"Fear...The gateway to meaningful change."
Surprisingly, there is a positive energy about that quote, yet when you feel fear, you feel sick, motionless, paralyzed, and sweaty as our hearts race, the adrenalin rushes and your knees seem to wobble from underneath you. Sometimes it catches you by surprise, and while other times you expect it, yet no matter how it gets to you, your reaction is usually the same.
My 12 year old son insists he has no fears, yet I would say he doesn't typically acknowledge it as a "fear", but instead, something he doesn't want to do and it is a small list. For most though, when faced with fears, we are clear about naming it appropriately and adding it to the fear list: being alone, becoming sick, failure, admitting defeat, letting others down, being embarrassed, dying, getting hurt, being rejected...there are a million things to fear, yet some we do and others we don't. But it isn't the list of what you fear that matters, it is the list of what you do once standing in the face of fear that really matters.
Why? Because it is what you do while standing in fear that will declare your level of success, as well as your level of happiness. Think about it. Perhaps you have always wanted to learn to swim, but have a fear of drowning. So what do you do? You can choose not to swim, which will not eliminate your fear, but allow you to skirt around it, or you can learn to swim, which will not only eliminate your fear, but allow you to be healthy and strong as well.
Many fears come from things we have created in our minds, that aren't reality based. For instance, even if we haven't experienced a near death drowning experience, the fear of drowning is very real. We may never have fallen while skiing, yet we choose not to ski for fear we might fall. These examples come from things we have seen or heard about, yet may not have personally experienced. Remotely similar to our innate fear of change, even if we haven't experienced a bad situation directly related to change, we still fear what could happen: from leaving our marriages, finding new jobs, to trying out new things, they all force us to face one question: But what if... What if what we hope to have happen on the other side, doesn't occur at all? What if instead, the change creates an even worse situation?
There is a what if story for every scenario possible, but what you choose to fill in those dots with, is what matters most. We are famous for filling it in with negative consequences, but what if the only list you made, where the positive consequences. If there aren't any positive consequences that could occur, then you should rethink the change, but chances are very good that if you have been contemplating the change, you have also visualized the possible positive outcomes that could occur.
The next thing you want to do is embrace the fear. Take it on like it is yours, as if you own it, not as if it owns you. Fear or no, in the end, you still get to choose. So stand tall and look it straight in the eyes. Check the list you have created of things that could go wrong and make sure they are reality based. I know they "feel" reality based, but are they?
And lastly, look carefully at how long you have been talking about this change. How long you have been unsatisfied in this area of your life, yet have continued to tolerate it, due to your fears. What if...you could look straight into your fear, and move forward anyway, in spite of the fear. Then you would truly get to see what's possible.
I continue to battle with fears just like everyone else and am fortunate enough to have children who have been trained by the best. Me, or so I would like to think. So after taking a spill off my bike and near-missing oncoming traffic, I talked to my children about my own fears. I even contemplated calling it quits on my triathlon training, just to avoid getting back on the bike, but it was my oldest son that put it right back in my face.
"If you're waiting for the fear to subside, before getting back on the bike, you can forget about it. It isn't going to go away. Get the bike fixed and then just get on."
Luckily for me I knew enough to listen to him. I also knew that I had said those very words to others as well and that it was sound advice. There was only one way to compete in my next triathlon and it was to get back on my bike, in spite of my fear. It was to focus on what I wanted...to ride...not what I didn't want...to fall. And so I did just that. I stood in the face of my fear, got my bike fixed and rode.
Fear, although painful at times, is what puts us into action. It is what propels our lives to change. Without fear, what we would have is what we already have. Haven't you been standing in fear long enough? Today, face your fear and allow the change to occur...the possibilities of the happiness that could occur, will surprise you.