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From what I’ve observed, there are two types of people roaming around the planet:
1) Those who avoid their fears
2) Those who face them.

I know what you’re thinking…oversimplification…sweeping generalization. Yeah, but think about it—the majority of people fit into one category or the other. Most of the time. What I’m pointing to is a person’s automatic tendency—their pattern for living life per se. Some prefer to stay cloistered within the familiar, while others actively seek out the unknown.

So let’s look at fear and the effect our relationship with it can have on the quality of our lives.

At first glance, it’s hard to tell the difference between these two “types” of people because they may not fear the same things. In other words, what people are afraid of may vary from person to person, so the fear associated with the dreaded object or situation is not actually inherent to it. (Translation: It’s all in our heads.) We project fear onto whatever is outside of our comfort zones. For some, it’s public speaking and world travel; for others, it’s spiders and wearing Speedos.

People in the first category stick to the familiar, like going to the same restaurants—you know, the people who travel to Europe and choose McDonald’s over the local fish & chips shop and the closest shwarma stand. They stay within the safe and familiar, where their fears about the unexpected or what might happen remain untriggered.

Then there’s the second category—people who try new things, intentionally leaving their comfort zones, viewing life as an adventure where the fun is in the risk-taking, even if it drives up their fear. Their exploits can range from speed dating to skydiving.

My tendency? Category One—the non-risk taker—though I’m continually seduced by what lies on the “other side” of my fears. So I flirt with being an adventure-seeking, Evel Knievel member of Category Two. What’s the attraction? I’m curious. I wonder what lies beyond my projected fear du jour.

When I risk doing the scary thing, embracing the dark, and daring to confront something, I usually surprise myself. Like when I quit my job, moved to another country, started a new career, and acclimated to a new culture with only the hope that it would “all work out in the end.” Ultimately, it did. Even if it wouldn’t have, it was worth the risk. (As a bonus, I honed some ninja-like fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants skills along the way.)

Whether I choose to face my fear and go willingly, or it’s foisted upon me and I’m dragged kicking and screaming, I discover something new about myself. What’s on the “other side” that keeps me coming back for more? Success. Sweaty Palms. Failure. Insight. Upset Stomachs. Growth. The satisfaction that, no matter what the outcome, I was willing to discover what lay beyond my fears.