Don’t Let Fear Be Your Default

Oct 5 2016

by Kate Spears

The Southern Coterie: "Don't Let Fear be Your Default"
photo: Sonya Jahn of LillyJo Photography

In the world of computers, “default” refers to a setting that things automatically revert to when the user does nothing. It’s the option that is selected for you if you don’t make a choice of your own.

Humans are not computers, but we still have our various defaults. Things we revert back to, things we embrace when it feels impossible to make a different choice.

For me, the default is fear. If anything happens that doesn’t go exactly as I’d hoped, fear takes over, kicking my brain into overdrive. Sending me in a dozen different directions, with no shortage of What if scenarios to imagine the absolute worst. Does this ever happen to you?

The challenge of this is that as a creative entrepreneur, there is no shortage of things that happen every day that don’t go quite as planned. It’s not like a big disaster, but more like lots of little ones.

A potential new client changes his or her mind about working with you. A current client says they need to go in a different direction. A big project unfolds differently than you’d imagined. Someone you were counting on doesn’t come through. A critical or negative remark is made at the worst possible time. Your computer crashes just before you backed up. You try to take on too much, and end up feeling burned out. You forget to follow up on a potential collaboration and now they think you are a flake. 

Any of this sound familiar?

When you like things to be a certain way (as I do) and you come to a situation that is outside your control, any choice other than fear feels next to impossible.

But there is another choice. Actually there is an infinite number of choices. Fear just feels like the easiest one because it’s our default setting.

Like a path you’ve walked down over and over again for many years, it feels familiar, comfortable. Even if you don’t particularly like it, it’s the devil you know.

One of the scariest things that ever happened to me was losing my job. Not only did I think my job was supposed to define me as a person, it was my livelihood. So in one fell swoop, I lost what felt like my identity as well as how I paid my bills and made ends meet.

Fear wanted to be a constant companion of mine during those first dark days. But instead of hiding or trying to nurse my wounds in private, I went on vacation with my family. I shared my story on my blog, for all the world to see. I surrounded myself with creative people who believe that there’s always something else, something better….if we reach for it. I was really honest with myself about some things that I’d been avoiding. And I ended up feeling so free.

That was four years ago. A lot has happened since then. There have been other setbacks. Other times that things didn’t go as planned, and fear reared its ugly head. Just today, I found myself in a situation where things felt out of control. And I immediately let fear be my default.

But the default choice doesn’t trump all the others unless we let it. It takes work to choose something else. It takes believing there’s something better to choose. It takes believing we deserve something better. And it takes knowing that things will work out, somehow, even if we can’t predict the outcome.

If fear is your default, I hope you will remember that there is another, better option. There are good things ahead.

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