Fear jacks up the cortisol level in your body, which is the same biochemical that gets released when you’re stressed. Thing is: it doesn’t matter whether the fear is real (a threat to your life) or in your head (the story you may be telling yourself); either way your cortisol level rises and stays elevated until the stressor is removed. So it’s in your best interest to let go of whatever it is that’s stressing you, especially letting go of the outcome. Just so you know: long-term elevated cortisol levels are really bad for your body (linked to autoimmune disorders, for one) and your sense of well-being (make it hard for you to think clearly), so if you need a scientific reason to surrender the outcome, there it is.
Fear of the outcome is the likely the reason:
- you don’t start.
- you don’t finish.
- you deny yourself joy before, during, and/or after your work.
1. You don’t start.
You tell yourself a story about what the outcome might be. Your stress level rises. You repeat that story over and over. Your stress level goes up with every iteration. Because you continually repeat that story, you come to believe that story as the truth. And because you will always live out what you believe, well, you convince yourself that the story will come to pass so better not to start at all.
Know this: a story is not the truth, a story is not what will happen, a story is usually born out of your own fears/limitations and not actual reality as it may be. Keep in mind: you get to choose whichever story you want to believe. If you’re going to be telling yourself a story no matter what (which you are), why not choose to tell yourself a story that gets you closer to where you want to be?
2. You don’t finish.
When you fear how whatever you’re doing will all turn out, the outcome becomes not something to strive toward (rock on, I’m finished!) but instead becomes an obstacle you have to overcome (oh no, what’s gonna happen?). Your stress level goes critical. You end up getting in your own way and sabotaging yourself when the end grows near. You make bad choices (blow all your money playing slots, get in a loud argument with someone who could help you, destroy some/all of your relationships, stop taking care of yourself so you get sick, and on the list goes) that take you further away from finishing simply so you can avoid the outcome, and in that way you knock yourself right off the playing field and back into the safety of the bleachers.
Know this: safety really is an illusion. There are no guarantees in life whether you’re flying high outside your comfort zone or tucked away inside it. If you continue to fear the outcome and never finish, you will spend your life going in circles, so close to what you want but never quite reaching it before you knock yourself back to the start and the cycle begins again. If you’re going to bother starting (which you should) and doing all that work (which you have), why not show yourself some kindness and respect by moving in a straight line toward your goals?
3. You deny yourself joy before, during, and/or after your work.
Fear of the outcome steals your joy and your creativity. Period. If you’re afraid wondering if your work will bring you accolades/fame/money/ridicule/criticism/etc., you are denying yourself not only the pure bliss of just doing the work but also the ability to be inspired. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to be happy and brilliant (and yes, you have something you’re a genius at) when your stress level is at the top of your skull and your head feels like it’s ready to explode. Instead of being filled with happiness and momentum at the prospect of moving forward, creating something new, growing as a person, realizing your goals, and on the list goes, you end up worried/anxious/terrified about the end result. You don’t love your life and you don’t see all the opportunities that are available to you when you’re in a state of fear. And living in a constant (or near-constant) state of fear and stress is no way to live.
Know this: you have no idea how it’s all going to work out. You really don’t. And the only place you can experience joy is in the present moment. So why not love and enjoy your life now instead of when the outcome comes to pass? Why not tell yourself you’re strong enough to handle whatever the outcome is (because you are) then get busy doing what makes you feel the most alive so that you can be happy?
Some things I’ve learned:
- You have very little to no control over the outcome at all. Worrying about it is both a distraction and a waste of your time. All the worrying in the world won’t change the outcome one bit.
- If what you’re doing deeply matters to you, then the outcome doesn’t matter nearly as much. It matters to you and so you pursue it, regardless of what anyone else might want or think.
- Persistence is the only way you’ll ever realize your full potential. The outcome, even hundreds (or thousands/millions) of outcomes, don’t define your potential. As long as you start and you finish and you keep learning and you keep growing and you keep moving on to the next thing instead of letting fear derail you, you will realize your potential and what you’re truly capable of (oh yes, you will).
So what story do you tell yourself about the outcome? And are you willing to surrender that story today?