Walking Into Fear

Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” – Les Brown

I spent last week with my brother and his family, including my 1-year-old niece. Talk about a love fest between toddler cousins. Em and Baby (as Em calls her) were inseparable, and I hope they will grow up to be like sisters.  But I digress….

As it always seems to happen, our best conversation of the week was in the two hours before I had to drive back home. Something my brother said continues to resonate with me. We were talking about fear and the crazy things we did growing up (triathlon, running in jungles loaded with pit vipers and unexploded ordinance, you know, the usual stuff). My larger-than-life younger brother admitted to some pretty big fear, but said that he made the conscious choice of walking into his fears in order to overcome them (Whaaaaaat?):  Fear of drowning? Learn to surf even though you can’t swim. Then love to surf and become a water rescue EMT. Fear of confrontation? Go into law enforcement and deal with confrontation, attitude, manipulation and lies all day long. He has also been a volunteer firefighter, and, though he didn’t call out the fear addressed, my projection is fear of tight, dark places. Oh yeah and becoming human toast. I did not know that fear was such a strong motivation for my brother’s career choice (one that fulfills him, by the way), and I respect him even more.

My point is how often do we try to address fear through risk mitigation, pros and cons charts, and outright denial or avoidance? Fear has a way of dragging you down, holding you back all your life. The worst part for me are the “what if” questions it raises, specifically “what would my life have been like if….”?  Regret. It is the dread companion of fear.

Fear: such a small word with so much power if you let it control you. I have two sayings, intentions really, that I have used over the years to get me out of analysis paralysis and moving on artistic, athletic, and career endeavors:

1. There is no doubt in my mind that I will succeed. (When I have not identified a specific fear)

2. I will not be mastered by my fear. (When I do have the presence of mind to know what I fear)

The point is:  Act. Do the cursory risk analysis, consult actuary tables if you must.  But don’t get stuck there, because…You. Are. Stalling.

Act. Trust your gut. Believe that it is leading you down the right (though not always expected) path. I have said it before: fear is often a scarecrow that tries to divert you from your goal by keeping your attention on its grimacing, lifeless, dried-up face.  And that scarecrow only moves passively…by the wind of attention and avoidance you give it.  Walk past/over/through that fear and keep going. Oh, and as you pass by you can give that son of a bitch scarecrow a healthy punch or kick or rip it to shreds if you like. Just act and keep moving.

What are your thoughts?