“Science has estimated that 92% of the things we fear throughout our lives are not actually legitimate. Only 8% of our fears are rooted in reality.”

As we begin to unpack our theme this year, “Fearless”, there is a lot for us to learn. We all feel like we know what it is and some of us might even consider ourselves experts because we have experienced it often throughout our lives. That said, most of us do not truly understand it and how it actually works and impacts us.

A key concept to understand as we begin to discuss fear is that danger is real. There are dangerous situations that should create fear in us. We have been built with a fight or flight response to danger and as fear grips us in those situations it results in us taking action that helps protect us.

But fear and danger are very different things. Danger is something that is in the world where fear is something that is in us. Fear is not truly real. The only place that fear actually exists is in our thoughts and specifically in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination and often this means that we fear things that actually will never exist or could never happen (e.g. the boogeyman under our bed).

Science has studied fear extensively as it is an influential part of the human experience. They have estimated that 92% of the things we fear throughout our lives are not actually legitimate. Only 8% of our fears are rooted in reality and in things that actually pose a possible threat to us. How is it possible that we allow so much fear into our lives that is not actually real?

Well, one of the ways this happens is that we often play the “what if” game in our minds. We start asking ourselves “what if” questions that lead to imagining possible future outcomes to the question. What if I let my child do a certain activity and they get really hurt? What if I make a speech and it goes poorly? What if I start this business and it fails? What if I ask this girl out and she says no? The “what if” game is completely an exercise that takes place in our imagination. It is not real. Yet often it is the fear caused by the “what if” question that stops us in our tracks and keeps us from taking action or making decisions.

Since this game is an exercise that takes place in our minds, we have control over it. When the “what if” game begins to play in our heads we can start to answer the questions with positive outcomes. Nothing requires us to assume the worst. We can assume the best. What if the new business I am starting does well? What if she says yes when I ask her out? What if I face my fear and that leads to positive changes in my life?

So the question we all need to wrestle with, and encourage our children to ask, is “what if I don’t let my what if’s continue to scare me?”

Written by Karl Steinkamp

Karl Steinkamp is passionate about Dalat International School and training up young people. Karl was a student at Dalat and returned with a degree in education as a student teacher, high school principal, and now Head of School since 2006.
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