Monday, July 13, 2015

On Fear and Hope

Stephen King once wrote, "The scariest moment is always just before you start." Too often, though, that fear can keep us from actually starting.

We don't start that novel because we fear we'll never finish it. We don't talk to that pretty girl because we fear humiliation. We don't ask for that raise because we fear rejection.

We don't take a risk because we fear failure.

But I think Spinoza was on to something.

"Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear."
—Spinoza, Ethics

What gets us past the fear to the goodness that might lay beyond is finding and focusing on the hope.

I recently left a stable but joyless job and started my own freelance editorial business. It's something I had thought about for over ten years, but I always had a reason not to do it. Not enough money. Not enough experience. No support network (which turned out to be false anyway). Not enough connections.

But it was all fear.

And then I decided I'd had enough. I gave the finger to fear, gave a more respectable and professional farewell to my boss, and set up shop. I found the hope in that fear — the hope that could make a living doing something that brought me joy. In short, the hope that I could be happy.

Now, I wake up to fear every morning. Fear that I won't find clients, that I won't be able to pay my bills, that I'll fail in a grand way.

But when that fear starts to build up, I think about the nature of fear. I think about so many wonderful things that people have done only because they didn't let fear stop them. I remind myself that fear isn't a reason to stop, it's a reason to keep going.

And it takes the fangs out of fear.

Sure, fear gnaws the hell out of me all day long, but it never gets a solid grip. I don't let it.

The next time you're face-to-face with fear, remember that it's bound to hope. Find the hope that fear tries to hide and focus on that. Then get started.

Sure, you might still fail. What you hope for might never come. But you'll never know what's really possible if you let fear keep you from trying.