A good friend of mine got all gung ho on me and started a rant about how men aren’t men anymore and real men fear nothing. The good news, he is a dear friend and completely understands when I openly laugh at what he is saying. The down side, I have heard this from different people over the years, and I believe it’s totally wrong.
In my experience, fear is kind of like our Spidey sense tingling. It isn’t there to keep me from acting, but rather an early warning system. When mine goes off, I hear a little voice in my head that says “Hey! You are about to do something stupid/dangerous/both, try not to get us killed ok? Oh, by the way, I think >insert name of whoever I talked into doing this insane act with me< is primed to buy the first round.” Okay, so now you know that I’m likely both a little crazy and a beer predator.
Bottom line on this, fear happens. It’s a defense mechanism that humans have developed over time to survive. But like I said, it’s not meant to paralyze us. It is there to let us know we are about to do something that may get us…well, dead, and we should be a little careful.
I bring this up because fear is one of the greatest enemies of growth. I hear it often; I can’t. Which typically means, “I am afraid.” And that’s okay.
I understand fear. I’ve felt it. A few summers ago I (at the ripe young age of 40) flew to Korea to train with Olympic level athletes in the fine sport of Olympic style Tae Kwon Do sparring. For those that don’t quite understand where the fear part comes in, I will explain. I was 40, very close to 41. They were 18-21. Three of them went to the Olympics. One of them won a medal. The others lost just out of medal range. I have a full time job, a wife and a daughter and I teach Tae Kwon Do. They have nothing better to do than train; a lot. Three hours into a training session and the coach says now is the time to start the full contact (no pads) portion of the day…..remember the don’t get us killed voice?
So yeah, I get fear. I also understand that while it hurt training with them (sometimes a lot), I didn’t die. In fact, I got better. A lot better to be honest; I grew. Had I hid or run away from this experience, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
When students have this come up, I like to have them stop and take a moment. Ask themselves if this feeling of fear is from a genuine threat to their safety, such as the road up ahead ends at a cliff, or if it’s something else.
If it does fall into the something else category, I encourage them to take a risk, face their fear and maybe grow in the process. Fear is a limiter if and only if we let it be. The next time you feel you’ve reached your limit, that fear is telling you to stop, whether it’s starting a new workout regimen, trying a new posture or technique or some other life event, take a breath and take just one more step forward. Growth awaits.