‘D’ for Decide: Fear or Excitement

‘U’ means Unpack Your History
July 7, 2021
depicts someone tking one step at a time
‘G’ is for Go One Step at a Time
July 21, 2021

‘D’ for Decide: Fear or Excitement

This is the fifth in a series of seven posts in which I explore how to move forward when our journey is difficult. The series began with an introduction and has covered the first three of six TRUDGE practices for long-term resilience: Tell the Truth , Remember, and Unpack Your History.

TRUDGE – being resilient as you move through a challenging time in your life. When you are in a season of trudge, there are lots of things that are new. You are more tired than usual, so your anxiety is already higher. With all the new opportunities, now is the time to decide how to respond – with fear or excitement.  

Picture yourself on a roller coaster.  You have slowly climbed to the top of the hill and the front car is over the edge.  You are barely moving forward.  Soon the balance will tip and the coaster will scream to the waiting curl of track…. 

Fear or Excitement?  Yes.   

The part of your brain that processes emotion looks the same whether you are afraid or excited. The physiology is the same; the cognitive framing is different. That means your expectation of the situation influences which side of the fear/excitement switch you experience. “This is amazing!!!!” or “I need off – now.”  Part of Trudge is that things are scary.  You are excited and filled with dread.  You are overwhelmed and have possibilities to consider. Noticing the moments when you get to decide is powerful.   

Those moments include: having a job interview, starting a new project or relationship, moving, filing a law suit, getting that medical test, making that phone call. We often do not realize we have a choice of how to respond to these situations.  

Our bodies respond in the same way to both fear and excitement. Breathing and heart rate both go up.  Our body is tensed with the energy needing to DO SOMETHING. Now is the moment to pause and engage our minds. Now is the time to pause and consider what course to take. It can be good to rest before deciding. Give yourself a moment to think. Ask yourself: What do I stand to gain from this? What do I stand to lose?  

Consider these two different scenarios:  

A friend of yours has not been respecting an important boundary you set with them. This has been an ongoing pattern with this particular friend. You are worried that confronting them will result in the ending of that relationship. You are worried about harming the friendship and wanting to be respected by this person. If you confront them and they hear your concerns, your relationship stands to grow even stronger. If your friend wants to sever the relationship, is it worth it? Do you want to continue in this unsatisfactory friendship? Perhaps it is worth the risk to be honest with your friend. You can choose excitement.

Your boss is off their game lately. Surly comments, angry outbursts, unreasonable timetables for projects. You want to confront them about this change, yet that’s not the kind of relationship you have. If you raise your concerns and they respond well, your work experience could improve. If you confront your boss and they fire you, that would leave you without an income and health insurance. Losing these would create more stress in other parts of your life. Perhaps it is not worth the risk to confront the boss – right now. You can choose to listen to your fear when the opportunity has a bigger risk or more cost than works for you.

In both of these scenarios, you can look at your options and weigh the potential benefits and risks. Once you have taken the time to do this, you can channel that energy you were using to worry into activities that will move you toward your goals. Figure out how you want to approach your friend. Spend time brainstorming things that are within your control to make work more manageable. Whatever you choose, you will feel better having made an intentional choice.  

Flip the Switch

Give yourself a moment to decide.  Fear makes us back up, ask for more information, walk away.  That can be the right choice.  Excitement propels us forward giving us energy to try new things.  What in your life is causing you to be on the brink?  Notice the small moments – watching an exciting movie, playing sports, speaking up in a meeting. Practice catching those fear/excitement moments in small ways so that you can spot them in big ways. Push yourself to do small tasks that are on the edge.  Ask for help, talk to a stranger, try something new. 

Many times, excitement is the right call, but how to get your brain to let go of fear? The body is doing roughly the same thing in both fear and excitement. The thing that is different is the story you are telling yourself. To move the switch, tell yourself a story about the outcome that you can get excited about. Change your narrative and free up your energy to take the risk.  

To learn more, explore learnmodelteach.com for tools, videos, and coaching opportunities.


Laura A. Gaines