Earlier this year Kathy and I visited friends who were staying in Arizona. On our way to visit the Grand Canyon we stopped in beautiful Sedona. And after enjoying a coffee on a balcony overlooking the red rock mountains we decided to embark on a hike toward a popular spot called Devil’s Bridge.
It was an incredible walk with some of the most amazing views. The last few hundred feet were steep with no hand rails so it was getting tough, but we pressed on.
When we finally arrived at our destination I decided to make my way onto the bridge. While I’m not typically afraid of heights, as I ventured out, my heart was pounding and I was a little shaky. The area was about 10-15 feet wide which seems like plenty of room until you realize you’re hundreds of feet above the ground.
I looked over to Kathy and our friends who were waiting for me on safer ground. I waived as she took some pictures and as I stood there, my legs got a little wobbly and thoughts started flooding my mind.
- What if a wind came up and blew me off? (turns out that actually happened later this year)
- What if while I’m standing here trying to be brave for the picture I lose my footing and slide off the edge.
- What if someone else came out here and brushed by me (and I pushed them off in self-protection)
Well, obviously I made it back and we continued on our way down the mountain. But here’s the thing…I experienced some fear that day and that’s a good thing. We all experience fear at some point in our lives and here are two reasons why we should be thankful for it.
1. Fear alerts us to “danger”
This one may be obvious but fear is a good thing because it makes us aware of potentially dangerous situations. It helps protect us from hot stoves, crossing busy streets and when we get too close to the edge of a river or mountain. Fear can act as a guardrail keeping us on the safe side of danger. While I enjoyed the challenge of Devil’s Bridge a healthy fear of the surroundings made me use the necessary caution to do so safely.
But there’s another reason fear is your friend.
2. Fear alerts us to “possibilities”
How many times have you decided not to do something because you were afraid? You saw an opportunity but you got nervous and backed away from it. I get it; fear has a way of warning us against doing something…like it’s looking out for us. But I think that’s a big mistake. Many times our fear is telling us to move ahead and do the very thing we are afraid of.
I could have allowed the fear I felt on the hike keep me from experiencing the thrill of making it out on the bridge. But instead I experienced an incredible moment by pushing through my fear. The very thing you are afraid of may be the very thing you ought to do. In fact I suggest the fear you feel is often confirmation you should do it.
So what are you afraid of? Afraid to ask that person out? Afraid to go to the gym for the first time? Afraid to confront a problem at work? Afraid to pursue a dream?
Be clear on what you’re really afraid of.
You’re not afraid to ask someone out…you’re afraid they’ll say “No”. You’re afraid of rejection.
You’re not afraid of exercising…you’re afraid of trying in front of strangers. You’re afraid of embarrassment.
You’re not afraid to have a conversation with a co-worker…you’re afraid the situation will get worse. You’re afraid of escalation.
You’re not afraid of your dream, you’re afraid of what others will say about it…you’re afraid it won’t work out like you hope it will. You’re afraid of failure.
Fear of rejection, embarrassment, retaliation and failure are common fears we all struggle with from time to time. And it would be easier to walk the other way rather than embracing them; but pushing through your fear is the one thing that will bring about the change you really want.
Fear is often a sign that you are doing something important. Fear is a natural part of any new decision or path that you want to take in your life. But imagine what you miss out on if you choose to stay put.
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Jack Canfield
So ask the person out, go to the gym, address the problem with your coworker and pursue your dream. If you don’t, you let fear keep you stuck, and you never get the date…you stay unhealthy…your workplace relationship actually gets worse…and you continue to live an unfulfilled life. The cost of not embracing fear is too high.
Fear is your friend…because it alerts you to danger but it also alerts you to possibilities.
If you need to make a change and fear is holding your back, ask yourself these 3 questions:
What am I really afraid of?
What is the worst outcome that can possibly happen? (It’s likely not as bad as you think)
How will I feel if I look back in 6 months and have not made the change(s) I want to make?
Q. What are you afraid of and what is your fear telling you to do about it?