Fears Should Drive Us, Not Derail Us

Sean Baumstark avatar

by Sean Baumstark |

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I appreciate the consistent mindset this column helps me employ. With every new day, new challenge, or new opportunity, I quickly find myself coming up with new excuses as to why I can’t do something or why I shouldn’t try.

I’ve always heard and read that goals should be written down, committed to paper, and shared with others — “going public,” as one of my mentors puts it. These exercises introduce accountability and increase the likelihood of follow-through.

I’m beginning to think that this may be just as important for my fears, too. I don’t mean my fear of snakes or heights. I mean my fears related to failure, losing, missing the mark, and simply letting myself or others down.

I suppose this can be the opposite of reaching my goals — what happens if I don’t hit them?

When I write down my goals each year or commit to something and I tell others about my intentions, it removes a bit of the power that might hold me back. Just committing — written or spoken — gives me power over laziness, complacency, the “I can’t” mentality, and much of the “what if?” pitfalls that begin to creep in.

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My fears of failing or missing the mark — or not making it to the top of White Mountain in a few weeks — actually drive me.

It drives me to try again and again and a third time.

It drives me to try another approach, to find another way to the summit.

I’m not an avid hiker. In fact, hiking scares me. With Friedreich’s ataxia (FA), every step is calculated, and that alone is exhausting. Add in some uneven terrain, steep hills, and thin air at 14,000 feet, and hiking White Mountain is almost a cocktail for disaster. As afraid as I am of the challenge, I am more afraid of not making it to the top.

That drives me.

Big things probably scare most of us. But, honestly, I experience a bit of fear every day. This is especially true at my gym. It is a two-story building and I refuse to use the elevator. I may not always have the ability to choose between stairs or an elevator, so while I can choose, I choose the stairs.

Leaving the gym causes me anxiety most days. I’m slow and I need to use the handrails. I walk funny and have almost no rhythm or steady pace. I’m afraid I’ll misstep and tumble down. I’m afraid people are staring at me. I’m afraid somebody might bump into me unintentionally and cause me serious harm. As much as I dislike these feelings, they fuel my desire to go to the gym — my commitment to putting up a fight against FA and the harm it is doing to my body.

If I kept my goals to myself, I’d never have to come face-to-face with the effort to pursue them. After all, can you call it a failure if you never tried?

I’m not advocating that we all advertise our fears. However, I am suggesting we take a personal inventory of the things that worry us or scare us and begin talking about them. Let those concerns fuel the fire that gets stuff done. Take another look, try again, consider a new approach — whatever it takes to experience accomplishment or triumph.

If we don’t use our fears to push us toward achievement, it is more likely they will fuel our excuses not to even try.

Be it a fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of loss, or fear of embarrassment, there is no good excuse for not trying.


Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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