I believe that orthodontia saved my life. Wearing braces caused me to develop a lip infection. While waiting in the dermatologist’s examination room, I noticed a poster on the wall that identified skin cancer risk factors (fair skin, childhood sunburns, etc.). Unfortunately, I checked all the risk factor boxes. Plus, I had a growth on my stomach that looked similar to the photographs on the poster.

Fear set in. Do I admit to myself that I may have skin cancer and tell the dermatologist? Luckily, the dermatologist was delayed. By the time he entered the room, I had conjured up the courage to show him my mole. Turns out it was a cancerous malignant melanoma. Luckily, the cancer was caught early, and treatment only required surgery. Facing the fear of a cancer diagnosis was difficult but ignoring it and regretting inaction would have been worse.

Fear can be an incredibly powerful emotion. Theoretically, fear is good. Its purpose is to ensure self-preservation. Fear can also prevent us from facing our responsibilities and even rob us of accomplishing our goals and dreams. We can be so afraid of failing that we don’t even try. Why does fear have such a negative effect on us?

According to many researchers, modern day life has directed our instincts to not only protect us from fears that are physical but also fears that are emotional. Fear of failure is often fear of public embarrassment, fear of rejection, fear of loneliness or fear of losing love. We become experts at protecting ourselves from these emotional fears by delaying action.

According to James Clear in his bestselling book, Atomic Habits, we use “preparation” to convince ourselves that we are moving forward and acting. Often, preparation just enables procrastination.

Famous author Dale Carnegie had great advice on the subject of fear. Carnegie said “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Carnegie is right, procrastination can torment us. There is power, strength, and success in action. Action saved my life.

What about situations that are less dire where inaction does not kill us, it just keeps us stuck? How do we convince ourselves to choose action with the fear of failure and its underlying emotions standing in the way?

James Clear writes about an interesting experiment that addresses this question. A professor at the University of Florida ran an experiment on his photography class. He divided the students into two groups. The first group was graded on the quantity of photographs that they produced. The second group was graded on the quality of one near perfect photograph.

After the photographs were submitted the professor was surprised to find that all the best photos came from the students in the group graded for quantity. Turns out that the students in the quantity group were busy taking photos throughout the semester, experimenting with lighting and testing various methods of photograph development. During the process, they honed their skills.

Meanwhile, the quality group sat around speculating about perfection. In the end they only produced unverified theories and one mediocre photograph. Action through testing and experimentation created growth and confidence.

Testing and experimentation is really just code for making mistakes. Action requires us to pivot, make iterations, and yes, even make mistakes to succeed. That is okay. Mistakes are opportunities to learn something. Action breeds courage. Courage conquers fear. Conquering our fear moves us forward and ultimately makes us happy.

This theory can be applied to estate planning. We adults need an estate plan to take responsibility for our lives. An estate plan protects us and our family against life’s uncertainties. Sitting home preparing to create an estate plan is not action. That is procrastination. Act today to protect yourself and your family. Call/text/email me to create an estate plan.

Theresa Clancy Attorney at Law


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