The Fear Virus

There are many reasons people don’t achieve their goals – but the two most common, if someone is truly motivated are failure, and fear of failure.

That’s it.

Of these, fear of failure is the real destroyer of success because it stops us from even trying. At the very least, a trail of failure shows a history of attempting to achieve something, no matter how much carnage was left in the aftermath*. The real destroyer of success isn’t failure, as Sir Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” No, the success killer is not trying at all, and this finds root in the fear of failure.

The problem with fear is that it is a virus. Before we go too far it should be noted that not all viruses are bad, or at least, some are beneficial. For example, Edward Jenner (not related to the Kardashians) discovered that milk maids who contracted cowpox did not contract smallpox. I’m not saying contracting cowpox is a good thing, but unlike smallpox, cowpox is rarely fatal and helps the body build an immunity against smallpox which is a much worse disease. Cowpox has a benefit and fear can act in much the same manner, working like a virus of the mind.

On the one hand it is fear that keeps us alive, and although it isn’t pleasant to experience it, there are benefits. Fear is the reason we look both ways before we step into the road to cross the street, or the reason we don’t hold a metal pole to the sky in the thunderstorm. Fear, in the right circumstance, is a good thing that keeps us alive. In fact, it is a critical component of our survival instinct. On the other hand, just like cowpox, fear can be devastating if left untreated and allowed to run amok taking over our whole body.

It is therefore important to consider ways to see the signs that fear is taking over so we can manage the symptoms, and help build an immune system to keep fear in check. A few years ago I had Fifth Disease, and it was probably the most painful experience of my life. To this day whenever my body is fighting a sickness I get pains in my wrists as my body is letting me know it is under attack and fighting back. My mind also gives a few little tells when it is under attack from the fear virus, it makes excuses. Not big ones, just enough to make me question whether my plans can actually succeed.

“If this goes wrong the consequences will be grim… I should just take the safe route.”

“I don’t have the skills for this.”

“I don’t have the tools for this.”

“I don’t have any support from anyone for this.”

Like Arnold J. Rimmer, B.Sc. S.Sc., I jump from one reason to be hesitant to a handful of reasons why I should quit before I start. Before long I am convinced the original plan was not going to work and I achieve nothing – Fear wins. Another scenario is that I start something but the initial results are not promising and the virus starts talking.

“This won’t work. You’ve wasted enough time on this.”

“It’s not good enough, quit now before it all goes wrong.”

However, there are some things we know we should do when we are sick, and there are ways we know we can help our bodies avoid getting sick to start with which we will look at in the next article.

Here are the three takeaways for today:

1 – Everything you ever wanted to achieve but didn’t is because you failed and gave up, or feared failure and gave up.

2 – Fear is a virus. It can cause pain, and it is highly contagious.

3 – The main symptom of fear is doubt. You can list all the reasons to give up, as if excuses are a rash on the mind.

Fear will destroy everything you ever worked for. It will stop you not just achieving your goals, but can stop you even trying.

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