Kent Sanders | Unlock Your Creative Potential

Unlock Your Creative Potential

Are These 3 Fears Holding You Back?

I stood there, frozen in my tracks, for what seemed like an eternity. All I could do was stare at her. Hundreds of people sat in silence in the darkened gym, waiting for me to say something. The problem was that I had no words.

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The year was 1990, and I was 16 years old. I was the lead in our high school production of Neil Simon’s Fools. Everything had gone well during the weeks of rehearsals. I had never memorized so much dialogue, but our drama teacher had faith that I could pull it off.

In one of the performance nights, we came to a scene in the middle of the play where I had a lot of dialogue with my love interest. She said one of her lines and my mind went completely blank. I stood there for probably only 10-15 seconds, but it felt much longer. Finally, my co-star saved the day when she improvised, “Kiss me, Leon!” and whispered the next line in my ear.

It’s been nearly 25 years since that happened, but it’s ingrained in my mind because of the incredible fear I experienced in that moment. I was so taken aback by that experience that I never tried out for a lead role again.

Unfortunately, we don’t leave fear behind once we graduate from high school. It’s a constant companion for anyone doing creative work. But learning to recognize our fear is half the battle.

There are three specific types of fear that can hold you back and keep you from rising to your potential:

 1. Fear of the past

We are afraid to repeat the mistakes of the past. Perhaps we tried something and it failed. Or maybe we were criticized for our work and can’t bear the thought of going through that again.

When you fear the past, you tend to avoid any risks or changes that might cause the same negative consequences to occur.

A couple of years ago my family asked if we could get a dog. After much discussion, we decided to adopt an Australian shepherd named Madison. She had been abused by her former owner (a man) and was terribly skittish. It took her several months to feel comfortable around me. Even now, she still gets scared by loud noises and anyone who raises their voice.

Sometimes you and I are like Madison. We let our negative experiences from the past keep us from completely enjoying the life happening right in front of us.

2. Fear of the present

Sometimes we are afraid to make necessary changes and move forward because it will mean the loss of something. All change brings loss of some kind. But the whole reason for change is that it will bring a positive benefit that outweighs the negative loss.

This is the reason so many people stay in jobs, situations or relationships that are not good for them. They would rather stick with the misery they know than risk the changes they don’t know (but could bring positive results).

We are creatures of habit, and the loss of the familiar is a powerful motivation for avoiding change.

This is true for any type of change. It explains why so many people fail at getting healthier, or stopping any negative habit. They are afraid of losing the pleasure that comes from eating unhealthy food or indulging in any kind of activity that brings immediate gratification but has harmful long-term effects. (I can relate to this struggle!)

 3. Fear of the future

Sometimes we are worried about the future and what it holds for us. We might lose a job, a relationship, or something else that’s important to us. The future is unknown, and we tend to stick with habits and attitudes that will help us avoid the risk of loss. So we play it safe and don’t make necessary changes.

But here’s the thing about the future: the future is not determined. It’s created. So many of us live as if we assume we won’t be successful, things won’t work in our favor, or our dreams won’t happen. We are defeated before we begin, and our lives become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Fear can be a crippling force in our lives. I dare say that many of the decisions we make on a daily basis is motivated by fear of some kind.

There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that you can never get rid of fear entirely. It’s part of your DNA. But fear is not necessarily a bad thing. When put in its place, it can help us achieve our goals and propel us forward.

The good news? You can take action to develop actions and a vision for your life and creative work that puts fear in its place. Your vision for the future must overshadow your fear of the present.

 What is your greatest fear? The past, present, or future? How do you take action despite your fear?

About Kent Sanders

I help people unlock their God-given creative potential. I live with my wife and son in St. Peters, MO. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or YouTube.

  • Michael Scanzello

    My fear is wasting time and money. I have bounced around a lot with crummy career choices or (money jobs) putting money first and actual skills I wanted to build second or not at all. Time that I spend doing things that seem to not yield results, failed business plans or when I just get unmotivated and stew in non-action mode. The worst is it feels almost better to do nothing than to try and fail. Now, I push myself to realize doing anything is better than doing nothing or giving in to “it doesn’t matter anyway” mentality. I keep as you saw on focusing on a vision of the future that can overshadow my past. 🙂

    • Thanks, Michael. I appreciate you commenting. I absolutely think that is the way forward — keeping focused on your vision and what you want to achieve.

    • I feel you on the “putting money first” thing. For me, building skills was a hard thing to do since there isn’t a quick result for it.

      E.g. if I come over and mow your lawn, you pay me $40. Transaction complete. Now I have beer money.

      Compare that to learning the piano. There’s a long period with no real return (no one is going to pay you until you’re good) so you’e learning for you only.

      Sometimes doing something is helpful. You can learn how something works and you can sometimes carry that knowledge with you to your next venture.

      • Dan – what has been interesting to me over the last year or so, as I have been doing a variety of side hustles, is how skills from one type of job transfer to something that doesn’t seem related. Not always, but sometimes it is surprising.