The mind is the greatest obstacle to success and self-improvement for many people…
The fear that we harbor about the unknowns of life, the future, and our choices may paralyze our ability to act.
The problem is that unless we choose to confront our fears, they may compound preexisting problems and create new ones in their wake.
The good news is that you can get more comfortable pushing forward by understanding where your fear of the unknown comes from, confronting it, and overcoming it.
Many people get more comfortable and build self-confidence as they embrace and step into the unknown, pushing forward into areas that make them uncomfortable.
You may think of it like a novice sailor, setting out to sea for the first time. There are a lot of unknowns where things could go wrong…
…but the more they venture out, the more skilled, knowledgeable, and comfortable they will be with the unknown.
They build confidence in their ability to navigate the unknown. And that ties neatly into this popular quote!
A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. – John A. Shedd
You are not here to sit and rot away in a safe harbor. You’re here to leave the mark on the world that you’re meant to leave, and that will require venturing out into the unknown.
How does a person overcome their fear of the unknown?
Where does a fear of the unknown come from?
Fear is a natural human instinct that exists to keep us from harm. It is a rare person who experiences no fear at all.
Those with few fears may have previously confronted theirs or grown comfortable with them in order to move past them.
After all, courage is choosing to stare fear in the face and act anyway.
Fear of the unknown may stem from an intimidating circumstance, situation, or memories of past attempts going badly.
That kind of fear can be misleading because a person may not have an accurate sense of what the threat actually is.
Anxiety and fear tend to be much larger in our mind than in reality. And just because something didn’t go well in the past and we ended up inconvenienced or hurt, doesn’t mean the same thing will happen again.
Other times, a fear of the unknown may be the result of feeling out of control.
A person can be confident and sure of themselves if they feel that they can predict how something will happen.
The loss of control can evoke anxiety, fear, and stress about all of the potential ways that something could go wrong.
It’s not unusual for people with anxiety disorders to be controlling, as they are subconsciously trying to find relief from their underlying anxiety about everything that could go wrong.
Familiarity or expectations of how a given situation will go provides us comfort, as we feel we can rely on the cause and effect of our actions.
There’s really no reason to be anxious if we know that Action A will have Result B. But, the reality is that the best laid plans can go awry.
Sometimes we face external circumstances that we could not have predicted and need to trust that we can handle it.
One must identify what it is they are afraid of and why they are afraid of it…
Is it past defeats? Is it the unknown? Is it just something large and intimidating that you’re taking on?
This root knowledge will help guide your future decisions on how to proceed.
Research and understand the real risks associated with your fear.
The mind is able to expand, twist, and warp fear of the unknown into something much bigger than it is because of the intangible nature of that particular fear.
If you make the unknown known and understand the risks associated with it, you can reground yourself and keep your mind from spinning the fear into something larger than it is.
Many other fears are rooted in the unknown, and that makes familiarizing yourself with the unknown that much more powerful in dismantling your fear.
What is the thing that you want to do? What are the risks associated with it?
You can find information on just about anything through the internet; including valuable information from professionals, specialists, experts, and people who have already succeeded in doing whatever it is you are trying to accomplish.
This method will also keep you from falling into the Analysis Paralysis trap, where a person just spends an inordinate amount of time analyzing and researching instead of developing a plan of action and following through on it.
Plan for as many real risks as you can! And if something comes up that you weren’t aware of, dig back in to find a solution that someone has likely already found. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Different situations call for different measures in how you go about accomplishing them.
Sometimes it is better to take a leap of faith and plunge into the unknown.
Other times it’s better to take small steps toward the much larger goal that you’re looking to accomplish. In doing so, you can build momentum and confidence as you build your skills and ability to handle the circumstances surrounding the thing that you’re afraid of.
Public speaking is a good example. You don’t need to start off by speaking to an auditorium of a thousand people. Start small. Speak about your subject matter to a significant other or friend.
Then move on to a small group, like a group of friends and family. From there you can move onto bigger groups of people until you finally feel comfortable commanding a microphone in front of a large audience.
On the other hand, taking the leap and just speaking in front of a huge group may not be that useful after all. You could find yourself wracked with fear and anxiety of potentially messing it up, because it’s likely that speaking in front of a group that size is going to have some sort of importance tied to it.
Don’t hesitate to take small steps if you feel that it will help you overcome your fear. There aren’t too many one-size-fits-all solutions, depending on the situation and type of person that you are.
Transition your fear into excitement.
Excitement and fear come from a similar place. They provide a certain amount of stimulation and come with comparable physical sensations.
Turning your fear of the unknown into excitement for the unknown can be one way of subverting it.
Fear and anxiety will typically cause a person to focus on everything that can go wrong. Changing that internal narrative to something positive, where you focus instead on the opportunities for growth and what could go right can provide that extra boost you need to get through it.
This type of retraining your thoughts is something that takes dedication and practice to work well. The more you do it, the easier it is to do.
It won’t stop you from feeling fear altogether, but it is extraordinarily helpful in keeping that fear from derailing your hopes, dreams, and plans.
Be wary of the people walking alongside of you on your journey.
Fear is an interesting thing because everyone feels it to some degree. Some people are better at handling it than others.
That is, assuming they have a healthy perspective on the world and reasonable beliefs.
However, you may find that your own perception of the world and pursuit of goals is affected by their perception.
If you’re surrounded by negative or destructive people, they tend to operate like crabs in a bucket…
…you don’t even need to put a lid on the bucket because they keep pulling the ones trying to escape back down into the bucket with them.
This is a problem when it comes to self-improvement and venturing into the unknown.
You may find that the people around you do not support your exploration of and desire to disrupt your status quo.
You may hear things like:
“What’s wrong with how things are?”
“Are you not happy with me?”
“Why can’t you just be happy with what you have?”
You may find that your desires are undermined and unsupported. You may find that their fears poison your own thoughts, desires, or perceptions because they continually repeat them and choose to dwell on them.
They are not you, you are not them. And your path is not their path.
Hopefully, you’ll be surrounded by supportive people who want you to succeed. People who will encourage you to take steps to conquer your fear of the unknown and experience more of the things that this life has to offer.
Don’t let other people dictate your goals or path in life.
Sometimes you need to walk the paths that you know you need to walk alone.
That’s okay. Growth means you’ll sometimes need to leave people behind that no longer fit with the way you want to live and conduct your life.
Alternatively, they may also find inspiration in your desire to confront those fears and walk along with you.
There are so many ways your life journey can unfold. Don’t fear the unknown. Embrace it and you will grow and experience so much more!