The Difference Between Fear and Danger

Published: October 13, 2020

In last week’s Metrix newsletter, our featured Book of the Week was ‘How I Built This’ by Guy Raz. In this book, Guy talks about the idea of fear, how we handle it, and how it relates to actual danger.

Fear is our reaction to a perceived danger and is a made up feeling; it is an amazing gift of the imagination. Most people’s response to a perceived danger may sound like, “I’m afraid of getting married”, or “I’m terrified of flying in an airplane”. While a wedding itself, nor a 737 airplane, is not dangerous, it is the stories that we create around these two things that cause us to become fearful. 

Danger, on the other hand, is a real situation in which it is natural to feel worried, scared, or threatened. In this case, fear is what keeps us alive. In a moment of panic, fear makes you think quickly about possible scenarios, and in other situations it keeps us from taking unnecessary or reckless risks.

An important thing to recognize, however, is which fears to actually listen to – the ones that will serve you well and protect you from real danger, and all the others – the ones that will keep you from taking action.

Fear is a vividly orchestrated story that we create in our own minds and when we obsess over these fears we continue to feed the stories, which furthermore keep us from starting something new or achieving a goal. For example, the person that is ‘terrified of flying on a plane’ has curated an entire story in her head complete with every possible thing that could go wrong from the moment she steps foot on the airplane and, as you can probably imagine, the story does not have a good outcome. This story may become so real to her that she may never take an airplane for the rest of her life.

When we fully understand that these fears are merely just stories that we create, we can begin to think of ourselves as the authors of these stories. When we understand that we are the authors of our stories, we can create an entirely different storyline and face our fears head on. Now we are in complete control of how we perceive the world. 

By changing the way we write these stories, we will be able to, in essence, conquer our fears. Furthermore, when you push past that fear and get to the end result or achieve that massive goal, you can look back on an incredible experience. 

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