By Gail Lynne Goodwin.
If you’ve ever been chased by a saber toothed tiger, running madly for your life, you’ve probably experienced fear. If you’ve ever been summoned to your boss’ office to be reprimanded, you probably think you’ve experienced fear then too.
However, I think that life-threatening situations, like being chased by a tiger who wants to eat you, are legitimate things to fear. Situations that are not life-threatening can sometimes seem scary, but I’d like to invite you to see them as nothing more than something that causes discomfort.
For anyone who’s ever gone bungee jumping, paragliding or sky diving, you understand the knee-knocking, stomach-clenching, I have to pee feeling that you get when you’re ready to leap into the unknown. It’s scary. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not fun. It almost makes you want to turn back, to the safe, mundane, the known world around you.
But that’s not what makes us grow. And, we know the exhilaration that waits on the other side of the challenge. For when we expand our experiences, we expand our world. Stepping outside of the box most often leads to discomfort initially, but the rewards beyond the discomfort are well worth the price we have to pay in overcoming our fears.
The greatest fear I’ve ever known was stepping off the ledge bungee jumping. Interestingly enough, the greatest exhilaration I’ve even known was immediately after taking that one step.
Imagine the worlds that would have never been discovered if early explorers had never sailed their ships from the harbor or expeditions had never trekked across the mountains. As humans, we were born with an innate desire to explore, grow and evolve.
Next time you feel fear, look around and ask yourself, “Where’s the tiger? Is this something life-threatening, or is this something that I’m afraid of because it’s new?” In the remote case where it’s the former, do what you have to do to protect yourself. Run fast.
But, in 99% of the cases where it’s the latter, I invite you to welcome the challenge as an exercise in your personal growth. Look at each fearful situation and ask yourself again, “Where’s the tiger?” If you don’t see one, perhaps that will help you differentiate between true fear and perceived fear, otherwise known as discomfort.
I invite you to do something this week that scares you…. something that makes you feel VERY uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s asking someone out on a date, going bungee jumping, talking to your boss about a raise, planning a move to a new city, doing stand up comedy…. or whatever it is for you.
Like any exercise, the more we do something the easier it gets. And, what we learn doing one thing is transferable to another. In other words, just as lifting weights in the gym will make it easier to move heavy furniture, doing things that scare you will make it easier for you to deal with fear in other ways. Bungee jumping will make it easier for you to ask your boss for a raise. Singing at karaoke night will make it easier for you to do public speaking, and so on.
Once you start exercising that muscle by feeling the fear and doing it anyway, lingering fears will start to melt and disappear. You will become invincible. Okay, it might take a bit of time for the invincible part, but with enough practice, you’ll realize that you’re not being chased by a tiger and therefore, you’ll be better equipped to deal with any lingering discomfort.
So, what’s your “tiger”? What scares you? I challenge you to go do something today that scares you, or at least think of something you can do in the next month, that you’d love to do, but you’re afraid to. Then start planning and go do it!
For me, I’m going to get recertified to scuba dive. Just the thought of going under the water makes me gasp for air, but I’m going to feel the discomfort and do it anyway. Tigers can’t live under the water.
How about you? What’s the one thing that you’d love to do, if only you weren’t afraid to do it? Please share it with me below and then let’s grow together. I can’t wait to hear your success stories.
Photo Credit: Keith Roper