Learning to code and conquering fear

Fear gets some bad PR. We spend our lives running from it, as if the very notion of being scared is terrifying in itself. But fear is an important part of life: Obviously, it keeps us alive, but low-level fear is not something to avoid at all costs. Often we’re spooked for the wrong reasons – when we’re afraid of facing our own shortcomings or ignorance, for instance, or afraid of change. 

Learning anything new, whether it’s a language, a skill or adapting to a new job, can be scary: You’re taking in new information, adopting new ways of thinking and – worst of all – staring your own ignorance in the face. No wonder so many of us run from change.

Like any athlete, entrepreneur or recent graduate will tell you, fear is part of the package if you want to progress.

Here’s why you shouldn’t be so afraid…

Fear and discomfort mean that you’re growing

Leaving one’s comfort zone is traditionally seen as a positive thing, and for good reason. The easier a task, the less you’re growing. And conversely, the more challenging it is to learn something (from a new skill to a new trade), the more you’re growing as a person.

Not knowing or understanding feels terrible: nobody likes to be reminded of their limitations. But confronting them head-on is what brings the eureka moment – that beautiful feeling of enlightenment and instant boost in confidence. Then, the more you practice what you’ve learned, the more comfortable you become again. New skills become second nature eventually.

When you’re experiencing this unpleasantness, be mindful of the language you use: It’s fine to acknowledge when something is scary, but try not to use absolutes like “never” or “impossible”.

Fear is usually temporary

It’s important and helpful to remember that the unwelcome feeling when you’re learning is only temporary. Just about everything you do everyday was difficult and intimidating at one stage.

A great example is learning a new language: Learning those first words and phrases is painfully slow and difficult. But soon after that, once you reach the conversational level of a language, it’s fun and exciting. Even though the challenge of becoming fluent is still ahead, it’s a more enjoyable journey once you get over the initial hump.

Just about every initial milestone is the most daunting: The first million a tycoon makes, the first 5k a runner conquers, and indeed, the first coding language a software developer learns.

If you can conquer fear, you can conquer anything

An addiction to comfort holds us back. It’s what makes it harder to get up in the morning, to take up exercise or learn new things.

But if you change your perspective and conquer the fear – see if for the imaginary thing that it truly is – there’s no limit to what you can achieve. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or scared, there’s a good chance you’re on the right track.

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