Whenever I end up in that conversation with someone who’s in the same place in life as I am but don’t appear to be going anywhere or doing anything, look out. I will not shut up. If I know you personally, you will be chastised. If we are only acquainted, you will be politely chastised. If there’s one thing that ruffles my feathers, it’s a young person who has no ambition.
But there’s something I realized from recent conversational occasions: the problem isn’t always lack of ambition. In fact, I’ve actually not encountered a situation where the problem was solely lack of ambition. There was always ambition. The problem lied with fear. And each fear that was uncovered was unique: fear of failure, fear of disappointment, fear of exposure, fear of inexperience, fear of change, fear of independence. I’ve heard of all of these. Each one was so extreme that it kept dear friends and fellow twenty-somethings from achieving, or even just going after, their dreams.
When I discovered this, I realized that my tactic of spit firing suggestions and pushing borderline overenthusiastic optimism wasn’t the best option. It wasn’t addressing the underlying problem. I switched over to a different question: “Why are you afraid?”
I now suggest to others to dig deep and figure out why they are afraid to move forward. If they identify the fear, they can identify what caused it, and if they identify what caused it, then they can identify how to deal with it. Fear will never be gone completely. In fact, we need it to make cautious decisions and keep us aware of danger. That’s the fear we can comfortably operate through life with without it hindering our ability to get to the next step. But it’s necessary to address the bad kind of fear, the kind that keeps us in one place, the kind that holds us back. That’s done in patient steps that are hard but not impossible. The first step is…
ask yourself: why are you afraid?