How To Stop Being Afraid of The Unknown… and Begin Trusting Your Future
In 300 B.C. a man by the name of Zeno of Citium begun teaching a new philosophy to the crowds that gathered at the colonnade, in the agora of ancient Athens. Zeno’s way of looking at ourselves, at our place in the universe, and at our relationship with the world is known today as Stoicism. Stoics understood that we do not have much control over the circumstances in our life, but we do have complete control over how we think about them. Rational thinking always leads to inner peace regardless of the environment, while errors in thought always create inner turmoil regardless of the environment. People in dire straits can be peaceful and serene, and people with perfect lives can slump into the abyss of depression.
The mind is an instrument designed to keep us safe, not to make us happy. When it makes a decision about the future, the mind makes the situation a lot worse and predicts the outcome to be much more disastrous than it will actually be. Sometimes things do not turn out for the best, but they always turn out less wrong than we feared. Fear is not reality. Fear is an emotional consequence brought about by erroneous thinking. In moments of difficult decision-making, Stoics followed the dark road to peace and tranquility, and embraced in their mind the worst-case scenario. What is the worst that can happen? If that happens, then what? What if I find myself in the worst possible outcome? Can I live with that?
Running from the thing you fear turns it into a dreadful monster. Facing the thing you fear, even if only in your mind before you make a decision, takes away your fear. When you define and embrace the worst possible outcome, you realize that the darkest scenario is not so dark after all. The worst rarely happens. “When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully—the world—and takes him boldly by the beard” wrote Emerson, “he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand. It was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” When you embrace uncertainty, fear of the unknown, or failure, they no longer hold you in chains. When you hide from them, they grow. When you grow, they hide.
If you quit your job to start a project that is meaningful to you and it fails, what is the worst that will happen? It is inconvenient, but if it happens what will you do? Are you not greater than this fleeting situation? If you lose your money trying to make your dream a reality, what is the worst that will happen? You will suffer for a while, feel angry or sad, unpleasant and inconvenient emotions will rise and fall, but eventually you will get through. The experience doesn’t have to be horrific or terrible, unless you think it this way.
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