Do you ever wonder if you’re on the right track? Are you making decisions out of fear?
Maybe you spend your days spinning your wheels, then fall asleep at night feeling like you didn’t really accomplish anything.
Or you keep saying yes to opportunities without really stopping to think if they’re the right things to say yes to.
Although it can be frustrating to get caught in this loop, there is a question you can ask yourself to help steer you back in the right direction.
Before I get to the question, let’s talk about what motivates us to take action.
In my experience, there are two primary things that motivate me: fear and passion.
Fear — of failure, success, loss, shame — can sometimes hold me hostage and affect the decisions I make.
A few months ago, during a particularly busy time in my life, I realized that I was taking a number of actions driven by fear. The result was that I felt burnt out, resentful, and inadequate.
When I take action from a place of passion, the result is the opposite. Those who know me well know that when I feel strongly about making something a reality, nothing can stop me.
Which brings us back to the question to ask yourself when you’re feeling lost, frustrated, and alone.
The question is: Are you being driven by passion or fear?
Signs That You’re Driven by Passion
Passion makes you feel alive, connected, and centered. Here are a few signs that passion is steering your course:
It feels “easy”
You know the feeling when you’re “in the zone.” Things fall into place, you meet the right people, and ideas come with ease.
When your creativity is flowing and you feel awake to the possibilities around you, it’s a sign that you are being driven by passion.
When it gets hard, you stay determined
That’s not to say that every project or goal you take on will come easily (or remain easy for the long term). Of course, obstacles will rear up and things will get hard.
However, as long as you’re driven by the passion of getting it done, or seeing your dream realized, you will likely find that you have endless energy, grit, and willingness to keep getting up no matter how many times you’re knocked down. You hold a steady vision of the future and failure isn’t an option.
With passion in the driver’s seat, you try again in the face of setbacks.
You remain optimistic
When action stems from passion, the end result — although you wish it to be a positive one — isn’t the only reason you move forward. Instead, you enjoy the process and have fun reaching for your goal.
No matter what the outcome is, you are grateful for the experience.
Signs That You’re Driven by Fear
Fear can be sneaky. It’s easy for that voice in your head to convince you that you’re just being smart about something. You tell yourself that you’re asking the right questions, being cautious, protecting yourself…
But there are some telltale signs that it’s fear — not your smarts — that’s running the show.
Here are a few indications that you’re being driven by fear:
You experience a running commentary
Fear sees the worst possible outcome at all times. You will likely hear this type of monologue in your head:
“If this doesn’t get done, I will fail, and it will be my fault.”
“If I don’t give this my all, I’ll lose respect for myself.”
Or, my favorite: “If I don’t figure this out, I’ll be letting X person down irreparably.”
In the face of these threats and fears, you feel an immense pressure to succeed because “everything will fall apart” if you don’t.
The irony is, rather than motivate you, the fear paralyzes you because you are so afraid of making a terrible mistake that will have a lasting effect.
You’re working yourself to the bone
If you feel exhausted at the end of the day or the people around you are telling you that you’re working too hard, take notice.
For me, I tend to work hard to prove that, even if I fail, it’s not for lack of trying. When I get in this mode, it’s as if I’m convincing myself that working hard and suffering is more important than enjoying my time.
You’re edgy or weepy (or both)
When fear takes the wheel, you might notice that you react to setbacks more emotionally. This is because fear makes challenges feel like major failures, rather than opportunities to get more creative.
It Takes Practice
Remember, fear and passion can steer individual tasks as well as your approach to your entire career.
Some people go their entire lives opting into fear-based motivation. There’s a chance it could lead them to success, but it’s unlikely that they will find happiness that way.
I talked before about my love of the Alexander Technique and the question: Are you willing to be more curious than afraid?
For me, the answer is yes, but it’s not always automatic. The practice is to choose passion over fear. When I do this, I am not only happier, I am actually more effective and efficient.
Where Do You Stand?
Are you more motivated by passion or fear?
Do you feel a difference between the two?
Is there ever a time that fear helps you?