“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” ― Maya Angelou
The cool, dry, breeziness of the winter season can stir fear and anxiety for many people. At times like these, it is important to ponder whether this feeling of fear is serving a useful purpose.
When we are young, fear teaches us to stay out of harm’s way. But before we realize it, this intermittent cautionary warning can transform from a beneficial tool to a limiting and debilitating factor. And if unchecked, the constant presence of fear can steal away life’s opportunities, causing us to feel stuck, stagnant, anchored.
We know that nothing is permanent and yet we take great comfort in all that is familiar. We may find that we shy away from trying new things for fear of being criticized or unsuccessful ~ whether it is a new hobby, relationship, job or even a new city or country. New or challenging things require that we move out of our comfort zone into unfamiliar and oftentimes uncertain places. Winston Churchill said “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.” When we lose our enthusiasm for life, we find ourselves withdrawn and not living at all.
Through our survival conditioning, we are wired to react more quickly to threats; this is referred to as a negativity bias. We react more quickly and with more force and energy to threats than to pleasure. When we are faced with something that stirs fear within us, our “what ifs” tend to relate to possible negative outcomes. Knowing this and knowing the grip that fear can have on our lives, it behooves us all to work on a reprogramming of sorts.
When fear arises, it is important to decipher if the feeling is warranted and necessary as a means of safe-keeping, or instead ~ false evidence appearing real (F-E-A-R). More than not it is the latter! In these instances, it is paramount for us to face the fear remembering that courage is not the absence of fear, but instead overcoming it. This process will start to weaken the grip of this overactive withdrawal system, enabling us to live more fully. As we become less withdrawn, we become more able to live expansively, with a sense of vulnerability that opens us up to life’s possibilities. Anais Nin said “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
We are the sum of our habits, these habits define our character and character defines our destiny. As we think, so we become. My biggest fear is shying away from all that life has to offer, only to find that I have not really lived at all! To sit on my life’s beach, wondering what lies beyond the horizon, without ever jumping in to discover. William Faulkner so wisely said “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”