As human beings, we are wired to flee from, or avoid, scary things.
Should a large jungle cat charge toward you, you probably aren’t going to stand around and think about what to do. You are going to run, as fast as you can, away from the wild animal toward safety.
It’s perfectly natural, and in fact critical for survival, to try to avoid danger. We are also wired to avoid other perceived threats, like potential physical or emotional pain. For instance, you may put off that flu shot, dentist appointment, or annual blood test (confession: I may personally know something about this variety of avoidance). It’s beyond survival mechanisms. We are wired to preserve our wellbeing. We don’t want to feel pain, we don’t want to hurt.
Where it gets complicated is when we start to respond fearfully to benign, more harmless stuff. Some sort of cross wiring occurs and our threat system gets activated when it really doesn’t need to be. There isn’t, in these instances, a true threat. Maybe we are approaching something new or unknown, and we feel afraid and retreat. In everyday life, this may look like caution, or prudence, or complacency, or clinging to the status quo (the status quo, after all, is known to us, and in its familiarity, feels safe).
This caution results, all too often, in a decision to not. To not try, to not leap, to not risk, to not change, to not get out of our comfort zones.
Now listen, I’m all for comfort. I’m a big fan. It’s, well, so comfortable! We should enjoy and revel in comfort as much as we can.
However, DO NOT DENY IT… We don’t typically experience exponential growth or evolution within our comfort zones.
In order to grow, we need to shake up the status quo, take risks, have new experiences, and yes, move toward our fears. Why? Because within fear, within that unease, we can find our GROWING EDGES.
And our growing edges are where the magic happens. These edges have the ability to transform our lives. I like to think of skiing as a metaphor. It can be terrifying to be standing at the top of the mountain, on two shiny, waxed planks, looking down the steep façade. Any novice skier could relate to the instinct or urge to lean back. But guess what happens if you lean back? Yup, you fall down on your butt, and pretty quickly at that! The trick of skiing is that you need to lean forward, and risk that sensation, or worry, that you may fall on your face!
What?!? Lean forward?? Yes! Lean into the fear!
In my own life, I try to manage my fears as best as I can. Fears are there, lurking in dark corners, and at times they have stopped me from moving towards what I truly want, what I know is right for me. At times my fear has delayed my own growth, betterment, and evolution. Every time though, eventually, my desire to grow, or my innate need to grow, or the force within me that propels me to grow, supersedes my fear. And I find the courage to leap.
And what’s more, every single time (in hindsight), I wonder what on earth I was so afraid of. Because the new-- the life I live after I risk-- is better, truer, more authentically me than the life I left behind when I leapt.
So the next time you feel fearful and have that urge to retreat from it, consider that you are on the verge something important… a growing edge… where the magic of your life unfolds.