How to Become Fearless

Skydive, plane

Hey, that’s my ride!

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared here on January 1, 2011. We’re publishing it again as a perennial New Year’s reminder. We also updated the headline photo to show one of the fears we faced since writing these words 12 months ago. Be sure to leave a comment and let us know what fears you overcame last year or about the ones you resolve to tackle in 2013.

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In youth, the world is wide open. Life is about trying new things, pushing boundaries, discovering limits, and exploring a planet that is ripe with possibility. As time passes we surround ourselves increasingly with comforts and lose interest in discovery. Our propensity for boldness atrophies. Our longing to see around the next corner gradually succumbs to fear of the unknown. Our world shrinks.

It doesn’t have to.

Our tendency to become more fearful with age is a real, potentially debilitating, force. I’ve seen it at work in others and felt it in myself. Things I once did routinely now elicit feelings of apprehension. The irony is that this is exactly the opposite of how a rational person should feel.

You’ve never had less to lose

If we value our lives by the number of days we have left to spend, we’ve never been poorer than we are right now. We’ve never had less to lose. We can’t possibly know how many days are left in our future, but we know with certainty that there is one fewer today than yesterday. And yet somehow we were bolder, more willing to take risks, yesterday.

They say that with years come wisdom. But instead of wisdom I see familiarity masquerading as safety. We feel safe in our houses, in our community, maybe even in our country. The world outside these self-declared boundaries meanwhile is foreign, and scary. At least that is how we perceive the world.

But there is no reason to believe the things with which we are familiar are actually more safe. Often they’re not. The most dangerous thing most of us will do in our lifetime is strap our bodies into an automobile and hurtle down a freeway at high speeds with opposing traffic a few short meters to the left. We feel completely comfortable doing this. Why?

Driving is far more dangerous

In 2010 there were 32,700 traffic fatalities in the U.S., compared with two deaths from shark attacks and zero airline fatalities. We are three times more likely to die in a car crash than we are from violent crime; yet we’re often more afraid of standing in a strange part of town than we are of driving there. We fear the unknown even when the familiar is more dangerous.

If we can become fearless in the driver’s seat, we can be fearless in almost every other situation we’re likely to face. The key is repetition. We don’t fear driving because we do it all the time. Whatever apprehension we may have felt once is overcome by years of experience and practice. We gain confidence in our abilities. Every successful trip reinforces those feelings.

That is a powerful reason to go out and do things, especially things that feel a little scary. By staying active and stretching our comfort zone we not only broaden our skills and bolster our self confidence, but we push back against fears that, left unchecked, only grow over time. Instead of aging into a shrinking world, we rediscover the wide open one of our youth.

Today is the first day of the New Year, and the first day of the rest of your life. Resolve to do something that scares you.

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22 Comments on “How to Become Fearless”

  1. Arizona girl January 1, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    Nicely put! I’m especially good at loving my comfort zone, no matter how often I wish I were one of those fearless people. However, in 2012 I did take a big leap and ended up landing at the beginning of my new career path. Upward and onward for 2013!

    A happy, healthy, and inspiring New Year to both of you!

    • Brian January 1, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

      Embarking on a new career can be one of the most intimidating, and potentially rewarding, things you can do. Congrats and good luck.

  2. earthriderjudyberman January 1, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Wonderful, motivating words, Brian and Shannon. I am trying new things. Not exactly hurtling into the abyss, but it is out of my comfort zone. Happy New Year to you both.

    • Brian January 1, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      Good for you! Your comfort zone is the only one that matters. My intention with this post isn’t to suggest that we should judge ourselves against what other people do, but rather that we should actively try to prevent fear from keeping us from living the lives we want.

  3. meade101 January 1, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    Very well said, and something I’ve always subscribed to. At 71 I still don’t think twice about launching my kayak alone on the open ocean or hiking alone in the wilderness.

  4. photographyartplus January 1, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    Amazing….picture!!

  5. Romaniouk January 1, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Lovely reminder for the start of a new year.

  6. tiny lessons blog January 1, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    So true! I have observed that in others and to my surprise in myself lately – and I don’t like it. So this year, like I used to do earlier, I’ve accepted engagements far from home and the familiar. A bit scary but I already feel rejuvenated… Happy New Year to you guys!

    • Brian January 1, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      It is rejuvenating to embrace new challenges. Happy New Year and good luck.

  7. Tata Fata January 1, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    Happy New Year to you both! Lovely post and great words :) and I can relate to so much of it. I spent 2012 travelling around Asia and recently got back to Europe with new, bigger an a little scary new dreams! :)

  8. Airstream Family January 1, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    A great reminder to live fearlessly. Thanks for putting my thoughts into words Brian, from Everywhere Once.

  9. Airstream Family January 1, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Thanks for putting my thoughts into words Brian. This is a fantastic post.

  10. f-stop mama January 1, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    This year I photographed my first 2 weddings and I was so afraid of not doing a grest job. Once I settled in it became no big deal and I enjoyed the experience. ( I nailed the photos and both brides were very happy with my work). In 2013, I am going to do a scary thing and leave my university lab job to strike out and work for myself. I am looking at a complete life style change and while I am excited about it there is a certain level of fear associated with this decision. Great post and so fitting for the new year. Happy 2013!

    • Brian January 2, 2013 at 9:23 am #

      We know all about confronting the fear of major lifestyle changes, including leaving secure jobs to strike out on your own. The thing that lessened our fears was the realization that nothing we were doing, moving, changing careers, etc. couldn’t be undone. The same is likely true for you too, although like us, I imagine once you make the transition, you’ll not want to go back. Good luck!

  11. hermitsdoor January 2, 2013 at 6:05 am #

    As we move from youth to adulthood, we start accumulating possessions and responsiblities (e.g. home, car, spouse, children…). Much of our fear is about protecting or losing these. Also, with these comes routines, obligations, and the complacency of keeping them up. As you have demonstrated with your adventures, shedding yourself of the career and home requirements frees you of many fears.
    Oscar

    • Brian January 2, 2013 at 9:28 am #

      Yup, protecting things and loved ones plays a part. But it isn’t the whole story. The classic example of what I’m referring to is the little old lady (or man) who becomes afraid of leaving the house. Or the middle-aged person who is fearful of going to the “Big City.” They weren’t always afraid of these things, but now they are. And those fears limit what they’ll allow themselves to do.

  12. toynbeeconvector January 2, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Hi Brian! :) Thanks for liking my last two posts. I’m really glad WordPress brought me to your site. This fearless 2013 forecast looks like the perfect way to start the year! I’ve been meaning to run away from work completely and make travel my life, like it should be but let’s see, Maybe this year it’ll happen. I’m just so inspired by you two!

  13. Untitled Adventure January 4, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Hi there,

    Just wanted to let you know I have nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Hopefully, you’ll welcome this news. If you prefer not to accept the award, I certainly understand, but I hope you will visit the other nominees, and they will visit you, just the same. To see more about the award and accepting this nomination, please visit my post at http://wp.me/p1w5ra-H8. All the best!

  14. escapeartist101 January 6, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    I dig it!

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