Six Ways Fear May Be Robbing You of an Intentional, God-Centered Life

 

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It comes seemingly from nowhere.  It is sudden, and it is scary.  I start to breathe quickly and I am bombarded with anxious thoughts swirling around in my head like a kaleidoscope.  Something is sitting on my chest, weighing me down.  All I can do in this moment is pray.

It’s called a panic attack, and I experienced my first one in the summer of 2013.  I knew about them of course.  I’d worked with countless clients who’d experienced them.  But until you go through one yourself you may think you know… you don’t.  You can’t. 

Mine weren’t horrible, as panic attacks go.  They didn’t last long, and I was able to counter them with deep breaths, thought changing tools and prayer.  I only experienced them for a few months, and then God mercifully removed them from me.  But still…I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.                             I

Fear is a thief.  It loves to visit, scares you silly and then robs you blind.  It comes at the least convenient times: while you’re driving, in the middle of a presentation, in a crowd, at night when you’re trying to sleep. 

It steals your confidence, your ability to make decisions, your sanity. Even your physical health.

It causes you to doubt. 

And question…

And second-guess yourself…

How is fear keeping you from living intentionally?

Fear sends you off to a dangerous place I like to call Catastrophe Land, where “what ifs” breed abundantly in the dark recesses of your mind.

“What if we run out of money?”

“What if I lose my job?”

“What if something bad happens while we’re on vacation?

“What if …”

“What if…”

“What if…”

And on and on it goes.

Fear can be debilitating and paralyzing.  You can get so tangled up in the “what ifs” that you‘re afraid to move forward, afraid to make the choices needed to live intentionally.

Fear also breeds excuses; it disguises itself as control.

What excuses are you using that are keeping you right now from living a fruitful, abundant and intentional life?

What are you trying to control out of fear?

Your fear isn’t just robbing you.  It’s stealing from your family too.  Your family needs you to live with confidence.  But when fear gets behind the wheel and starts driving, bad things happen.

Your mood shifts.  You pull away, or lash out in anger.  You make rash decisions or no decisions at all.  You overreact.  You become depressed, irritable, easily frustrated.

When fear’s reign of terror goes unchecked, relationships are damaged or destroyed. Mental and emotional well-being are eroded. 

What would it be like to give the fear over to God?

What would change if you just surrendered completely to Him?

What would change if you were able to say, “I’m terrified about what’s going to happen, but I just can’t do this on my own anymore.  I’m not sure why I even thought I could.”

What would change if you made up your mind to not just grab the steering wheel away, but to kick fear out of the vehicle altogether?

Who in your life would benefit if you were no longer afraid?

My panic attacks were the result of a whole lot of “what ifs” that I was trying to solve on my own.  I’d taken on things that weren’t my sole responsibility, and the burden of that self-inflicted load was heavy

I knew it.  I knew what it was doing to me.  I just didn’t see a way out.

It was like a dark cloud hovering over me, following me wherever I went, even though the sun shone brightly on everyone else.  The simplest tasks seemed hard.  My mind was in a fog.  And if I thought too far ahead, panic would send me into a tailspin.  

I was trying to control too many things, instead of letting God handle them for me. Because I was so afraid to let go.  I was afraid to trust that somehow, some way, God would work things out for the best.

I thought I had to do it all.  And it was exhausting

It drained me in every possible way.  It affected my physical health, my mental wellbeing, my ability to give to others professionally.

When I finally acknowledged that I was human, that I needed help, that no matter what the consequences – failure, loss of income, loss of home, loss of health – it was time to make some serious changes.

Then, and only then, could I hope to regain control.  And only then could I see a clear path to what a purpose-driven, abundant life would look like.

That clear path enabled me to make decisions; decisions free from fear and worry that helped me to return to the path God wanted me to be on.

Is fear affecting your decision-making?

Fear inhibits decision-making in a number of ways.  And if your decision-making skills are impaired, your ability to live with intention is as well.

Here are six possible ways that fear may be affecting your ability to make intentional decisions:

1. Indecision

Fear can cause you to overthink situations, hence the term analysis paralysis.  If you spend too much time thinking about all the possibilities, all the “what ifs”, it leads to inaction.

2.  Emotionality

Emotions are like sand; they shift and change constantly.  Decisions that are based primarily on emotions, like fear, can be misguided and lead to regrettable consequences.

3. Shortsightedness

Those same emotions can lead to impulsivity, instead of what I like to call A to Z thinking — being proactive with decisions instead of reacting to every situation. 

4.  Inhibitions

Good decision-making requires a willingness to explore new ideas, to think outside of the box, and to take calculated risks and move forward.  Fear produces the opposite.  It inhibits you from being creative, prohibits progress, encourages retreat.  Fear causes you to take desperate measures — just to hold on to what you still have — instead of being open to new opportunities yet ahead.   

5.  Distortions

Fear is a tricky creature.  It can make you believe the worst kinds of lies – about yourself and others.  It can lead to paranoia, overgeneralization, black and white and all or nothing types of thinking. All of these are distortions of the truth. 

6.  Procrastination

You can know what you need to do, yet not do it. 

Not making a decision IS a decision.  It’s a decision to do nothing.  It’s a decision to take the easy way out, the path of least resistance. 

Unfortunately, the longer you wait, the fewer the options available to you.  You find yourself pressured by people and/or circumstances to act, which can spiral you back into that position of fear that led you to put the decision off in the first place.

What are some of the essential elements of a good decision?

A good decision:

  • Is values-based.  It’s made from your core beliefs, not your emotions, and especially not from fear.

  • Is action-oriented.  Gather as much information as possible and then go for it — no second-guessing yourself.

  • Is “positivity” oriented.  In other words, it strives to have a positive effect on you and those around you.

  • Follows a systematic process of information gathering and research.  It doesn’t fly by the seat of its pants.

  • Recognizes and owns the consequences. You’re going to make some bad decisions, so deal with it.  Don’t blame others, circumstances, etc.  Learn from your mistakes and then make a better decision next time.

  • Inspiring.  Others will want to follow your example.

  • Creates opportunity.  Your good decisions open doors for others to walk through.

  • Invites participation and inclusiveness.  Our decisions impact others, so seek input from them first.

  • Is easily duplicated.  A good decision, based on the right knowledge, sound counsel, and a clearly defined plan, is one that others can easily follow.

Good decision-making can become habit.  So can bad decision-making.  Like any habit muscle, if you don’t use it you lose it.  But the more decisions you make, the better you get at making them.

Fear, doubt and worry take energy, the same energy needed to make sound decisions.

You can live with full intention.  You can make decisions with confidence.  You can discover God’s full intent for you.  It will take work, because fear won’t depart willingly or easily.  But it will go, if you have the determination and the tools to pry its grip loose from your life. 

 

 

 

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