cause non-fidents a lot of pain: Over-thinking.
We’ve all been there. Stuck with a seemingly unsolvable choice, entirely unable to weigh out the pros and cons. Or, having done just that, unable to make a decision because either option seems just as good — or bad — as the other.
No-one’s exactly a fan, that’s for sure. But still, as it is said in the personal coaching world, there’s always a pay-off.
You see, over-thinking is, deep down, a defense mechanism. When we over-think something, it’s because of exactly those aforementioned fears.
No-one likes over-thinking. But it still feels way less uncomfortable than having to make a tough decision or do something that makes you feel exposed and put on the line.
Over-thinking, then, is the antithesis to the action that it prevents. The two cannot co-exist. It’s either one, or the other.
Sometimes, the over-thinking wins, and we end up doing nothing at all. That’s when we really give in to our doubts and fears.
And so, it’s when we stop thinking and just do it that action reduces fear.
Action reduces fear, because when we act, we only do it because we’ve sufficiently silenced that fearsome part of our brains telling us to abort and run away. Like I said, the two cannot co-exist.
“But doesn’t that mean that I’d have to compromise my thinking if I want to get things done? What if I, like, really treasure my thinking?”
Sounds like a defense mechanism to me. 😉
No, seriously, it does. But I DO get where you’re coming from. I was there.
On the contrary, many a study have been done on how meditation helps us by training us to simply observe our thoughts and stay focused on the ones that matter, rather than blowing the insignificant ones out of proportion.*
Also, after we’ve done whatever frightening actions we’re doing, we can evaluate ourselves and get better at it the next time. And, of course, we wanna start out by taking babysteps. This goes for whatever we’re doing. Some people even get help from a confidence coach. (Something I obviously highly recommend doing.)
Bottom line: If you’re feeling anxious about doing something, it probably means it’s important, and you should do it. And really, there are lots of ways to go about your challenges safely and securely. But only the action reduces fear. And, as another quote from the initially mentioned summary goes: Nothing happens just by thinking.
Yes, it’s scary. Do it anyway.
* Sources: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2719544/; http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967