When we let what we’re scared of drive our decision-making, we seek safety which mostly means inaction. Like algae, we prefer to stay local, isolated from the from the sun that feeds us with its light.
So how can we get where we want to go when a constant state of dread lies in our way?
When stuck in doubt, heed the words of Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger: “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” The amygdala exaggerates our anxieties.
If we’re courageous enough, we’ll say yes and do it anyway.
Instapaper your worries. That is, save them for later. By the time you come back to them, they’ll only be important if they’re still on your mind.
Anxiety is a trigger, one that works to benefit you. You’ll continue to think about the exam if you do nothing about it. Studying builds up your confidence and reduces your nervousness. Nevertheless, some worries are like inbox zero are excessive. Overthinking can often lead to overdoing, which falsely prioritizes unimportant things like answering every email.
The longer you wait to tackle apprehension, the more anxious you’ll get. In fact, the feeling of procrastination is often worse than doing the actual work. Everything fades away once you get started, paving the way for a clearer future ahead.
The amygdala is the prehistoric part of our brain responsible for controlling fear and pleasure. It tells us when to flee from a dangerous situation such as when we see a lion in the jungle; it also encourages us to seek more of something whether that be social media likes or sex.
But legendary solo rock climber Alex Honnold may be immune to fear. That was the hypothesis until he allowed scientists to take an MRI of his brain to measure his fear levels.
It turns out that Honnold is predisposed to fear just like everybody else, but he has been so accustomed to facing worse case scenarios through visualization and experience, he is not only used to it; he knows what to do when he climbs into perilous situations. He is a so-called a “super sensation seeker,” one that puts fear in its place before it even makes him second guess himself.
“If you don’t have any fear to begin with, there’s a lot less to control.”
It reminded me of a little bit of Michael Jordan; he used to practice so hard that the games were often easier. Furthermore, it is the preparation — both physical and mental — that set up success and make some achievers appear godly.
If you want a brain like Honnold’s, you need be willing to dance with fear again and again. By moving toward your fear, you train your amygdala to be less reactive so you can just execute.
“You may not have the traits of a super sensation seeker, or be able to quench your amygdala on command, but with conscious effort and gradual, repeated exposure to what you fear, any one of us might muster courage that we didn’t know we had.”