Why am I having a hard time catching my breath? Do I have “It?” I’m sure we’ve all had thoughts like this pass through our mind—even if ever so briefly—as we attempt to grapple with life during a pandemic. It’s fear. And why not? It’s fear that helps us put on our mask when we walk outside even if uncomfortable and not very cute. Fear also allows us to tap into our compassion for our neighbors. Fear can act as a reminder to say “thank you” when we see stress on a cashier’s face; knowing they’re risking their own health to provide a service for others.
It reminds me of the famous quote by Lord Krishna to Arjuna, Bhagavad Gita,
“Therefore because Death stirs people to seek answers to important spiritual questions, it becomes the greatest servant of humanity rather than its most feared enemy.”
The ultimate fear for most is death. The idea that this will all end… the idea that we are all mortal can be a fuel to drive us to achieve great things… to not waste a single minute of a single day! I know that’s what happened when fear briefly hit me after my cancer diagnosis. Turning fear into productive action is quite the pivot though. I realize it’s not easy, but fear of death can be extremely powerful. We need to recognize it and harness that uneasiness and find a place for it to become good energy in our lives.
I recently interviewed author, Dan Millman, and he said, “Fear is a wonderful servant and a terrible master.” I think this is brilliant! When fear is the master we become apprehensive, paralyzed and restricted in our thoughts and actions. However, when we use fear to serve us it can get our butts in gear. A simple example of this is a fear you might lose your home because you don’t have enough money to pay your mortgage. That fear can drive you to clean up your resume, ask for a raise, start that side hustle you’ve dreamed of doing, but never had the motivation to get started.
Many, many successful people live with constant fear. Just about every high level athlete will struggle to explain their string of wins, but they will be able to go into substantial detail about a loss or error. It’s fear of losing. It’s fear of not being the best that has driven them to succeed.
We all have this in us. Each of us fears’ something that we’d rather avoid. It’s often said that courage is the idea of being afraid and doing it anyway. I also believe that courage is taking that step toward your goal without any guarantee of a result. That’s what it takes to make fear our servant—Courage. We have all been courageous at some point in our lives. We’ve overcome a fear and grew from that experience. To move forward beyond these unprecedented times we’ll need to do it again. Fear might be a motivator to put on a mask, but it has also become a motivator to create a vaccine. Here’s to all of us embracing fear as a healthy motivator toward living more socially conscious impactful lives.