The fear of uncertainty or the unknown prevents the majority of us from making choices or decisions to take action or make some changes that could change our lives. This fear is rational because every action we take could impact our lives positively or negatively. The interesting thing is that opportunities are embedded in the grey area of uncertainty. If it were certain where to find opportunities, everyone would scramble for them, and the chances of winning would be small.
Men and women who have made some progress are often willing to sacrifice; they accept the possibility that they could lose (and they do experience some losses but adjust along the way) and are willing to take the risk. At the same time, the fear of uncertainty or the unknown is why some people are afraid to take action. It is the motivation for some people who understand that opportunities are found amid uncertainty, but they take chances with caution. We must make reasonable or rational choices that will enable us to take chances to take advantage of the opportunities that are hidden within the challenges of life; otherwise, our lives may never change.
Although sometimes it seems like all odds are stacked against us, we still have to take action to increase our chances of success or growth. The American Psychologist Abraham Maslow said: “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”
One of the reasons people are often afraid to make decisions or take actions that could positively transform their lives is the fear of unexpected or unintended consequences resulting from their decisions or actions. As a result, they drift towards a safe or comfort zone that creates a feeling of safety that sometimes does not exist in reality, and they eventually have to face the reality that they fear. The comfort zone is similar to a drug; when people become used to it, then they become addicted to it.
Suppose a weak person or a person with low self-control is consistently provided with or exposed to pleasure stimulating things like food, drinks, drugs, cheap entertainment, or romance. In that case, he or she will not hesitate to throw his or her ambitions right out of the Window. The comfort zone is the graveyard where dreams are buried. When people become too comfortable, the desire to create and innovate dies down. The reality is that the comfort zone is like a bubble that will eventually pop, and the longer it takes for this bubble to pop, the higher the price we have to pay for our inaction or aversion to tackling the challenges we are facing. Therefore, the earlier we break out of the bubble created by the comfort zone and take action, the better.
Personal Growth = Pain + Reflection + Actions – Procrastination – Negative habits
Nothing torments my spirit/soul than when I know what to do precisely and then procrastinate or neglect to do it. We often tend to procrastinate or neglect the really essential things. The fear of taking action is often created by a lack of self-confidence or the desire to be perfect. We often overlook the fact that perfection can only be achieved on the job, as it is often said that “practice makes perfect.” Many entrepreneurs often launch their start-up businesses with inferior skills and ideas, and then, along the way, they perfect their skills and ideas. One cannot learn investments only by reading books/articles or by attending investment seminars. You do so by learning and trying to make some investments and then learning from real-world experience. Also, many students often start school with weak abilities in language and mathematics, but they become proficient in these subjects with practice.
Nothing is impossible for a person who is determined to succeed; all they require is the willingness to start and the desire or ambition to practice it or work on it for the long haul. Many entrepreneurs and investors fail to take advantage of opportunities in a given sector or industry because of fear. Sooner or later, they realised that some had implemented the same idea exactly as they had imagined. Millions of ideas die in the hearts or minds of men and women because they were afraid to take action or lacked the confidence to materialise or put their ideas to practice. Therefore, fear is the invisible barrier between success and failure, as those who do not have the stamina to face it are humbled to settle for less than they are destined to achieve.
To emphasize the importance of using action to cure fear and gain confidence, the American motivational writer and coach David J. Schwartz said: “A good idea if not acted upon produces terrible psychological pain. But a good idea acted upon brings enormous mental satisfaction. Got a good idea? Then do something about it. Use action to cure fear and gain confidence. Here is something to remember: Action feed and strengthens confidence; inaction in all forms feeds fear. To fight fear, act. To increase fear – wait, put off, postpone.”
Therefore, to cure fear and gain confidence we have to take action, and as our level of confidence grows, our abilities to accomplish other tasks that may seem impossible will also improve as Saint Francis of Assisi once said: “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Things sometimes seem difficult because we have not attempted to do them; like the Roman Stoic Philosopher, statesman, and dramatist Lucius Annaeus Seneca said: "It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult”.
The price we pay for being afraid to make a decision or to take action ( to do something) is often far greater than the price we pay for being wrong or for not being able to do it properly. The time will never be just right, or the conditions will never be just right to start; we need to start with whatever resources, tools, and people we have and then make adjustments as we move along. We need to give up on the illusion that we can figure out how things will unravel because we will always encounter random, unexpected events that could positively or negatively impact our lives. It is better to attempt and fail than to renege or postpone because of fear. Fear resides in the hearts of everyone, but a few people who dare to take chances to venture into the unknown sometimes meet with opportunity at the point where only a few ever reach. The price we often pay for our indecision or inaction is not always visible, so we do not always realise the cost of our inactions.
Unfortunately, some of the things we fear are unavoidable or beyond our control, and we should rather prepare for them when they happen. For example, one should be aware that he or she could fall sick but does not know exactly when they may fall sick, and it will be better for them to purchase health insurance and be psychologically prepared to handle it. Also, one does not know exactly when his or her car or electrical appliance at home could break down for any unknown reason. We should be aware of Murphy’s law, which states: “If anything can go wrong, it will.” Whether through speculation or some form of prophecy, attempting to predict the future of the market, society, or an individual’s life is futile. It is the losers’ Game as we cannot account for the impact of Murphy’s law or the existence of Black Swan events (rare events that we do not even imagine that they exist). We can only exploit past and current information to act now while planning for the future. The Canadian physician and one of the four founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital, Sir William Osler said: “The task of man is not to see what lies dimly in the distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”
Whenever circumstances require that one make a decision or action to solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity, he or she should not hesitate to decide or act, as the time or circumstances will never be just right. Each time we hesitate to decide or act, it is inevitable that we will soon pay the price of our inaction, which is sometimes very heavy. The lessons we learn from our procrastination or inactions come too late in life; it is rather important to adapt quickly and make the necessary changes. The American Scientist, writer, and statesman Benjamin Franklin once said: “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” The bottom line is that the time and circumstances will never be just right. We should start with whatever tools, resources, and people we have available and better tools, resources, and people will be found as we adapt and navigate through the challenges and uncertainties of life.
By Godlove Suila Kuaban: Research Engineer, Educator, Entrepreneur, and Polymath