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In the closing chapters of Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, Hill discusses The 6 basic fears that prevents us from attaining wealth and success in life. I am going to expand on these ideas in this posting. In closing I am also going to mention Napoleon Hill’s ideas on how to overcome these basic fears.
According to Hill there are six basic (existential) life fears that people have to overcome, they are:
The fear of poverty
The fear of criticism
The fear of ill health
The fear of loss of love/of someone
The fear of old age
The fear of death
Fear refers to “a negative emotion in response to a perceived threat”. In contrast to anxiety fear usually has a specific mental focal point. Wikipedia also tells us that fear is usually focused on future events. In contrast the anxiety, fear has a specific focus.
Fear is a future expectation of being ‘worse off’ than you are at present. This is evident in the the list of fears as described by Hill. All six of the fears have a specific focus. The causes of fear may be external or internal.
Fear typically activates survival responses in the form of adaptive behaviours and avoidance.
Unfortunately, the fears listed above tend to live mostly in the unconscious mind (according to Hill), making it difficult for us to identify and deal with them.
Hill tells us that fear is “a state of mind” and nothing more. But, problematic to those of us seeking to build wealth in life, is the reality that fear tends to stifle human potential, creativity, faith, along with an entire range of positive emotions.For example, even if someone has all the potential in the world to become a great public speaker, he or she will not become one if the fear of criticism restricts the development of that gift.
Hill notes that fear of poverty as especially destructive. This fear paralyzes all of the qualities that are needed for the creation of wealth. To elaborate; in earlier posts we were told that a definite purpose, desire, persistence, and faith, amongst others, are needed in order to build wealth.
The fear of poverty neutralizes all of those positive qualities mentioned above . This fear produces and is evidenced by counter productive mental states such as indifference, indecision, doubt, worry, over-caution, and procrastination.Obviously such negative qualities will not help one to accumulate real wealth.The fear of poverty takes away your power of self-determination. It leaves you a victim of circumstance.
The fear of poverty also leads one to consciously or unconsciously, expect poverty and failure in every endeavor. By now it should be evident that our thoughts tend to create their ‘physical equivalents’, in the real world (as Napoleon Hill tells us throughout Think and Grow Rich).Maybe this happens because of some or other mystical mechanism or maybe it is just the result of self-sabotage and self-fulfilling prophesies. The result is that the fear of poverty will lead one towards poverty and away from wealth.
In the Biblical Book of Job, Job told us that:
What I [greatly] feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me (Job 3:25). bracketed emphasis mine.
I think this reflects a core principle according to which fear works: our deep fears, in time seem to clothe themselves with reality. Hill tells us that ‘thoughts are things’, and negative thoughts create negative things in our lives. Consequently, in order to be successful one has to resolve one’s fears successfully.
Overcoming the six basic fears
Hill argues that indecision grows into doubt, and doubt grows to fear. These three mental states; indecision, doubt, and fear, are seen as working together and fear is the culmination.Let’s again consider the fear of poverty as an example. We are told, by Hill, that if you want to attain wealth, you have to ‘refuse all circumstances that lead one to poverty’.If you have ever read the biographies of many of the successful self-made business people, you will see that many of them faced failure at some point in their careers. Why did they recover from failure when others could not?In part, I believe it is because they refused to accept their failures as final. They were not overtaken by doubt, indecision and fear, but remained focused on the possibility of a better future; even when nothing seemed to be going their way.
As people, we are always making choices. Poverty, we are told by Napoleon Hill, comes to those who chooses to accept its reality as final.
Perhaps you are seeing where HIll is taking us with this. Perhaps you are seeing that the antidote to the six existential fears of humanity involves choices. Let’s then consider Hill’s antidotes for the six basic fears.
Antidotes to the six basic fears
In essence, the antidotes to all the fears listed above begins with a decision, a decision not to worry.Hill explains why, arguing that “an unsettled mind is helpless”. Deciding not to worry may sound a bit simplistic, but we have to do exactly that.
Indecision makes our minds prone to every whim of opinion and circumstance. Indecision makes us helpless to the prevailing thoughts and unqualified fears that restrict so many from reaching their potential.
Hills asks us to overcome the six basic fears by making the following six decisions:
1. Regarding the fear of poverty – firmly decide that you will accumulate wealth responsibly and that you will happily get along with the wealth you are able to accumulate. I like to think of this as a decision to stop focusing on what can go wrong and start to focusing on what can go right.
2. Regarding the fear of criticism – decide not to worry about what other’s think of you. In reality, I think that most people are so busy thinking about themselves that they don’t even notice others most of the time.
3. Regarding the fear of ill-health – decide to no longer focus on diseases and their associated symptoms. Don’t unnecessarily fill your mind with pictures of real or imagined diseases.Decide to focus on living in health, instead of focusing on the avoidance of any and every dreaded disease.
4. Regarding the fear of the loss of someone’s love – decide to enjoy and value the love you receive and to love back in return with as much love as you can. Also decide to happily get along without love if the situation occurs where you have to do that.
5. The fear of old age – decide to accept old age as a blessing … remember that many people have not even had the privilege of reaching old age. Also decide to be grateful for the wisdom and experience that comes through age alone.
6. The fear of death – dealing with the fear of death, in my opinion, is a very personal matter and depends on much your religion, or lack of religion, and beliefs regarding the afterlife. Evaluate your your beliefs on this matter, but also decide to accept and make peace with death as an inescapable event.That covers this post on Hill’s “six ghosts of fear”. I am hoping that it has helped us to put a spotlight on some of the conscious and unconscious fears in our lives. I am ending with one of may favorite quotes of all time:
My life has been full of (many) terrible misfortunes; most of which never happened. ~Michel de Montaigne
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