Love and Fear as Motivators

I talked with a friend the other day about the reason for stress or fear. I asked him why he thought it was useful. He said fear can be an effective motivator. If you’re afraid your business will fail unless you make the deadlines and put in the hard work, then you’re more likely to put in the hard work.

Fear is a motivator, that is definitely true. My early years were spent in Africa because my parents were missionaries. If a lion or snake is chasing you, you don’t worry about anything except getting away as fast as possible. It’s highly motivating and highly effective at keeping you alive.

If you’re in the US or a developed country, you honestly never have that real life-or-death fear. Your fear in a country with huge economic power is more on your potential as a human and whether you can make your goals happen. You want to make sure the people counting on you will still be able to provide for their families, and there is a component of fear for what happens if you fail.

But I aim to convince you that fear is not as effective in the long-run as love. Love of success, of beauty, of goodness, this kind of love propels you much further and toward more graceful ends than any fear of death will. Love of elegance promotes a healthy long-term vision, rather than the short-sighted life-and-death feeling that fear motivates with.

I explain it like this. If you’re out on the plains, imagine you’re looking for food. You see a bunch of trees, some of which have fruit and some of which have better fruit. If you are suddenly chased by a lion, you will climb the first tree, regardless of if it has the best fruit. You aren’t going to take the long-view and survey all the trees in order to make a more level-headed and better decision. That lion is the fear of death. That first tree you climb is how you feel when you’re under pressure.

In the real world that pressure is all made up. It’s a story in your head, and like any story, it’s only somewhat accurate. You won’t starve if you don’t get that promotion. You won’t lose an arm if you mess up that speech. The ideas you wrap up to give yourself fear are really not all that potent dangers. A man with shelter can live on bread and water. I’ve done it. In fact it’s not the worst of all lives. You can be content with very little. Want more than you have and you’ll never be happy.

So if fear is not really useful in the ways most developed cultures are using it, what’s a better alternative? The better motivator is love. Love is a verb, you must actively do it to cultivate the inner quality within you. There is honestly no limit to the amount of love you can do. Love is an eye opener. It changes how you look at the world and makes you appreciate every day and every moment you have.

When you love, you can always be smiling. That really changes your life. People pick up on positivity and optimism and goodness.

Love lets you survey the trees and find the ones with the biggest and best fruit, before you scramble up the tree. It’s still effort, but it’s directed toward a goal. Like cutting with a knife, if you have too spread or hasty of a focus, problems will develop. Rushing solves nothing, ever. Make speed, not haste.

In conclusion, fear in the developed world is almost totally imagined. It’s not really life or death, not really. Keep that in mind, that’s a very healthy view.

Instead of using fear to motivate you to climb trees, let love guide you to the right one.

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