How to Let Fear Turn to Opportunity
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The last few months of my life have been, perhaps, the greatest of my short little life.
But they’ve been scary as hell.
You know the feeling, I’m sure. It’s like when you’re scared of needles yet you’re sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for the nurse to draw your blood. Or when you’re afraid of public speaking, yet, for some reason, you’re preparing a presentation your boss is making you give against your will.
Sometimes it’s just a little twinge of fear that flutters about somewhere in the pit of your stomach, and other times it bubbles up, invading every corner of your body, causing you to feel completely incapable of normal, everyday human interaction.
It’s that feeling. And, for me, it’s every single day.
But reflecting on the past few months has taught me a lot about myself (particularly my strengths, weaknesses, and a lot in between). I’ve discovered a process to grapple with my fear (which, in my case can easily corrupt a day or plenty), and turn it into something greater… lots of opportunity.
Change Your Mindset: Fear is Only a Symptom of Opportunity
You’re thinking to yourself, “Eden, you just made this shit up.” And, you know what, strange reader, you’re absolutely right. I made this shit up.
Sometimes it’s okay to make shit up if it makes you feel better.
Take meditation, for example.
Meditation is the practice of training your mind to be peaceful - people literally wake up everyday and meditate so that they can transform the way they think about the world and react to their everyday. Surely I’m no meditation expert (one day, perhaps) but the foundation of the practice is simple: happy mind, happy life. And it’s true. Meditation is a frame of mind that can help you “focus on the present moment rather than dwell on the unchangeable past or undetermined future”.
I don’t meditate (yet), but I do believe in coaching myself through tough times. If tomorrow seems a bit too scary, try thinking about today. Baby steps, as they say, so go ahead and tell yourself whatever you need to hear. For me, it’s that fear is merely a symptom of great opportunity (that has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?). Who cares if it’s made up? Whatever works.
Weigh Your Options: Is the Fear Worth It?
We hear the phrase “try something everyday that scares you” but what exactly is the “thing” you should try?
Should you skydive? Should you mountain climb? Should you get married? Have a baby?
Ultimately, the “fear” you choose to overcome is largely determinant upon whether you feel it’s worth it, or if it’s a complete and utter waste of time.
While working in my brother’s startup office the other day, someone asked me if I wanted to take a turn riding on the hover board (emphasis on the “startup office”, everyone). For most people in that office, riding on the hover board is an afterthought, it’s routine, and it’s nothing major. For me, riding the hover board was terribly frightening – I feared I’d break an ankle or, worse yet, be out of the workout game for a while. I determined within a hot second that I’d neither gain anything from riding on the hover board, nor would I lose anything from passing up the opportunity.
Okay – maybe that was a stupid example. Actually, it definitely was a stupid example. But the basic premise makes sense. I’m no more likely to ride the hover board than I am to eat a scorpion on a whim like my brother, but I am clearly not averse to changing life plans at the last minute, which is something not many people can say for themselves.
The truth is, not everyone needs to parachute out of a plane to feel a healthy dose of fear. Fear is relative, so weigh the options first and decide what’s right for you.
Take the Leap & Get Comfortable Feeling Uncomfortable
What’s the reason people don’t take risks? Because they’re scared. Why are people scared? Being scared is uncomfortable.
But here’s a tip: you should probably get used to it.
“Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable.”
That’s what I hear coaches at the gym scream through particularly excruciating workouts. Settle into the feeling, they say, because if you want to get better, the pain is only going to get worse.
They’re right. It doesn’t matter if your fear is physical or mental – you’re still going to struggle your way through it. But don’t worry. Even if it hurts like hell or if it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do, chances are high you’ll live to see another day. Tomorrow will (probably) still come.
Celebrate the Victories (even if they’re small)
Life is filled with more than enough stories of failures and tragedies – so take the chance to celebrate the good. Little victories are still victories – they’re a step in the right direction.
Four months ago I hopped off a phone call with my brother who gently (not so gently, actually) suggested to me that I should change my life and do something different. He said, “You know, it’s okay to back out [of law school] now. No one will judge you for it. Do what’s best for you.”
I cried for a few hours after that call until eventually I wiped away the tears and said screw it (screw him)… I made a plan and I’m going through with it. What does he know about me, anyway?
I was too scared at the time to take a gamble on myself.
A lot has changed since then but beyond the tangible, my mindset has changed the most. Things that scared me, things that I regarded as mostly impossible, are now becoming my reality. So far, it's all been small victories, but I’m still celebrating because these "wins" are leading me through doors of opportunities that never would have existed had I walked down the safe path rather than the scary one. Great things happen when you let fear turn to opportunity.
I’ll leave you with an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote on June 2nd, 2016 shortly after I turned my world upside down. Note how things have changed since then. I’m actually making money online now. And you can, too, if you want it. Check out my income report by clicking on the button below. Also, don't miss out on my July Income report, coming soon in the next 2 weeks. (Hint: it's going to be MUCH higher than June's!)
Journal Entry: June 2nd, 2016
I’m starting to freak out.
I created an Upwork account and suddenly I’m humbled by the reality of the journey I’m about to take. There’s so much I know, and there’s so much I don’t.
I have nothing else to do but truck on forward because, well, I have nothing else to do. For a few brief moments, I found myself applying for fashion blogging opportunities, hopeful that I met their “fashion forward” and “must be trendy” requirements – that deserves a literal laugh out loud. Checking those right off the list…
Despite feeling down on myself, perusing Upwork has become a sort of pastime for me in recent days. I’ve submitted a few proposals, mostly for very short one-time gigs writing blogs. No bites yet, but maybe soon.
I’m torn between two worlds right now - the reality that I have to pay the bills, and the desire to do my own thing. Are those really mutually exclusive?
But all these thoughts are purely insecurities… straight up lack of confidence. For some reason I’ve convinced myself that those who work for themselves, those who mold businesses from nothing into something, are different than me. I tell myself that I’m not creative enough, not hardworking enough - I’ll just fail even if I try.
But maybe we’re not so different. Maybe, if I am able to unravel myself from this tight shield of insecurity and move away from the excuses, I’d be able to see that I’m more similar to them than I think.
Still, the bills need paying.
If you’ve overcome a fear that paved the way to a greater opportunity, please share in the comments section below!