Have you ever thought about your fear as an asset?
I’m not referring to the entertainment value of fear, as in the Haunted House at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia (though it’s been on my list for years, I can’t convince anyone to go with me and I’m too afraid to go alone!!)
Nor am I talking about, “Leap and the net will appear” or “Feel the Fear and Do it anyway”…the mantras that help us push ourselves outside our comfort zone (another cliché). These are helpful when we need to acknowledge fear and move past it, choosing action over paralysis.
We know fear is valuable as an early warning sign like when the hairs on the back of our neck stand up, forcing us to pay attention. But, it is that other fear, which may or may not be experienced with physical cues like a deeply felt foreboding or a general unease that can help us make better decisions. It can help us determine how best to invest our time, money and energy. And feel more peaceful about our choices. Not unlike the stock market, where you must make decisions based on your risk tolerance, fear is an underappreciated asset when it comes to making personal health decisions.
Reading Atul Gawande’s book, “Being Mortal” I was struck by the fact that the question Gawande recommends asking people facing end of life decisions: “What are you most afraid of?” is the same one I ask clients in my coaching practice when helping them consider choices about everything from bio identical hormones to whether or not to get a flu shot. While I don’t make medical recommendations and there are many factors to weigh in such decisions, an important and often overlooked component is examining one’s fear.
Losing a loved one from a disease that may have been avoided with better dietary habits can be very motivating if your fear of going down the same path keeps you eating healthier.In fact, people who have lost loved ones are some of the most highly motivated clients I work with. They have harnessed the power of their fear. Using your fear as a starting point and asking yourself, “What am I most afraid of?” is a simple yet profoundly powerful way to make better decisions with less agonizing. In many cases this quickly eliminates one or more choices which can make a personal health decision much more straightforward.
In the case of motivating you to eat healthier, the biggest risk, if diet doesn’t prevent the disease you fear, is that you get a little healthier for however long you live…