If that’s true, you don’t need to read this. But let’s get real.
You’ve been afraid, haven’t you?
It’s okay, you can admit it. Contrary to what sports enthusiasts and drill sergeants would have you believe, fear is nothing to be ashamed of.
But you don’t have to let it limit your life. In fact, moving through fear to make the choices that best serve your life is a prerequisite for living an unlimited life.
“Whatever you believe you fear owns your life.”
That’s from one of my journals, and anytime I believe I am afraid of something, I make it a point to take my life back by challenging that belief. But there is one fear, or belief in fear, that’s been kicking me in the teeth – or more accurately in the mind - for most of my life.
Last weekend, I got out my toolbox and did some major demolition. Because that belief in fear was in the way of something I wanted to do.
My toolbox is full of fear-blasting techniques and processes. But my demolition project last weekend took all of them; I even ended up creating some new ones. Taking you through all of it would require more space than I’m going to give it here. But I’ll walk you through the first three steps.
Step One – Balance fear against desire
Most people are afraid of lions, tigers, and bears. At least they would be if they encountered them in the wild. We accept this fear as reasonable since lions, tigers and bears all have a track record of doing significant damage to humans. Then there are those people who have dedicated much of their lives to encountering these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. They probably experience fear from time to time, but they don’t let it limit their options.
The difference? Desire.
The naturalist, photographer, or even big game hunter (yes, I just shuddered) has a desire that can only be satisfied by overcoming fear to pursue a dream. If your fear isn’t keeping you from something you desire then it isn’t limiting your life. Is it?
Step Two – Create or examine your “safety net”
Most people are afraid of being propelled through the air, or falling from extreme heights. We accept this fear as reasonable since we’ve seen news stories about the impact the law of gravity has on a human body that got too far up to get down gently. Yet, there are people who jump out of airplanes and dive off of cliffs. And most of us have willingly subjected ourselves to the occasional rollercoaster ride. We’ve learned to enjoy, even crave, the thrill of a jolt of adrenaline from time to time.
The difference? Belief in the “net.”
The skydiver, paraglider, cliff diver, and theme park thrill-seeker all “take the leap” because they believe in their skill, in their equipment, or in the roller coaster designer and operator. Because of this “safely net,” they can give themselves over to the sensation of flying, of free falling, of being suspended in breath-stopping motion, without really believing they are risking life or limb.
But what about people who are afraid of dogs, cats, or even mice? Or who freeze in panic when asked to climb a step ladder, cross a foot bridge, or jump the two feet from the stage to the dance floor?
What about the person who freezes, whose heart rate accelerates, who even has to fight the urge to inflict physical harm on another person – just because someone is pointing a camera at her?
Not a gun. A camera.
Yes, that was the big, bad, brick wall I ran into this weekend. A camera.
Ironically, I was talking about fear at the time. I had made a particularly impassioned statement about a course I’m teaching on Fear and Choices, and what I want people to understand about fear, My companion suggested that I share that passion in a video. And it just so happened he had a suitable recording device on hand.
My teeth clenched, my eyes narrowed, and I fought the usual desire to scream and run away.
I got through it – with no damage to people or property. In fact, the video came out pretty well in spite of sitting outside at a sidewalk cafe.
But that isn’t the reason I dread the moment when someone whips out a camera. It has nothing to do with the pictures that result. In fact, until this weekend, I wasn’t at all sure what it did have to do with.
But that brings us to step three – which is how I spent my weekend.
Step Three - Understand the source of the threat
You see, I had the desire. I really wanted to share what I’ve learned about living a powerful, unlimited life without succumbing to the fear cycles that paralyze so many people into a life of compromise and complacency. And it wasn’t just a desire to make that one video. In today’s culture, I know that videos and images are a key component of effective, evocative communication. So succumbing to my fear of being in front of a camera (no, the threat wasn’t really the camera, but that’s another story) was limiting my ability to communicate with all of you.
And I had a safety net. I was with a friend I trusted, in a place I love. I was in complete control of what I did or didn’t say, and where the video was or wasn’t shared.
Which left step three – to dissect and really understand source of the threat. Because, although in the video I refer to my fear as “unreasonable and irrational,” the truth is that a fear response is never without reason. It’s prompted by something. And that something is real so long as we believe in it. And to dissolve our belief, we have to know what it is.
I can’t say I will never have a fear response to a camera, or to people who don’t respect my person enough to ASK before they stick a camera in my face. But I now know what belief that fear is rooted in. And I’m at work uprooting it.
I’ll keep you posted.
And if you want to watch “that video” you’ll find it HERE.