How happiness beats fear, and why happiness isn’t ice cream

by Joanna Pieters | Follow her on Facebook here

Here’s a parenting fail story.

A few weeks I took my six year old to a theme park for the first time. I’d checked out the rides and found the ‘family friendly’ ones to go on.

That’s why when we arrived, full of enthusiasm, we headed for Dragon’s Fall (family friendly). But I confused it with Dragon’s Fury (not so much).


By the time I realised, of course, it was too late, and we were being hauled up a steep slope to be hurled into crazy twists and turns on a full-scale rollercoaster.

If I’d read up properly on the things to avoid, we wouldn’t have had that experience. We (both) would have been, honestly, too scared.

Truth #1: Fear stops us over and over again

You could say that fear is the single biggest thing that gets in our way.

Fear says:

  • That job, pitch or opportunity is way out of your league and you’d look ridiculous
  • If you write a book and it’s a total flop, it will be the biggest embarrassment ever
  • Don’t commit to coaching or learning or even asking for feedback, as it might be uncomfortable

Fear is there to stop you from risking anything. Risking damaging or changing the way you see yourself. Risking losing credibility. Risking other people not liking what you do, or not liking you any more.

Fear sends chemicals round your brain to stop you doing anything you haven’t done already.

But there’s something that beats that.

Truth #2. Happiness beats fear

Happiness is a different set of chemicals in the brain.

Happiness says:

  • I’ve got this. No matter what happens, I’m ok anyway.
  • You just sit in the corner and get comfortable, fear, and I’ll come back to you later. Maybe.
  • Thanks for the warning, fear, but I’m bigger than you.

This is exactly what I talk about with my guest on the Creative Life Show this week, Wolfgang Wild. Wolfgang is the founder of the hugely successful archive photography site Retronaut, author, Mashable editor, archive consultant and curator.

Listen here: How to follow your intuition when the answer is crazy, with Wolfgang Wild


Wolfgang spent years in the creative wilderness, hopping between jobs, searching for the thing that might be fulfilling and not finding it.

It was a question about fear that proved a turning point, and one about happiness that keeps him going now.

How happiness beats fear

Essentially, when your brain is happy, it finds itself much less susceptible to fear. You could think of it like this; happiness scares fear away.

So if you’re scared of something, getting yourself into a place where your brain is calm and happy is a great, great tactic.

A question Wolfgang asks himself all the time is: ‘What would give me greatest happiness right now?’ 

At first glance, that’s too easy. Well, right at the moment, chocolate ice cream would be great. And it would be a very easy way of running away from anything difficult.

But it’s actually enormously powerful. Happiness isn’t short-term satisfaction. It’s not about handing in your notice, binging on cake, or destroying your badly behaving computer. Because you and I know that those are only about a moment of satisfaction, not real happiness.

Happiness is – well, only you know. But it probably has something to do with using your skills, strength and intuition. Being somewhere where you’re comfortable, and maybe challenged just enough to keep you focused.

But we don’t spend nearly enough time working out exactly what it is we do want. And that means this:

Truth #3. If you don’t know what you want, you won’t get it.

So here’s your challenge for today.

Ask yourself this:

What, now, would bring me most happiness?

See what answers you come up with.

  • Notice how it makes you feel. Whether it makes you feel excited, exasperated, nothing at all. What does that in itself tell you?
  • Notice how clear your vision is, or how vague. Do you get a distinct answer, or just the start of a feeling?

I’d love to know what insights you have. Let me know by just hitting reply.

And if you’ve ever found yourself wondering what on earth you’re doing, then it’s a fantastic episode: How to follow your intuition when the answer is crazy, with Wolfgang Wild

So, that roller-coaster. It was terrifying, but you know what, we have a great shared experience. And my son is ridiculously proud of himself for having been on it (even if he doesn’t want to repeat it just yet). So would either of us change it? Not for a moment.

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