In the last couple of months, our internal fear barometers have peaked. Emergency broadcast systems about the coronavirus are ratcheting up anxiety levels night and day. The doomsday news cycle only augments our brooding concerns, which leads to fear and eventually something worse: panic.

It’s only natural. We’re human. We like to know what the future holds and, thus, tend to dislike and distrust the unknown. We dread both visible and invisible threats to our creature comforts. We succumb to fear when our “safe zones” are compromised and when our everyday practical logic is suddenly unravelled into chaos.

Nonetheless, facing and managing fears can actually create a unique opportunity for us to grow.

Fear can be harnessed as a tool for us to take big steps forward in our own personal development. How so?

Well, firstly, being frightened doesn’t have to be a negative, self-sabotaging experience. Fearful circumstances present us with the chance to become introspective, that is, capable of and willing to pose big questions to ourselves in the face of big problems.

As we look deeply inside ourselves, during frightful moments, we realize with sudden clarity exactly what’s truly important to us, where we’re ultimately heading and, most importantly, why. The distress of losing something critical to our personal happiness drives us toward determining a course of action for saving that which we desire.

It’s only when heroes realize that the lives of those whom they love are at risk that they leap into action.

Fear is the trigger, the warning bell, the neon arrows pointing us in the direction that we must run.

Fear is an emotional state with potentially positive benefits, precisely because it forces us to focus on life’s most important questions and answers.

Unfortunately, sustained focus is the most important mental state that contemporary psychologists say is missing in today’s culture. They say focusing our attention on our highest existential values during extended periods of time is the key to unlocking fundamental pathways to human flourishing.

The general cause is distraction.

The sources of distraction are manifold: managing multiple messaging systems; hyperactively researching our whims and curiosities on the internet; staying emotively connected to thousands of our friends’ stories on social media. Today, distraction is mostly linked to our technological dependencies and online habits. It is no mystery. We are all culprits. The problem increases when compounded with all our ordinary and perfectly valid distractions (bill paying, deadlines, to-do lists).

Overwhelmed, we thrust ourselves into a whirlwind of random desires and interests that bring very limited short-term satisfaction to our lives. Worse still, these distractions drain our mental and physical energies needed to persevere and focus on more fulfilling, longer-term yet much harder to reach objectives.

When we abandon these superficial distractions and finally focus our attention on existential priorities – our professional vocations, our marriages, our civic responsibilities, our charitable endeavours, our intimate friendships – then we begin to experience deep joy and fulfilment.

The fear caused by this viral outbreak could be the mandatory pause that we all needed. As we stop in our tracks and redirect our attention on the larger-than-life fear before us, we inherently face life’s dauntingly biggest questions.

The hundreds of little distractions drop like dead flies around us, because they no longer feed off our immediate desires and curiosities, permitting us to see well beyond their usual disrupting swarm.

Our souls now find themselves in a face-off between major fears on one side and critically important existential questions on the other. Let’s say, I lost my job and may never find a new one (the fear), so I ask (these existential questions):

Where I am I going? Who is journeying alongside me to help? Has what I have do so far endangered my happiness? Isn’t family more important than anything I might lose now? Have I served others well or have I just looked out for myself? What is the ultimate purpose of my existence? How do I achieve it? What will be my mission and legacy?

Overwhelmed, we thrust ourselves into a whirlwind of random desires and interests that bring very limited short-term satisfaction to our lives.

Worse still, these distractions drain our mental and physical energies needed to persevere and focus on more fulfilling, longer-term yet much harder to reach objectives.

When we abandon these superficial distractions and finally focus our attention on existential priorities – our professional vocations, our marriages, our civic responsibilities, our charitable endeavours, our intimate friendships – then we begin to experience deep joy and fulfilment.

The fear caused by this viral outbreak could be the mandatory pause that we all needed. As we stop in our tracks and redirect our attention on the larger-than-life fear before us, we inherently face life’s dauntingly biggest questions.

The hundreds of little distractions drop like dead flies around us, because they no longer feed off our immediate desires and curiosities, permitting us to see well beyond their usual disrupting swarm.

Our souls now find themselves in a face-off between major fears on one side and critically important existential questions on the other. Let’s say, I lost my job and may never find a new one (the fear), so I ask (these existential questions):

Where I am I going? Who is journeying alongside me to help? Has what I have do so far endangered my happiness? Isn’t family more important than anything I might lose now? Have I served others well or have I just looked out for myself? What is the ultimate purpose of my existence? How do I achieve it? What will be my mission and legacy?

There will always remain those who are gripped by fear.

There will always be those who remain gripped by fear. Their focus is negative, and they fall prey to obsession and eventually a paranoia of contingents – all the “what ifs”. They remain paralyzed and never take bold action and, thus, any necessary steps to alter their life’s journey.

Those, however, who use fear to focus their attention on the key questions of their quest discover they have the willpower to find answers. They move forward and find their way to that which will ultimately fulfill them.

Share this post