What are We Afraid Of?

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. – Dale Carnegie

Have you ever found that you have an inner dialogue that seems to be more negative than positive? Have you ever caught your mind running wild to extremely negative what-if situations? If you have, you definitely are not alone. As I have been reading I’ve learned that people are naturally more negative than positive. If you have a little extra time go to the Wikipedia page and read about Negativity Bias. There are many scientific studies that show that most of us do lean towards negativity. Not only do we exaggerate negative events and underplay positive ones, but when we experience both good and bad we often remember the bad events over the good ones, making an experience seem bad overall when in reality it may have been mostly positive.

When we meet people it is often more important to avoid giving them a negative impression rather than attempting to give them a good impression.  This makes sense, because we’ve all had an experience that we generally liked someone (like a friend, family member, or significant other) and have had them stay in our home or apartment for an extended period of time, only to find out that there are some things that they did that you just couldn’t get out of your head.  They’re messy, they talk too loud, they stay up too late, they get up too early, or they just aren’t exactly like you (I think you catch my drift). Small things that we don’t like can sometimes override big things that we do like.

Why am I writing about how negative we are? I’m writing this so that we can combat negativity in our lives. Knowing that we exaggerate and emphasize negativity means we have to intentionally override our fears. Our negativity bias has been justified as a survival instinct that may have been useful when at war or in dangerous environments in the wilderness, but the instinct is often counterproductive in today’s modern setting. It’s time to think rationally and turn that fear off and think rationally about each situation.

Here are some examples how I think negativity bias controls us in a modern environment.

  1. Fear of starting a business or changing careers – This is a great example how we often will emphasize the worst potential outcome and not consider the most positive outcome. If you really hate your job and you don’t ‘make what you feel you are worth, isn’t it a no-brainer that you should leave your current gig and move on? I think it is, but you first have to control your negativity bias and just make the move. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. You likely spend at least 40 hours a week working in your career, so it probably is the most important aspect of your life in terms of considering making a change.  If you happen to fail in your attempt at a career change, what’s to stop you from going back to what you did before? My guess is that you’d always have that to fall back on.
  2. Fear of commitment to a relationship – I know that marriage is a GIANT commitment.  I’m not saying to take it lightly at all. We should definitely weigh out the pros and cons, but for some of us (not me, I got married at 22 years old) committing to a relationship is something we never will feel comfortable doing. Just because you don’t feel comfortable doesn’t mean it isn’t the right decision. Turn off the rampant negativity and think about problems that may arise before they come up and work them out in your head. Work them out with your significant other. Once you do this, it may eliminate most of your fears of a major commitment.
  3. Moving to somewhere new – Me and my wife moved away from where we were from. When I say we moved away, I mean we moved a little over an hour drive north. This definitely isn’t an earth shattering move, but the move felt so scary at the time. In reality it wasn’t that major of a change and the work that we’ve been doing as a result of the move has been much more fulfilling.  Perhaps you’re considering a move to a different location for work, or just because you hate Wisconsin winters (ok, that’s me). While you have to consider the relationships that you won’t be around as much, you also need to consider the potential positives that come with a new location. You can always move back if the move doesn’t work out like you expected it to.
  4. Chasing your dreams – This is really general but the world is filled with people that are no more well off or intelligent than you that are chasing their dreams. In many cases these people are realizing their dreams.  It could be something as little is wanting to start painting and selling your art, or brewing your own beer. Just do something that you’ve always wanted to try. For me it’s writing my own book. I’ve always thought about writing a book, but I’ve always let the fact that nobody wants to read my thoughts stop me. Well, as I get older I’m not sure it’s even about whether or not others want to read my thought (although I hope you do), it’s more about doing something that I’ve always wanted to do and learning in the process. I think once you force yourself to do a small thing that you’ve always wanted to do, it will help you build up the confidence to do much bigger things. Life’s to short not to give it a go.

I hope this short post has inspired you to overcome some of the negativity in your life and take the next step in something that you’ve always wanted to do. Life’s too short to live in fear. Nothing great comes from the timid. If you have something you’re terrified to try but you know that you need to do, let me know what that is in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks again for reading and remember to be bold today!

Robert Krickeberg

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