I have heard many times that there are two groups of people in the world. One group has intense feelings of fear, allowing fear to drive their decisions; the other group also has intense feelings of fear but can still take action.
Neither is better or worse than the other, but the latter group grows faster, learns quicker, and becomes less fearful in the process.
I remember when fear was the main factor in my decisions, from a young age. I watched Jaws (that shark movie with really scary music) at far too early an age, I was maybe six or seven years old. I watched most of the movie from behind the sofa in absolute terror, what I saw of it was enough to make me fearful of water for the next 16 years. I would rarely accept invitations to the beach, and when it came to swimming in the sea, I would wade in up to my knees, but if I couldn’t see the bottom, I stopped.
Facing our fears is an internal journey: our fears are real for us, and they do not always make sense to others.
In my early twenties, I was in India after my training as a yoga teacher and was relaxing on the beach. As I sat on the beach, I saw a group of young boys walking towards the water. They all stopped, turned their back to the sea, pulled down their pants and defecated right then and there into the sea - a culturally acceptable practice. It occurred to me then that attaching fear to one particular thing - a shark attack - was questionable, when there were so many other things in the sea that could be hazards, and that is exactly the same for life.
A few weeks later, I was in the water deeper than I had ever dared to go before. There was still some fear, of course, but because I had taken the action to go a little bit deeper, I was already reducing those familiar emotions stirring. Years later, I would find myself in surfing lessons, loving every moment.
The reality is that we can get knocked over by a bus, we can be given a positive test result, we can lose a loved one. Does that mean we do not leave the house, or go to the doctors, or love others, just in case? Of course not.
Waiting for fear to disappear will not make the fear disappear, action needs to be taken. Taking an action – big or small – that challenges the fear allows the fear to shift and change.
Facing our fears (fear of what people think, fear of failing, fear of being hurt, fear of winning, fear of losing, fear of being loved, fear of loving), whatever they may be, is an internal journey: our fears are real for us, and they do not always make sense to others.
Maybe it is not correct that there are two groups of people. Maybe there is just one group, those who feel fear. If that is right, then you are in the same group as all of those other incredible people who have acted courageously in the face of their fear.
Today’s coaching questions:
1. What fear do you currently have that affects your daily life in a negative way?
2. What difference would it make if you no longer had that fear?
3. Are you willing to take a small action today to shift that fear?
Image from Thomas Hawk (Flickr).