What most prevents people from living a happy, fulfilling, and meaningful life? And, what causes people to act irrationally? Both questions have the same answer. Dennis Prager explains.
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What most prevents people from living a full life?
What most causes people to act irrationally?
Amazingly, they are both the same thing.
That thing is fear.
First, living a full life: People fear speaking in public, so they never do. People fear traveling to countries off the beaten track, so they never see some of the most beautiful and fascinating places in the world. People fear embarrassing themselves by making mistakes when speaking a foreign language, so they never learn to speak the language. People increasingly fear getting married or having children, two of life’s deepest experiences. People’s fear of failure prevents them from pursuing some of the things they most ache to do. The list is almost endless.
Second, acting irrationally: People fear flying despite the fact that flying is one of the safest things a person can do. Far more people are killed in accidents in their homes, crossing the street, or riding in a car than in commercial airplanes. Yet, they live in their homes, cross streets, and ride in cars without giving a thought to the possibility of getting killed. But because of their irrational fear of flying, they won’t fly or will do so very rarely. As a result, they see family members and friends who live far away less often than they would like, and they will never see almost any of the world.
During the Covid lockdowns, irrational fear kept many people indoors — often alone — and kept millions of children out of schools for two years. These in turn led to a dramatic increase in depression and suicide.
So, then, one of the most important questions in life is: “How do I conquer my fears?”
Here are two answers:
First, follow reason.
Second, do what you fear.
Ask yourself, “Is my fear rational or irrational?” I suspect that most people who fear flying know that their fear is irrational. But they don’t fly anyway.
So, what they have to do is fly anyway. Of course this is difficult. Just about everything worthwhile in life is.
But so what? Do you want to deprive yourself of everything you fear doing — and therefore deprive yourself of so much that would make your life far richer and far more enjoyable?
Later in life, do you think you’ll say to yourself that you were right in having given into your fear of flying? That it was worth missing out on time with loved ones who lived far away?
To which you might well respond, “You don’t understand. I can’t just say, I’ll ignore my fears. They are overpowering.”
So, here’s my response: We all decide what is overpowering.
Yes, we decide. Fear is overpowering because you decided to allow it to be.
“Overpowering” is a decision. It is not a fact of life.
Animals can’t overpower their fears. Human beings can. Being able to think and to act rationally is what most separates us from animals.
When I was a little boy, I feared monster movies. When I told this to my older brother, he told me to watch as many monster movies as possible — until they had no effect on me. Little brothers take older brothers very seriously. So I took his advice, and eventually, instead of being afraid, I marveled at how good the makeup artists were. Sometimes I even started laughing.
If you fear flying, force yourself to fly — until one day it is as natural as riding in a car.
How do you force yourself?
For the full script, visit: https://www.prageru.com/video/do-what-you-fear