What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

Fear is the Mind-Killer

July 24, 2011, 12:00 AM
What's the Big Idea?
Your heart is pounding, your pupils are dilated, your palms are soaked with sweat. The adrenaline rush we all experience when our bodies go in to “fight or flight” mode is an asset if we’re up against a physical threat. But unless you're a stunt double or an ice road trucker, your reptilian-brain probably needs to be checked more often than embraced in daily life. How else could you fill a blank page or face an audience without bolting on the spot? In a recent interview, Big Think asked writer and consultant Tara Sophia Mohr, who counsels women in the social and business sectors, how to overcome fear. 


Mohr's advice? Don’t run, and don't go on the attack. Evaluate. There's a difference between the fear you feel when your life is at risk, and the fear you feel when you're taking a risk.  “The late Rabbi Alan Lew talked about how in Hebrew there are many words for fear,” she says. You can calm down and figure out how to take action by identifying which kind you’re feeling. "Pachad" is the innate biological response that turns us into an irrational, Hulk-like mess. If you’re not actually clinging to survival, pachad is imaginary - meaning the face-burning panic you feel before giving a speech is no more real than what you feel during a suspenseful scene in a movie. Know it for what it is, suggests Mohr.

The other kind of fear is "yirah," a word which means something close to awe in English. This is existential fear -- the fear of standing up for yourself, being who you are, or realizing your full potential. Mohr describes yirah as the “sacred, trembling feeling” that we encounter at the possibility of the future. This type of fear can be powerful, if you recognize it. It is the deep anxiety many of us bring to the unknown.

What's the Significance?

The next time you have to make a difficult decision or find a new approach, ask yourself whether the butterflies in your stomach signal a genuine possibility of harm, or "the sacredness of what you’re touching."

An avowedly spiritual person who gets and respects skeptics, Mohr has used this zen advice to overcome a uniquely modern problem in her own life. As a blogger, she sometimes reads comments about her work that are harsh enough to make the heart jolt.

"I often feel a great deal of fear when I sit down to write," she says. "If I'm saying something that is controversial or even just really vulnerable and bold, it becomes really hard to overcome it and press send. If I think of it as yirah, as a kind of sacredness that is part of my creative process, as awe of what it is to share what I think with the world, then I'm able to actually enjoy it and get a little excitement out of it and even want to write the kind of pieces that bring out that feeling."


Fear is the Mind-Killer

Newsletter: Share: