Fear is the Mind-Killer

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The Perils of Complacency

We are creatures of routine. We aspire to and covet stability. Through stability we discover comfort. But, as emphatically cautioned in Frank Herbert’s enduring Dune novels, it’s in comfort and stability that we become trapped, unable to envision new boundaries beyond our individual status quos.

We create habits out of a need for efficiency and necessity, thus, as noted in this paper for Biological Psychiatry, removing the burden of thought that may otherwise hinder us from moment to moment. We form go-to choices around workday breakfast or lunch items, around what time we have coffee or a workout. We organize our day every day around pre-forged decisions.

Though seemingly harmless, the trap of routine can easily permeate more significant areas of our lives. When we grow so comfortable with our current skills regardless of shifting job market trends, we invite the risk of complacency and eventual obsolescence. When we similarly refuse to acknowledge and remedy the limitations of our perspectives or personality blind spots, as delineated in this video on the SurePeople Prism®, we risk harming our relationships and our very goals.

Resigning ourselves to our limitations and automatic behaviors like the Fremen of Dune cling to rituals, casts a veil over imagination and innovation. Emphasized in this research by the University of Southern California, our habits pose an intricate influence on how we pursue and whether we achieve our goals. Thus comfort in routine presents itself as a double-edged Arrakis crysknife, offering predictability at the expense of creativity.

This is not to say that every shred of routine must be evaded—only that which cultivates the cowardice of complacency. As goes Dune’s famed litany against fear, explained here by Forbes, fear is the mind-killer. We fear unpredictability, so we may naturally shy away from pushing ourselves toward the unfamiliar or the new. We may cling to old adages and antiquated beliefs or practices. We dismiss pursuits of self-growth and stagnate rather than innovate our skills and abilities.

Fear teaches us to avoid the things that make us fearful. Neuroscientist Arash Javanbakht, exploring the psychology of fear in this Hidden Brain podcast, warns of how we allow fear to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As taught by Herbert’s litany, we must allow fear to pass through us. It must be conquered through mindfulness and a conscious practice of challenging our perspectives and broadening our horizons.

Though routine can be a comforting companion, we must take heed of the tale of Paul Atreides, whose hero’s journey warns of the perils of predictability and routine. Through greater awareness of ourselves and our unique blind spots, as denoted by our individual Prism Practice Areas, we can envision new possibilities. We can break free of our accepted limitations and expand our sights to a universe where change is the ultimate spice.

“I’m going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid. I don’t find it strange that all you want to believe is only that which comforts you. How else do humans invent the traps which betray us into mediocrity? How else do we define cowardice?”
– Frank Herbert

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