One marvelous thing about being a child is their general lack of fear. When we were kids, some of us found ourselves at the top of a hayloft, leaping from the edge thinking we could fly. Others jumped into the deep end of the pool with the belief they could swim without any lessons. And there were even a few that thought every single person they passed on the street was a potential friend who wanted to talk to me…er, them. We didn’t realize stepping into that pen with the bull was a bad idea, nor did we know that climbing a tree could result in either getting stuck in said tree or falling to the ground from the highest branch. We weren’t scared of anything, and the world was ours to conquer.
Fear isn’t something we’re born with – it’s something we learn as we get older.
Oftentimes, as children, we’re told we can be anything we want and do anything we set our minds to, so we start making plans for our lives. Big plans. We want to become cowboys, firefighters, policemen, princesses, and singers. This builds our sense of optimism for the future, allowing us to live a carefree life, full of confidence and hope. But, at some point, someone we look up to – whether it be a parent, uncle, or the crazy neighbor next door – tells us the awful truth that life doesn’t work that way…that life isn’t fair and we don’t always get what we want. So, all our hopes and dreams of becoming a professional bull rider, a stunt man, or best-selling novelist go out the window and we instead opt for the boring life of being an accountant, a phone representative, a cashier, or a desk jockey.
But here’s the thing. That awful truth…the one that most adults seem to adhere to, isn’t necessarily true. It’s fear that causes people to stop dreaming and instead aim for extreme average-ness. Being practical is safer than being an idealist, but it’s also far more boring, right? And let’s face it…no one ever got exactly what they wanted out of life by playing it safe. But if what you want is that cubicle job typing numbers into a computer for a living, I’m not going to judge you. It takes all kinds in this world, and if that’s what drives you to get up each morning, then I’m honestly happy for you.
As for me, I’m not the cubicle type. Never have been. I’m far more at home either as a public speaker or sitting in my writing cave. Those are the things that energize me and makes me feel as though I am doing what I was meant to do in life. Anything less than that drains me, and I begin to fear I will never fully meet my potential. I have absolutely zero desire to be average – physically, mentally, or professionally. And because of that desire and drive to be better than average, I am constantly pushing my fears to their limits.
Now, by no means have I accomplished everything I want out of life, yet. I have dreams…giant water tower-sized dreams. And those dreams won’t be realized until I face my fears: my fear of failure, my fear of never accomplishing my goals, my fear of not making enough money, my fear of looking stupid, my fear of working hard and having nothing to show for it. But I’ve learned there’s a trick to it all. When fear rears its ugly head, I remind myself just how far I’ve already come. I remind myself that my 5th book is being published this summer, that I’m further along in my writing career than I was 6 years ago, and that I have a literary agent who is amaze-balls at her job. But mostly, I’ve learned to accept that the universe does its thing in its own time. While I would love to have everything I want out of life right this minute, I know it’s a process and will shake itself out when the time is right.
There are still things I’m afraid of. Heights, frogs, snakes, tiny holes packed together, being eaten by sharks (even though I live nowhere near an ocean), wiener dogs, spiders, death, and people running toward me with ski masks and a machete. Some of those fears are rational…some are not. The fact is, we have complete control over what we know we should fear and what our minds have made us believe we should fear. In fact, fear is nature’s way of letting us know that danger is close. But many times, the danger isn’t as bad as what our mind has made it out to be. Instead, it’s merely the fear of the unknown that we’re staring down, and that can be the most frightening of all.
I had a friend who recently found herself back in the dating scene after her divorce. She was afraid to get back out there, fearing that no one would find her attractive, it would be too stressful, that she was too old to start over, that there weren’t any good guys left, or that she’d end up with a serial killer. That fear of the unknown…not knowing how the dating scene would work out for her…is what she was ultimately scared of, but she eventually put those fears aside and took the plunge. She’s now in a serious relationship with a great guy who treats her the way she always wanted to be treated. The danger of finding a serial killer was there, and she even dated a few douche canoes in the process. But in the end, she overcame her fear and found the man of her dreams.
Everything we want is on the other side of fear.
It’s a quote I use often, and not just on myself. Whenever someone comes to me and says there’s something they really want to do, I pull out this quote and clobber them over the head with it. And yet it seems that as many times I manage to convince someone else to follow their dreams and leap over that giant crap-heap of fear, I can’t seem to do the same thing for myself most of the time. There are still a lot of things I want to do – specific things I want to be. I want to be a full-time writer, no longer having to rely on a day job to pay the bills. I want to be a public speaker. I want to be a New York Times Best Selling author. And I want to take my family on their very first family vacation ever. But to achieve these specific goals, there are certain fears I need to face. The big one is this: stop being afraid of failure. At some point, I will need to just burn the boat and swim and see where the current takes me. That’s the epitome of fear…not knowing where the current (or life) is headed.
People are so busy living their fears that they don’t have the capacity to live their dreams.
I know better than anyone that it’s all easier said than done. Leaping over one’s fear takes more than just courage. It takes an incredible amount of faith. Faith that it will all work out the way you want. Faith that you are making the right decision. And faith that the universe will push you as you climb. Fear also has the ability to sabotage any success you may achieve. How many times have you nearly been successful at something only to say or do the wrong thing and fail because of it? I’m certain if you sit down and think about it, long and hard, and were completely honest with yourself, you’d be able to come up with numerous examples. I, myself, don’t have enough fingers and toes to count on regarding my own experiences. I am my own worst enemy. But knowing this and finally having that epiphany has allowed me to see my world in a different way.
If I’m being honest, one of my biggest fears at times has been my age. I’m not that young anymore, and I oftentimes wonder if time has killed any chance I have at success. Am I too old to achieve my goals? Has too much time passed for me to continually develop the skills and abilities required to be successful? And am I just too far along in years to learn something new and embrace a different way to become who I know I am inside?
But I meditate and ponder my existence, and I remind myself that age is only a number. Time isn’t my enemy…my fear of time is. I have unlimited time – however long I allow myself – to achieve the things I want to achieve as long as fear isn’t an obstacle. And once I give myself permission to succeed, the world will know about it.