Fear, by design, elicits quick, automatic reactions. We don’t truly think about our action, we just do it. In my experience this is also true for other fear-related emotions: anger, jealousy, envy, hatred, resentment. Here’s an example. If one of our ancient ancestors was caught unarmed and unaware by a large feline predator, she needed to have an automatic reaction to have any chance of making it away from that encounter alive. She may have done something creative, but it was done in a reflexive manner.
“The enemy of a good decision is fear — fear of failure, fear of humiliation, fear of making a mistake.”~ James Waldroop
Higher level wants, or what many of you identified as values (being of service, being a contribution, pleasure), use our brain’s creative centers to come up with conscious, thoughtful responses. We actually can respond from a thoughtful place rather than having a knee-jerk reaction. Using a similar example from above: if a tribe of our ancestors kept having run-ins with big cats, they might call a council meeting to discuss their options and creatively devise some systems for dealing with this reality. Because they’re outside of immediate danger and therefore not reacting completely out of fear, they can access their creativity, resourcefulness, and higher thinking skills to make their decisions.
The difference in fear-based and love-based decisions
Let’s use a common example of overcommiting oneself (let’s see our imaginary person as a woman).
Scenario A: Someone makes a request of her (i.e., to take an important role in planning an exciting event). She is triggered by fear-based beliefs of needing to please them by saying “yes” and prove that she could do a stellar job with this project. She says “yes” right away and may notice signs of overcommittment (exhaustion, worry, being driven, etc.) later.
Scenario B: Someone makes a request of her (say to take an important role in planning an exciting event). She is still triggered by those fears, yet she does two things before giving an answer:
- She’s built a safety mechanism into the equation (putting a 24 hour hold on any commitments of this nature) to give her the time to access her creative mind.
- She takes the time to look at her true wants as they relate to this situation. Let’s say she decides that most deeply, she wants to make a contribution. Taking that knowledge she can explore what is the best way she can make her contribution and see if it’s a fit with her life. For instance, she might meditate or journal creatively about what her contribution could look like, letting her heart and the universe give her guidance in the process. Then she still will want to let her rational mind come in and give its input too (Does she have the time? What’s feasible for her to offer? Does she like the people she’d be working with? If this commitment conflicts with another how will she decide what to do?). Her decision, even if it’s “yes” just like in Scenario A, is arrived at from a clearer space, a space in which she consciously chose her action, and decided from a place of love rather than reacting out of fear that she “has to” act in a certain way.
Using this process does not guarantee that you won’t over commit (or make other decisions out of fear). It is simply a way to interrupt the automatic, fear-based behaviors that can cause us to make choices that may not truly be a fit for us.
“Make decisions based on trust, not fear.”~ Anonymous