A casual Google search recently revealed the startling number of humans who believe in the value of being motivated by fear.
Fear, these proponents argued, is a powerful force. It can get things done in a way other motivators–such as curiosity, ambition, or need–simply can't. If fear can propel you into a principally good territory, too, its association with negative power is moot.
I'm not arguing with the notion that fear has power. But states of fear have proven to be psychically and physiologically unhealthy for humans. Fear can instigate chronic health problems and mental illness. It can sever relationships and dreams.
In short, as powerful as fear is, it deserves to be handled wisely. I'm making the case that it shouldn't be your motivator–no matter what you are trying to accomplish. If it is, it's time for a change.
1. Being afraid has physiological impact.
I'm serious. Medical practitioners, psychologists, and scientists alike have all testified to fear's capacity to alter our physiology: in the moment and over time.
A state of fear induces a 'fight-or-flight' response, elevating your heart rate and sending signals to your brain to amp up adrenal activity and pump more blood to prominent muscles. It also immediately impacts your brain, modifying the way you store memory and how you respond to similar triggers in the future.
Sustained states of fear can actually lead to anxiety disorders, depression, and premature death.
Even if you are using your fear of losing your job to justify your stellar work performance–and even if this does not feel like 'fight-or-flight' mode–doing so may be building your brain's purview of triggers, conditioning you to stay in this mode in similar environments.
Fear and stress are also closely linked. In many cases, we experience stress as a result of fear. I'm stressed because I may lose my job. I'm stressed because I'm afraid my marriage is disintegrating.
And chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death worldwide.
2. Fear puts the emphasis on survival.
We are all trying to survive on this earth. Yet living in a state of pure survival is different than, well, simply living.
Letting yourself be motivated by fear is akin to letting yourself survive (rather than live). Such a mentality of "getting by" in a primal fashion can make for a sordid, mean kind of existence.
It takes the emphasis away from building loving relationships, caring for your family, and impacting your community positively. It places the emphasis on a give-or-take mentality–and in give-or-take environments, it's easy to sacrifice values.
3. Fear develops a fishbowl perspective.
States of fear can narrow your focus, limiting your capacity to think holistically. I can choose to look at these boards alone or I can choose to visualize the entire structure of a future home.
Have you ever noticed how states of fear shrink your awareness? When my heart races at the prospect of giving a presentation to a group of people, I'm aware only of that present moment–the shaking notecards in my hand, the lecture room, my sweating armpits.
It's hard to look beyond this narrow focus (i.e., to visualize how I will feel after giving the presentation itself). While there may be benefits to inhabiting the present moment so intensely, there is a difference between the presence of meditation and the presence of fear.
Fear's fishbowl perspective may accordingly shrink your ability to conceptualize time, anticipate the future mindfully, and consider others' perspectives and opinions. This can generate narcissism and crippling states of victimization.
In the professional sphere, fear's limited awareness can inhibit team collaboration, shun business growth opportunities, and generate an unhealthy work-life balance.
4. Fear can change you.
Fear can cripple us with symptoms of anxiety, depression, narcissism, desperation, and even violence. Allowing fear to be your motivator essentially gives it permission to change you–and perhaps not for the better.
I've sacrificed dreams and experiences for the sake of fear. I've compromised relationships. I've changed my values.
In fact, fear is a fairly aggressive linchpin. It doesn't quite care what it does to you. It just wants to be acknowledged.
How would you like to be changed? Through fear or through love?
5. It's hard to live your truth if you are motivated by fear.
I feel like "living your truth" has become a vogue phrase. But it's a valid phrase. We all have our truths–the expression and essence unique to our fabric.
I believe everyone deserves to live her truth. Doing so connects us with our purpose and our community. Living our truth is also a state of freedom. It is limitless, compelled by one thing: our intuition.
Fear cripples truth. It squeezes it like a lemon. It's hard to get our truth out there in the world if we are letting ourselves be motivated by fear.
And I'm all about choosing truth over fear. What do you think?