I learned this in 6th grade science class. When an animal in the wild is face to face with a predator about to eat him, one of two instincts will take over – fight or flight. The animal will stand and fight, or take flight and escape (by running, flying, swimming, whatever.) Even curling up into an armored shell counts as taking evasive action.
There is a third option that we highly evolved humans have developed… let’s call it fright. Fright means standing there looking at the predator and doing nothing. Basically letting it eat you because you could not make a decision or take action. Though we humans are (usually) not faced by literal predators trying to eat us, we are faced with big problems, predicaments and aggressive people who will do us harm if we just stand there and stare at them.
In a previous post “Chase or be chased,” I was describing a mind game I play to keep me motivated during long races. I not only chase a goal that is front of me, I also set up a scenario where I am being chased from behind. It’s the tension between these two that keeps me moving, combining negative and positive reinforcement at the same time.
Reader Mike T. commented on the importance of enjoying this spot in the middle, living in the present moment and not dwelling too much on the past and future. I totally agree. It’s hard to be happy if you’re always looking at the horizon or the rearview mirror. It’s even harder to be happy if you let fear catch up and swallow you.
One of the ways I defeat fear is to acknowledge and accept it, then very rationally decide what to do about it. For example…you may feel the fear that your job will be downsized in the near future. You can choose to fight – do everything you can to prove your worth to your current employer. Or you can take flight – go look for another company or start your own (always a viable option.) The worst thing to do is allow yourself to be frozen with fright, waiting for the ax to fall. This is just plain wasted time.
I feel fear. Everyone feels fear. Use it to propel, not paralyze you.