Note: Today, as with every Monday during 2014, I’m publishing a short “chapter” from my unpublished ebook about fear, happiness, and freedom. Today marks the conclusion of the first section, the section on fear. Here’s a summary of everything we’ve discussed so far.

During the past three months, I’ve written a lot about the relationship between action and fear.

To begin, I talked about the regrets of the dying. On their deathbeds, people generally regret the things they did not do rather than the things they did. They also regret having spent so much time seeking outside approval instead of focusing on their own feelings, values, and relationships. In short, at the end of their lives, people regret having been afraid.

Where does fear come from? Some fears are physical. Others are psychological. Some fears are rational. Many are not. Healthy, rational fears keep you alert and alive. Irrational fears and anxieties prevent you from enjoying everything life has to offer.

In part, our irrational fears are fueled by the mass media. We’re bombarded by news of the exceptional and the unusual, so that we come to believe life is more dangerous than it actually is.

A mighty weapon in the war against fear is the power of yes. By teaching yourself to accept opportunities in life, you can gradually overcome your irrational fears. You can teach yourself to become bold, to try new things, to meet new people, and to enjoy a more rewarding existence.

This is one of the secrets of lucky people. What we think of as “luck” has almost nothing to do with randomness and everything to do with attitude. Everyone chooses more or less what kind of events happen to them. You make your own luck.

It can help to imagine that life is a lottery. Any time you do something — especially something new — there’s a chance that your life will be vastly improved in the long run. When you say yes, you’re given a lottery ticket. Often that ticket won’t pay off. But sometimes you’ll win the jackpot.

But saying yes isn’t enough by itself. To cure fear, you must take action. Action cures fear. Action primes the pump. When we’re prepared, we feel competent. When we feel competent, we feel confident. When we’re confident, our fears fade into the background.

More than that, action is character. If you always do your best and you do what’s right, then you needn’t fear the results. Sure, bad things will happen sometimes. But if you’ve done well and done what’s right, the negative outcome isn’t your fault — it’s just how things are. If you’re unprepared, however, you must own the negative consequences.

You are defined by the things you do — not by the things you think or say. The bottom line is that you are what you repeatedly do. If you don’t like who you are, you must choose to be somebody new.

What have action and fear to do with personal and financial independence? Everything.

The first step toward freedom of any sort is facing and fighting your fears. “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face,” Eleanor Roosevelt once said. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

From these humble beginnings, you can progress to greater things.

Next, we’ll explore personal well-being. For the next few months, we’ll talk about what happiness is, how it’s achieved, and what you can do to maximize happiness in your life. Happiness, too, is an important part of achieving personal and financial freedom.

5 Replies to “A Summary of My Philosophy on Action and Fear”

  1. Joe says:

    You are what you repeatedly do. That’s absolutely true. You have to take action otherwise the best intention will not get you anywhere. Sometime we get stuck in a rut or don’t have time to do the things we want. We need to take time and practice taking actions. The more you do it, the better you get.

  2. martin says:

    Action always cures fear. I’ve been taking action the last few years in areas that I never expected to, from running a half marathon to wrestling on pro wrestling shows. Always take action!

  3. Great post. I am reminded of my “unlucky” friends and acquaintances who can’t seem to figure out that if they never put themselves out there, they are never going to find the luck that escapes them.

  4. gary says:

    What if you have no fear but merely must weigh the opportunity cost of high pay and leas job satisfaction but cushy home life, vs half pay and great job satisfaction but lowered quality home life? And no the ‘happy’ job will never exceed the unhappy job.

    • Alasdair says:

      Quality of home life only correlates with your pay up to a certain point, and that point isn’t anywhere near as high as you’d think. Even if you’ve allowed lifestyle inflation to put you in what your much younger past self would have considered a ludicrously over-the-top way of living – the stupidly big house, the unaccountably expensive car, the constant assault on your children’s childhoods with rigid structure in a misguided attempt to get them into the Oxbridge/Ivy League type institutions – you can still recover, learn to live well and cheaply.

      Besides, how do you define quality? You say cushy, which to me sounds like a low-quality life. Vegetative. Ended at half a century by overindulgence, probably heart disease. A truly fantastic life can be had on the cheap, especially if you live in a developed country.

      More to the point: since your job takes up so much of your waking life, job satisfaction is probably a major contributing factor to your overall well-being. If you’re miserable at work – and during the commute that is just as much a part of your working life – you’re probably not at home and awake long enough to get over that and enjoy your so-called high-quality home life.

      Never forget that money is a means to an end: your, and your family’s, quality of life. Your happiness, or at least well-being. If you’re sacrificing that well-being (stress-related disorders are becoming the biggest killers these days) to gain more money, what’s the point?

      Opportunity cost is a tricky thing to calculate when part of the cost is your own happiness. Sure, if that half pay you mention takes you below the bread line, you’re probably best sticking with the miserable job for a while and working towards a bit of extreme early retirement. But if even the lower pay keeps you in the middle class, or even the upper ends of the working class, you might find at the end of it all that your happiness was a much higher opportunity cost than the alternative loss of an extra bit of income. No one ever said on their death-bed, “I wish I’d earned more money.” Or if they did, they didn’t understand what they were really regretting.

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