On a group trip to Lake Tahoe I hooked up with a few people I didn’t know to ski with for the day. It turned out they were great skiers. Many of them were even former ski instructors. Following them had me push my own limits in ways I would likely not have on my own. It was incredibly satisfying and I was amazed that I seemed to improve more in that one morning than I had in the last 5 years on the slopes.
After lunch we went off into some lesser traveled territory on the mountain. I had to work hard just to keep up. As we stopped in front of a few rock outcroppings to catch our breath, I watched with a growing pit in my stomach as one by one they chose the path of the chute between the rocks. It looked like a cliff to me, but there did not seem to be a way to get around it. So I waited and watched as I felt the fear expand.
“Here I am, Says Sam I am”
I found myself in a situation requiring that I “feel the fear and do it anyway” or quit and ask someone to send help.
As I was about to choose the latter one of the guys in the group came up behind me and asked if I was ok. He could sense my fear, but told me confidently:”You can do this.” Since he was an instructor I chose to believe him. (Although I did ask for him to wait for me in case someone had to pick up the pieces!)
He then reminded me of one of the most important lessons in skiing. When you are afraid the natural tendency is to lean back. To your mind, leaning back is akin to pulling away from the fear. It seems like it will protect you but the opposite is true. Lean back on a steep slope and you could get into real trouble because you could lose control. You have to lean into the mountain, defying your mind’s faulty attempt at self-protection.
Turns out it is also a very important life lesson. When you are afraid, the natural tendency is to lean back – to pull away from what you fear.
It’s natural because your mind’s job is to protect you. Except your mind doesn’t always know the difference between a real danger and an imagined one. I used to be terrified of public speaking, for example. It wasn’t life threatening but my body’s response indicated otherwise. There might as well have been a tiger chasing me.
We all fear something: often that “something” is between who we are and where we are in life now, and who we want to become and where we want to be.
The fear is very real. There are, of course, risks even if they aren’t threatening to life or limb. Yet it is only when you are willing to lean into your fear so you can move through it to the other side that you will discover who you really can be. Sure you may fail, but if you don’t try you may never discover what is possible for you or take a step closer to learn how to succeed.
What do you want enough to be willing to lean into your fear – to feel the fear and act in spite of it?
Give yourself a reason to expand your limits. Want something bad enough and you will find the courage to challenge your mind in favor of who you can become.