You have been quite bold to make life changing decisions like joining religious life at an young age. But when it comes to ordinary life, leaving your comfort zones may cost you a lot. You may feel the pull of the strings backward when life demands risks. In this module we shall probe the fear of risks that affect self-discipline.
Part two-Self-discipline Module 8
Dealing with Fear of Risks
“Better to be safe than sorry,” says a proverb that dug its way deep into our inner-most being during childhood. For many of us security and safety have become all. In areas where we have self-discipline difficulties, we’ve gone beyond simply following the old saying that advises us to “Look before you leap.” In certain areas of endeavor, many of us unfortunately shy away from either looking or leaping. The unknown has come to be something we equate with danger. Like all the rest of our fears, fear of risks operates undercover. Our only clue to its subtle manipulation lies in its result on our lives: repetition that leads to stagnation.
Many of us feel comfortable only in the presence of sameness, things to which we’ve grown accustomed: same foods, same style clothes, same friends, same recreation, same, same, same. Life becomes a rut when we subconsciously come to view risks as dangerous threats to our security rather than as opportunities for growth. The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions. But how, you might ask, does fear of risks interfere with the development of self-discipline?
I’ve found that persons who fear risks are persons who doubt their ability to function successfully in unfamiliar situations. The concept to focus on here is self-doubt. When self-doubt intrudes, your self-discipline effort never receives the very important “I can do it” message that supports its growth.
So while at first glance the connection between self-confidence and self-discipline might appear to be a loose one, it actually is a most important one. For as we learned previously, self-discipline isn’t an entity unto itself; it is a collective composed of many diverse psychological forces which add up to a larger force, much the way that a tornado is a collective of little breezes that create an irrepressible wind by working together.
Moreover, our self-discipline muscle gains strength only through frequent exercise, exercise that leans heavily on self-confidence. So, if we live our lives in a rut, our sense of self-confidence falls into a state of atrophy, wasting away because of insufficient use. We seldom become aware of its loss until a situation arises in which we need it. We then discover that our self-confidence is useless to serve us. Think of self-confidence as you would a suit of clothes that you stored away years ago: You haul it out expecting to slip into it and cut the same dashing figure you did in bygone years, but you find that what hangs on the coat hanger is a moth-eaten, shapeless ghost of its former self.
Likewise, when you stop taking risks, your self-confidence muscle won’t be usable when you reach for it. Therefore you don’t have the use of one of the most important elements of self-discipline: self-confidence. Furthermore, if a person continually refrains from taking risks, for even a short period of time, a subconscious fear of taking risks sets in. To address this fear is to awaken your sense of self-confidence, which in turn will give your self-discipline a psychological boost.
Remember: Self-confidence supports self-discipline.
Nothing ventured nothing gained. That’s the ticket. Begin to think of risks as opportunities, not dangers. When you are faced with a risk that you wish to take, but feel immobilized by fear and anxiety, practice self-talk. Ask yourself “What is the worst thing that can happen?” Chances are, if you pursue this question, you’ll find that your catastrophic expectations are probably exaggerated. Of course, this isn’t an invitation to transform yourself into a foolhardy daredevil, but simply a method to get your self-confidence muscle into shape.
It needs repeating: Self-confidence and self-discipline feed off each other. No self-confidence, no self-discipline. You won’t start that diet because you don’t think you’ll stick to it. You won’t start that business because you don’t think you can make a go of it. Indeed, a large part of self-discipline requires that you genuinely believe in yourself.
Remember: Self-discipline can be hindered by fear of risks, but this fear can be overcome by a change of attitude, which is entirely under your control.
Exercise #5 – Exploring Fear of Risks
The following exercise is designed to help you discover your hidden concerns and emotions regarding fear of risks. On a sheet of paper we are going to explore three past experiences in which you took a risk and ended up sorry. The only rule here requires that in these situations or events you ended up saying, “I wish I hadn’t done that.”
Take your three experiences from your earliest memories. Explore your childhood. Be specific. Name names. This will give you an awareness about how, when, and where your attitudes and beliefs about taking risks originated.
Note: Spend no more than fifteen minutes on this exercise. Hyde will be peering over your shoulder and giving you a load of reasons to simply think about it rather than write it. Don’t listen to Hyde!
As you write take notice of yourself both physically and emotionally. Physically: Do you clench your teeth? Do any of your muscles tighten? Your stomach muscles? Neck muscles? Do you notice any changes in your breathing rhythm? Faster? Shallower? Emotionally: Do you re-experience the hurt? Do you feel frightened? Angry? Hostile? Embarrassed?
Again, it is important that you take note of your reactions as you complete each of the exercises throughout this self-discipline program. Your reactions will give you valuable insight into how much your current behavior is affected by the past experiences.
Start writing NOW
Don’t underestimate the value of the preceding information and exercises. Whether or not you’re aware of it, positive psychological changes are already taking place within you. In the dark subconscious corners of your mind, you have thrown a searchlight on negative forces that have operated under the cover of darkness for years. Simply by becoming aware of these goblins, you have defused much of their power. In terms of your overall personality, when negative forces are weakened, positive forces are automatically strengthened.
Before moving on, make sure you’re thoroughly familiar with all the subconscious fears we have explored. Don’t forget that within all human beings these fears are present in varying degrees, and often operate simultaneously (yes, you can have a fear of failure and a fear of success). But even though you won’t ever completely eliminate these fears, you certainly can minimize their influence. In other words, you can feel:
üFear of Failure
üFear of Success
üFear of Rejection
üFear of Mediocrity
üFear of Risks
…but forge ahead!
Tip: Write the above fears down on the left side of sheet of paper. Then write a number from 1 to 5 at the right of each fear. Number 1 goes next to the fear that you think you are most influenced by, and so on down the line. This is a simple way of imprinting your most influential fears solidly in your mind so that you can easily recognize them when they are affecting your behavior, thoughts, or decisions.
You have been exploring the subconscious fears that put an unseen wall between you and self-discipline. You have recalled past experiences that play a key role in your present behavior. You now are in a better position to recognize these psychological saboteurs, and minimize the self-defeating influences of the past. Now that you are building self-discipline, Hyde is about to pounce upon your progress with renewed determination.
A part of you does not want self-discipline.
To repeat: We all have a Hyde inside us. So, accept that in matters of self-discipline, we are our own most difficult problem. Whenever you feel that Hyde’s negative self-talk is slowing your progress toward improved self-discipline, go back and skim the section called “Meet Hyde.” In fact, you might find it a good idea to do that periodically as a precautionary measure. It’ll keep you on track.
With this the second part of this course comes to a close. Give yourself a pat on your back and go for an chocolate or listen to a favourite music, or do something that makes yourself happy, when you finish it. You do merit it.
For reflection and prayer: Put yourself in the shoes of St. paul as he says, “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one-I am talking like a mad man-with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea;…” (2 Cor .11.23-30). The more the sense of mission the less will be the fear of risk.
Home work to be sent: A summary of your important insights regards the fear to take risks after going through this module.
Write a paragraph about your struggles with Hyde in your effort to make steady progress in this course. What are some of the important observations about yourself while doing this course?