Fear is the great equalizer. Every adult on our planet has experienced fear at some point, but how can you know whether an underlying fear is guiding your actions and limiting your opportunities?
Fear Serves A Purpose
Fear can trigger a flight-or-fight response, and while that might have been a primary survival tactic back in the caveman days, today we humans face many more subtle, insidious fears on a day-to-day basis.
Our tendency to respond to fear by running away (emotionally, mentally, or physically) can interfere with our desires to live big, be brave, and make a better life through opportunities.
While fear seeks to keep us protected and out of harm’s way, intuition can also keep us safe but with the added benefit of helping us expand into a bigger, more adventurous experience of life.
You can likely recall a time in your life when you felt a certain nudge not to do something, and then later you felt relief when you were glad you had listened to that intuitive prompt.
Learning to develop and listen to your intuition can provide you with invaluable guidance and direction in all areas of your life. But how can you tell whether it’s your intuition guiding you toward saying no, or whether it’s just your fear stopping you from saying yes?
What Are The Importance Of Knowing The Difference
Fear is a powerful motivator. It can cause you to move faster or avoid certain death, but it can also cause you to play small, pass up extraordinary opportunities, or stay stuck in unhealthy patterns and relationships.
Making the best possible decisions and choices requires the ability to distinguish the difference between an intuitive warning and a fear-based fight-or-flight response.
At any given time, you could be presented with the opportunity to hire a life coach or personal trainer, go on a date, grow your business, have a medical procedure, start an exercise plan or join a gym, or get a killer discount on something you really want. But since humans tend to be risk-averse, how can you know what is the right decision to make?
Is it your fear that’s causing you to hesitate about saying yes, or is it your intuition letting you know this isn’t the right time or the right opportunity for you?
Whenever you find yourself faced with a choice or opportunity, and you’re not sure if “no” is the right answer, consider the following three questions.
1. How Does The Choice Feel?
If you feel a sense of urgency to say no, especially if there’s no actual deadline associated with the choice, then it’s likely your fear that’s driving you to decline. On the flip side, a truly authentic intuitive “no” typically won’t budge; even when sales pressure is applied.
For example, let’s say fitness and weight loss* are a goal of yours this year, and you’re presented with an excellent opportunity to join a gym and get into shape. If you feel an immediate urge to make the decision right away and say no, it’s more than likely your fear that’s stopping you.
You might be afraid of failing, or looking foolish, or perhaps even finding workout clothes that are flattering and comfortable. You will feel a sense of pressure to run away from this opportunity, as the fight-or-flight response has been invoked.
On the other hand, let’s say you’ve been looking for the right gym to join, and as you are touring a facility, your intuition is telling you this isn’t the one for you. In this case, no amount of sales pressure from the enrollment specialist is going to make you feel differently.
Even if you’re promised an added discount, a waived initiation fee, or free personal training, your intuition will continue to calmly say “no,” and you will know it is optimal to keep looking for the gym that’s right for you.
Therefore, it’s important to consider how you feel about making the decision, because a sense of urgency to say no and be done with the decision is likely fear-based, whereas a calm and relaxed “no thank you,” is likely coming more from your intuition.
2. If You Say “No” To This, Are You Moving Toward Or Away From Something?
Fear-based decisions usually move you away from something you don’t want. In these situations, a fearful “no” helps you to avoid failure, or feeling bad, or looking stupid.
You’re mitigating risk by avoiding what feels too scary—even if the thing that’s scare is what you actually want. In contrast, an intuition-driven “no” typically leads you toward something you truly want.
Let’s take a look at our gym example from the previous question. In the first scenario, we imagined you said no to a good opportunity to join a gym, because you wanted to avoid looking foolish or feeling unattractive. You were moving away from a potentially scary outcome.
But in the second scenario, by declining the invitation to join a gym that their intuition said wasn’t a good fit, you were actually moving toward something you want: a place to work out where you can feel good, which of course will help support you in achieving your weight loss* goals.
By noticing whether the choice to say “no” is moving you toward what you want, or away from what you fear, you can discern whether you are authentically following your intuition, or running away from something you fear.
3. Have You Fully Considered The Implications Of Saying Yes Or No?
An authentic intuitive “no” means you’re not afraid to look at what you might be missing out on, or what could happen if you were to say “yes.” But often, when a no is borne out of fear, little to no consideration has been given to the ramifications of either outcome.
If we revisit our gym example, we can assume that the fear-driven “no” was quick and without consideration. But the long-term consequences may have included failure to achieve any fitness goals, gaining even more weight, and feeling even more isolated and unattractive. On the other hand, what if you had said yes despite the fear?
While that may have resulted in temporarily feeling unattractive or uncomfortable, or facing some scary steps (such as learning new equipment, potentially looking foolish, and shopping for workout attire), you may have secretly been even more afraid of succeeding.
Fear of success is often just as prevalent as fear of failure, so it’s important to not only consider what you may be giving up if you say no to an opportunity, but also to consider all that you may gain by saying yes.
In doing so, if the answer still feels like a “no,” then it’s likely an intuitive no. But if you find that you want to say no without being willing to evaluate both potential outcomes, then the decision is likely being made from a place of fear.
Read More: Get Better Self-Control With Exercise
Don’t let potentially amazing opportunities pass you by being quick to say no out of fear. Now that you know how to distinguish the difference, you can go forward to make smarter, calmer, more appropriate choices and decisions, without being ruled by fear.
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