“What is one of the greatest motivators of behavior on the planet?”
Before you answer, let me add this:
All animals respond to it, including us, humans.
Every year, companies make billions of dollars because of it. People lose sleep over it. Others are driven to insanity because they can’t handle it.
Some people use it for entertainment purposes, and every presidential candidate is using it to get people to vote for them.
The remarkable thing is this: most of the time we don’t even know if it is based in reality. It doesn’t matter. Alfred Hitchcock knew that our imagination is way more powerful than anything he could ever put on celluloid. He famously said:
“There is no terror in the bang. Only in the anticipation of it.”
WHAT DRIVES US?
One of our greatest motivators is F E A R.
Around this time of year we are all reminded of our love-hate relationship with fear. We love scary movies. Terrifying videos games are worldwide bestsellers. The most dangerous amusement park rides have the longest lines.
Fear is fun!
Why else would people jump out of airplanes, swim with sharks, or scare each other on Halloween, dressed up like zombies?
Fear also explains why so many Americans love their guns, why we buy insurance, and why people believe in a higher power.
At the heart of fear is our deep concern for getting hurt. People are willing to do a lot to avoid a little pain, but they’re willing to give up even more to play it safe.
How many of your friends have given up a dream because they were afraid it would become a disaster? How many sweet souls have never declared their love for fear of rejection? How many people never dared to step on stage and show their talent, because they didn’t want to embarrass themselves?
Fear can paralyze and suffocate. It prevents people from even trying. Fear is the spirit behind the inner voice that whispers:
“I’m not good enough”
“I don’t deserve this”
“I’m sure I will fail”
“People will laugh at me”
Of course I should stop for a moment to make the distinction between rational and irrational fear. Fear of heights, ferocious animals, and fear of evil men with loaded guns is usually a good thing. When the danger is real, fear is meant to protect us from harm.
However, we often suffer needlessly because we’re afraid of things that may happen, but probably never will. In holding on to irrational beliefs, we deny ourselves a chance to find out what will really happen when we dare to take a risk.
Many, many years ago I decided I didn’t want the security of a corporate job with corporate hours, and corporate benefits. I defied the expectations of family and friends by becoming a freelancer. Why? Because something inside me knew that the opposite of fear was freedom. I needed to be free to do my own thing in my own way, and in my own time.
Looking back, I can’t say that my road was without bumps. There were times I wished I had a regular schedule, and a regular paycheck. And yet, I am so glad I didn’t listen to those who warned me it would never work. Those people are now jealous that I can set my own hours, my own rates, and that I work out of my own home.
If you wish to claim the rewards, you have to embrace the risk, defy your critics, and defeat your fears.
There will always be a million reasons that hold you back, but you only need one good reason to go for it.
What is yours?
Believe me, if you’re a self-starter and you run your own business, you will be asked to dig deep. People will test you, they will ridicule you, and they will desert you when you need them most. That’s scary, but not in a Halloween sort of way. In these times you will ask yourself:
“Why am I doing this? What is my motivation?”
Even though you and I may not know each other, I do know this:
There is something you are really good at. Maybe it has to be developed and refined. Perhaps it needs a few more years to mature. But you know the fire is burning, and you feel the yearning.
That talent and that fire is one of your many strengths. It is one of the reasons why you’re here. You owe it to yourself and to the rest of us to stand in your strength. That strength will help you turn your fear into faith. By faith I mean self-confidence. The conviction that things will work out in your favor, as long as you give it all you got.
Faith will help you believe you can make it, even in the absence of proof. After all, how can you prove something that hasn’t happened yet? You have to believe it, before you can see it.
I don’t know who Paul Sweeney is, but he said something powerful that has always stuck with me:
“True success is overcoming the fear of being unsuccessful.”
Perhaps you know the story of British singer Alice Fredenham. People first heard of her when she appeared on The Voice, a British talent show created by Dutch producer John de Mol. It’s based on the concept The Voice of Holland. When she came on, this “beauty therapist” was all bubbly, upbeat, and full of confidence. Even though her performance of The Lady Is a Tramp was solid, she didn’t impress any of the judges, and she was sent home. Her greatest fear had become a reality.
But Alice didn’t give up. Two months later, she appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, but with a very different attitude. Take a look:
Of course I realize that these shows thrive on carefully crafted sentimentality. Alice was accused of faking her insecurity and her tears, but I wonder how confident you would have felt on that stage.
After being rejected in front of millions, she overcame her fear and insecurity, because the song inside of her was stronger. She eventually made it to the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent, and signed a record deal with Sony. Later on, Sony released her from her demo contract, but Alice didn’t give up. A Kickstarter campaign allowed her to record her first album in 2015.
BACK TO YOU
If you allow yourself to be motivated by fear, your focus is on what you don’t want. That’s not where your energy should be. Whatever you focus on most, is most likely to materialize.
Your energy should be on your strengths and on your goals. Not on your weaknesses.
This week, do yourself a favor. Be like Alice Fredenham and do something uncomfortable. Do something you’re a bit afraid of; something that scares you. Don’t pick your greatest fear. Pick something small for starters.
Big success is built on a series of small achievements.
Discover that what you were initially afraid of, wasn’t really a big deal after all. What you expected to happen, probably didn’t.
Next week, pick something else; something a bit bigger, and build on that experience.
Use this trick, and turn it into a treat.
Make it worthwhile. Make it memorable. Make it meaningful.
That way, you get yourself ready for a moment when you can’t choose the challenge. The challenge chooses you.
That’s when you’ll discover this simple fact:
Life doesn’t have to be a thriller, but it can certainly be thrilling.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
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photo credit: alain l’étranger via photopin cc
Craig c Williams says
Great article Paul. There are so many people who don’t follow their heart because of the fear of failure. It is so sad. For me, the fear of not finding out if I would be a success is much stronger.
Paul Strikwerda says
Thank you, Craig. It is liberating not to have to live in irrational fear, and to discover what is possible if you have faith!
Jolanda Bayens says
Prachtig artikel Paul! En zo waar. De angst om afgewezen te worden zit zo diepgeworteld in de mens.
Joshua Alexander says
Even Yoda couldn’t have said all this better when he said “Fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” But it’s so true. Thank you for spelling out fear and encouraging us to work through it!
Paul Strikwerda says
I want to meet that Yoda character one day!