Fear, Part I: Please Fire Your Life-Coach If They Say This Garbage

Yes, another trend is making its way across the interwebs right now. Especially prevalent amongst life-coaches and productivity gurus out there, if you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it a million times.


Good old fear, here we are again. It comes not-so-cleverly cloaked in post titles such as:

  • How to get over the fear.
  • Negotiating with fear to get your life back.
  • Moving through fear to achieve your goals.
  • 8 ways to harness fear’s energy like a frickin’ windmill.
  • What’s that smell? Oh that? Don’t worry, I just went fear in my pants.
  • “Mommy, I can’t sleep. The Fear Fairy is making a sandwich in my closet.”

(You wish other people were coming up with stuff that good.)

I swear, if I had a dime for every breakthrough method for living with fear, I’d have at least enough money for a sizable burrito.

Well, instead of just complaining about it, I’m going to continue complaining about it while also giving you my unsolicited opinions on how to stop this madness and get on with life once and for all. You’re welcome.

Fear 101

First off, what is fear?

It’s an emotion. Like happiness, or sadness. It happens to not be a very fun emotion, but it is one nonetheless.

You’ll notice, if you’re paying close attention, that I just put fear-focused life-coaches out of business. See, because fear isn’t a bridge you can “traverse.” It’s not a mountain you “get over.” And it’s certainly not a used car salesman that you “negotiate with.”

It’s an emotion.

The bitch about emotions is that they come about by living life. Happiness is a reaction to awesome things happening. Sadness is a reaction to sad things happening. And fear, well, that’s what you feel when you think stuff is scary.

Life and emotions… they’re inextricable from each other.

If you want to feel no emotions, don’t be alive. (Disclaimer: That’s not a suggestion. I’m talking hypotheticals here. Sheesh.)

So excluding death and nonexistence, we’re left with one option: feeling different emotions.

If you want to feel different emotions, do things differently than the way you’re doing them.

Fear, decisions and you

Now that I’ve delivered that happy news, let’s look at what we do about fear.

Nothing. At least not directly.

Here, let’s start this off with an example, as it’ll help you see where I’m heading with this tirade. And it’ll also show you that I’m not “one of the lucky ones” who was born with the amazing capacity to feel no fear.

I’m afraid of flying

Fact: I’m afraid of flying. I hate it. You know the part I hate most? The part between getting on the plane and then getting off again hours later. I don’t just hate taking off or landing or the smell of those awful TV dinners they serve. I even hate making the reservation, knowing it means I’ll have to fly.

Problem: Recently I had to get to Florida from Seattle, a six-hour flight.

Result: I could either fly to Florida or decide not to.

Here’s the mental process that went on in my head (and this might drive it all home for you, seriously):

  • “I have to get to Florida.”
  • “Fuck me if I’m driving or sitting on a train for a week.”
  • “Shit. Looks like I’m flying.”

Or, if you prefer a more stick-it-on-the-refrigerator-for-the-kids version:

  • What do you have to do?
  • What are your options?
  • Make a decision and get on with it.

See where fear is in there? Nowhere, that’s where. It’s got nothing to do with it.

It doesn’t matter why I’m afraid. It doesn’t matter how I can harness it, what it feels like “deep down inside”, if I fill out your online coaching questionnaire, what it has to do with my cerebral cortex, or if it’s Freud’s left nutsack that’s responsible.

I either get on the plane, or I don’t.

Fear has a role, I guess, but a fairly minor one. Like the dude in the stands at the football game, whose entire contribution was showing up naked and holding up a big foam #1 finger.

Fear is a residue, a piece of baggage, a key fob. Fear is the little fish that rides around on the bellies of majestic sharks.

It’s nothing in comparison to you, the real you and what you decide to do.

YOU decide on your life. You’re the driver. Maybe you decide not to fly because you’re afraid. Or maybe you just go right on and fly anyway, urinating and white-knuckling it the entire way. It’s your call.

The very important thing to remember is this:

When you make a decision you’re going to experience some result. What matters is if it’s the result you want.

Let’s put this baby to bed, for now

Here it is, one more time: The Good Stuff:

  • Look at what you want to accomplish
  • Figure out how best to accomplish that thing
  • Make the decision, get on with it and assume responsibility for all that that entails

Every second you spend traipsing through fear’s garden of yuck is a second you waste on being alive.

Fear sucks, but it just happens to be part of life sometimes. It comes about when things are changing, often for the better.

So go out, make decisions, choose your paths and take responsibility for how that affects others and yourself.

And if your life coach ever brings fear up, tell him I say he’s fired.

Yeah, Charlie, but what do we actually DO about fear?

Now, as a warning, we’re going to talk about this fear thing once more. Next week I’m going to put up the defining post on the practicalities of fear in life. And I’ll even give you some ideas on mitigating it a bit.

I mean, for all my grandiose talk about just getting on with things, fear certainly makes it uncomfortable to do so sometimes. It can lead to poor decisions and a life going the opposite direction from where you intended, and that’s no good.

So we’re also going to talk examples next week. Practical, real-life examples. We’ll look at what happens when you make decisions based on what you want, and what happens when you decide based on avoiding fear.

Until next week!

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  1. Great post, Charlie!

    I hate this topic. Quite a bit actually. But you made it really refreshing. Thanks for the laughs!

  2. I’m with Cindy Lou, in both cases. I hate the topic of fear and I’m really tired of seeing it around. But you did a good job of keeping it light.

    Which is maybe a good idea. With everyone talking about fear, it gets a lot of credence and takes on a life of its own. But should it? Kind of seems like a bigger deal than it really is.

    • You might be on to something there, Michael. Like if everyone just shut up about it (including me), maybe fear wouldn’t seem like such an exile?

      Thanks for the comment and for getting me thinking πŸ™‚

  3. “What’s that smell? Oh that? Don’t worry, I just went fear in my pants.” – Seriously EPIC on so many levels. πŸ™‚

    • Marlee!

      Ha! Glad you liked that particular line. I was in a terrible mood when I wrote this post and was just trying to make myself feel better. Which I did.


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