Saturday, January 4, 2020

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear. " - Jack Canfield

One of my favorite sports is rock climbing. I started climbing in college and spent as much time as I could possibly justify in the local canyons and gyms while getting my music degree. It proved to be a great mental and emotional exercise, in addition to the physical challenge, stress relief and lifelong connections made with other climbers.

Photo by Brook Anderson on Unsplash
When a friend's younger brother graduated from high school, we decided to take him on a multi-day climbing trip to celebrate. The brother was a natural from the start. He was bold, trusted the rope and his belay, and successfully lead a climb on his first day. It's worth noting that he later enlisted in the Marines. Fearless dude. 

Midway through the trip the older brother was tackling a very tough route. When he got to the crux (the toughest section or combination of moves), he asked me to brake the rope so he could take a quick breather and study the rock. While he was working on the route, little brother had hiked up around the route, and was looking down on him while he climbed. 

There's quite a bit of banter that happens on the rock wall, nearly all of it friendly and encouraging. This particular conversation was short and went something like this. 

Brother: Can't you just grab that hold, put your foot there, pull up this and then go there? 

Climber: Yeah, I can see what I should do, but I'm just afraid...

Brother: Well, what would you do if you weren't afraid? 

That was it. End of conversation. My friend looked down at me, shouted, "Climbing!" and nailed the crux. Just like that, the climb was over, the fear and struggle gone. All that was left was the victory of the moment, the sense of accomplishment at pitting your will and strength against gravity and stone and coming off victorious. It was one of those times where all of the clouds of life seem to dissipate, and the significance of the moment is clear, mind-altering and freeing in an instant. 

Think of the power of that one question: What would you do if you weren't afraid? 

I know it's not always simple, and it definitely isn't easy, but I'll bet it wouldn't take you thirty seconds to think of a few ways your life would be better if you'd simply do something that you're afraid to do. Even as I'm sitting here writing this, I can think of plenty!

Now, I'm not suggesting that you throw caution to the wind and do something insane just because you're afraid of it. In my climbing scenario above, my friend was already a skilled climber and had the protection of the rope, other climbing equipment, and a belay. He was in a situation that provided opportunity along with the possibility of failure, and was being held back by indecision due to fear. He did take a moment to study the wall and choose the best course of action, and then decided to act.

So, what is it that you know you need to do? Take the audition? Register for the competition? Study with that teacher? Move to that city? Change career paths? Make a major purchase, like a marimba? 

When you finally do decide to act, you'll realize that, in most cases, the fear was totally unfounded and all that you really needed to do was take the jump. There is much freedom in acknowledging your fear and moving forward anyway. 

"Courage is not the absence of fear, it is acting in spite of it." - Mark Twain

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