How Fear Can Bring Opportunity

Posted on by Alyson Jones. Posted in Blog, Honest Conversations, Huffington Post.

As a Therapist I have developed a philosophy by which I practice therapy, and live my life. This is the MORE philosophy. MORE is a frame by which we can authentically move through the opportunities life presents, and experience exceptional outcomes. In a previous article I discussed how the M in MORE stood for movement, and how this was essential for our mental health.

This article is focused on the second principle of MORE which is “Opportunity.” Life is filled with opportunity, and the best guides to choosing your opportunities are your curiosity and your fear. To understand this further we are going to look at the life of Brianne, but first we need to gain a better understanding that opportunity does not always look the way we think it should. The key is to stay curious in life and you will have some interesting experiences.

However, if you find yourself fearing the opportunity be warned that it just might be the one you need to pursue. There is an amazing liberation in transforming a fear by taking it on as an opportunity and moving through it. This is how we build our confidence, competence and sense of courage and self in the world.

Furthermore, it is important to understand that opportunities seldom come when we are ready. When I really look at each big change, turning point, or accomplishment in my life, I do not believe I was ready for any one of them. An opportunity usually comes before we are ready, so you cannot wait for the right time to take it. Instead, you can choose to take an opportunity when it is presented to you, “ready or not”! It is very important to understand that mistakes and difficult situations are the “yellow brick roads” of opportunities. They are life’s way of teaching us lessons and leading us forward into growth and movement.

To illustrate how ignoring our curiosity and giving into our fear can lead to missed opportunities let’s look at Brianne. She is in her third year of university, taking a degree in chemical engineering, but feeling increasingly paralyzed by anxiety and seldom enjoying her life. In the past, she was always successful with friends, academics, and sports. She received a scholarship at the university she applied to, and travelled to the other side of the country to attend this prestigious school. Everyone told her how she was so lucky to be accepted at this school and to receive a scholarship.

It would look as if Brianne was taking every opportunity. The opposite is true. Brianne is actually missing the opportunities right in front of her. Although everything looks like it is happening for her, in reality she has not told anybody how difficult things have really been for her since she left home to come to school. She hates making mistakes and is at risk of failing some of her classes for the first time in her life. Overall, she is not getting the same high marks she did last year, and she feels herself slipping deeper into a hole.

In addition, she is struggling with how she can keep pretending that everything is okay, when everything seems to be at risk of falling apart. She does not want her parents to know what is happening as they might be disappointed in her. Her fear is that she is a big fake and that she doesn’t have it all together the way everyone thinks she does. She increasingly fantasizes about disappearing, or just crawling into her bed and not coming out of her room for months. In addition, she is beginning to feels increased anxiety and avoids the classes she is struggling with and, although knowing that this is the wrong thing to do, she just feels too overwhelmed to attend. Not even her best friends know what she is going through. Inevitably, she feels alone and like a failure.

Brianne was fighting against these lessons and learning opportunities and trying to cover up her mistakes by telling her parents and friends that everything was great at school. Consequently, she did not want to reveal her struggles, and her desire to be perfect and have it all together is actually keeping her stuck. She was not taking the biggest opportunity that was in front of her; increasingly, she was hiding from it. If we are real with ourselves and approach a mistake or a difficult situation in an open non-defensive manner we can find the nugget that will assist us in growing and moving toward something exceptional. It is through our challenges and mistakes that we develop resilience and adaptability.

Our strength and health emerge after we have revealed a mistake or worked through something difficult and humbling. There is no doubt this is difficult, as our instinct is to run and cover up these things. If Brianne could begin to see the learning opportunity in her mistakes and reveal her struggles, she could get the assistance she needs and learn more about who she really is in this world. Her energy has been spent trying to keep up the facade of having everything together, and she is reaching the point of exhaustion. The path to a more authentic and fulfilled life is there for Brianne, but she has not been able to accept her mistakes as opportunities yet.

Time keeps moving regardless of what we do. So as time moves, windows of opportunity will come and go, some of which we will take and some we will not. We can be creative forces in our own lives by choosing which windows of opportunity we will open and move through. Opportunities can be messy and humbling. Not every opportunity has assured success nor can we expect a great outcome from every choice. Each opportunity can be a learning experience if we allow it and open ourselves up to see what lesson lies within.