When Fear Means Opportunity

bravecat If you’re afraid, take notice. You could be facing the opportunity of a lifetime.

There’s a big difference between “pure” fear—like when you believe your life is in danger—and the more common, harmless fear.

I’m moving to Portland, Oregon after only 4 months in Jacksonville Beach, FL. I’m afraid because it’s going to be expensive (high fees for breaking my current lease, plus other moving costs), I’m moving from a 950 sq. ft. luxury apartment into a TINY 150 sq. ft. apartment, and the city is much colder and wetter than Jacksonville. Essentially, it’s possible I’m paying a high cost to move to a place I might not like.

And I like Jacksonville Beach. I’m pretty happy here.

So I shouldn’t go, right?

Wrong. I should and will go because I’m scared to go.

As a logical person, I don’t often speak of “gut feelings,” but I’m not sure what else to call it. While I was walking the streets of Portland, day after day, I couldn’t shake the thought of living there. It just seemed right. The idea to move wasn’t premeditated, but more or less presented itself to me without permission. It was inconvenient.

When an idea is this persistent and goes against what you expect, it usually means something. That’s when fear strikes you. Fear most often means opportunity because opportunities are almost always scary!

Have you ever had this feeling? Have you ever had a crazy idea and believed deep down it’s the right move, but the thought of actually doing it scared you? That’s the fear of opportunity.

How To Identify The Fear Of Opportunity

Why is it that people tend to be more scared or nervous around people they like the most? It’s because the stakes are higher. What if she actually says yes? What if he actually likes you? Or not?

This type of “opportunity fear” comes from uncertainty. If you’ve never dated someone you’re this attracted to, if you’ve never submitted an article to a magazine, if you’ve never or rarely talked to strangers, or if you’ve never lived in a 150 sq. ft. apartment in a rainy city, then the opportunity to do so will trigger fear in you because you won’t know what exactly to expect. If you look at these fear-inducing examples, what do they have in common?

A step up in life. The next level. The chance to play a bigger, better game! 


The best way to identify opportunity fear is to logically examine the potential consequences of executing your idea. Are you scared just because doing X would improve, but change your life?

Change is scary, even when you know it’s for the better. (tweet this)

It’s not always big moves, either. I’ve been too intimidated to do really nice things for people before, just because the idea I had was out of the ordinary. Those are opportunities to be a better person and make someone’s day.

If we take a closer look at this kind of fear, we’ll find there’s a really good reason to get excited about it. 

Fear Is The Boss You Fight Before The Next Level

If you think about your life like a video game—and you probably should—the only way to get to the next level is to defeat a fear boss. This is logical, because fear is a barrier that “protects” you from something. If you fear bears (I do!), you will avoid them (I do!). If you fear rejection, you will avoid situations that may produce it. Fear is the emotion that makes us want to seek comfort and safety.

Every time you face and overcome an opportunity-induced fear, you’re taking your life to the next level. I faced a few fears when I decided to visit Portland on a whim (namely, the fears were from unpreparedness—things like not knowing where I’d sleep the next night). I was handsomely rewarded with a very fun trip and my next home.

Because I’m going through with this scary decision to move, I have an opportunity to live my dream life. For all the crazy fees and inconveniences that I’m facing to make this move, there are a lot of exciting opportunities that await that will bring me closer to my ideal life. Here’s how a day in my new city might go for me (the component of my dreams is in bold at the end of each part):

  • I wake up in my tiny apartment and everything I own is instantly visible. Simple, minimalist lifestyle.
  • I have no set plans unless I want them. Freedom.
  • I shower and head out the door to dozens of food carts two blocks away. Delicious food all around me.
  • I choose whatever food type appeals to me that day from dozens of cuisines (for very low prices). Variety.
  • I write some. Productive?!
  • I walk, bike, or take the bus to the gym. Mobile without a car!
  • I take a long walk across a beautiful bridge at sunset before meeting some friends for dinner. Scenic. Social.
  • I attend a concert, sports game, or meetup group event that night. Many things to do and people to meet in a big city.
  • Later that week, I’ll decide on a whim that I should visit Vegas. After which, I’ll hop on the light rail just outside my apartment and it will take me straight into airport ticketing. Since my rent is relatively low and affords me savings like not having to own a car, I don’t feel bad for traveling often. Travel friendly!

This lifestyle is simple, minimalist, inexpensive, and the location makes for an elite travel hub. I don’t need to own a car in Portland because I can walk, bike, or take public transit to anywhere in the world I want to go. If I need a car, there’s a zipcar office on the other side of my block, and several of their cars nearby to rent hourly. It fits nearly everything I’ve been wanting to do, and the rent is cheaper than my current apartment. 

To see if this place is as good on paper as it should be, I had to make the scary decision to go now. I could wait until my lease is up here, but these are new apartments in a very competitive area and they’ll fill up quickly, meaning my preferred unit would probably be unavailable later.

It’s not a good idea to wait for opportunities if you can take the one in front of you. When you see an opportunity like this, it only makes sense to strike your fears in the throat and take it.

Fear Is Your Friend?

I don’t believe that fear is a wholly bad emotion as it’s typically portrayed. As fear is so intertwined with opportunity, it’s often a sign of good things to come if you make the right choices. Fear is perhaps your most familiar “friend.” It’s there when you take the training wheels off your bicycle, try to parallel park for the first time, or give your first big presentation. 

So the next time you’re faced with a big opportunity, and you feel the fear build up inside of you, smile and greet it. Then look just beyond it, and you might see an opportunity you can’t refuse. In order to get to that opportunity, there’s only one way to go—right through the heart of the associated fear.

photo by aerie

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