The fight between your inner fears and your creative courage


We are very much steered by the primitive reactions that are evoked in our reptile brain. One of the strongest of these instincts is fear. Fear is a survival function, and potentially dangerous situations affect us much more than positive signals that say everything is calm and that we can carry on with what we are doing.

This is logical if you think about it. It is of course more important that we at some point wrongly believe that an enemy is hiding in the bushes, than we make the mistake of thinking that everything is calm, while in fact we are walking straight into an ambush. Thus, we are genetically hardwired to overestimate threats and underestimate opportunities.

One of our fears concerns physical dangers, which can threaten our survival. Another is the fear of being seen as different, and perhaps as the ultimate consequence be banned from the safety of the group. Fear in combination with the brain’s pattern thinking and the tendency to repeat engrained behaviours make most people cautious and averting risks.

But always being on the safe side, also limits us as human beings. Taking risks and living on the edge gives an extra dimension to life, and at such times we feel the most alive. By daring to take the step we can also get benefits that we could otherwise not get.

Fears not only concern what other people think of us or concerns physical hazards. We also carry our own inner fears, which are often linked to our habits. To do what we have always done feels safe – we move within our own comfort zone. We know what we have, but we never know what we will get until we dare to jump and find out.

Should we dare to quit our boring but safe job to invest in a new career? Should we break up from a stalled relationship to find love with someone else? Should we dare to leave our country to find a new life abroad. Our inner inertia often hesitates, but when we later look back at our lives, it is seldom the decision to seize the opportunity that we regret, but the times when we did not. Or expressed with Søren Kirkegaard’s words: ” To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.“.

Sailing out on uncharted waters and trying something new does not only evoke opposition because it is something new and thus requires mental energy, it can also trigger an activity in the brain’s fear centre, amygdala, with outright physical discomfort. Therefore, many of us are reluctant to take risks. We know what we have, and it takes courage to risk this security for something that may be much better, but with a built-in risk and uncertainty.

Studies in the exciting subject of behavioral economics have also shown that we value what we already have much more than what we don’t have. Studies show that the price we are prepared to pay for a particular item we don’t have is significantly less than the price we are ready to accept to sell the same thing if we already have it. That we value what we have more than what we can get, further adds to the conservative and status quo-seeking tendencies of the brain. Within an organisation, this highly human trait, sometimes makes it very difficult to pursue a necessary change at work.

Creative courage is the self-confidence to dare resisting your fears. Somewhere in the process, you have to sit down and sense what you really want. It is not certain that an idea is so good that it is worth investing in it. It is important to carefully evaluate the pros and cons. Creative courage is daring to venture into deep water, aware of the possibility of mistakes and failure. The opposite is fanaticism, when you ignore everything that speaks against your views. Creative courage can therefore be associated with fear and anxiety, but is not foolish.

But once the decision has been made in your mind, and you feel confident that this is something you really want to pursue, then you’ll need to be true to yourself and to do what feels right despite your fears.

Illustration: – Alexa_Fotos

svensk_flagga   Detta blogginlägg på svenska

Author: Karl Ekdahl

International public health leader and creativity blogger.

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