Anchored By Fear

Chronic boredom is the sting of non-being,
The pain of the unlived life,
The roads not explored,
The risks not taken,
The persons not loved,
The thoughts not thought,
The feelings not savored.

                                                        —Sam Keen

canoe cropped 2

Picture yourself canoeing down a stream. All’s running smoothly until you see something that warns you of possible trouble out ahead—tree limbs are sticking out of water.

Anchored to fear, you stop dead in the water. In this state of motionlessness your life stands still. You try to reassure yourself by saying,  “At least I’m safe.” But are you? I’m reminded of this quote by Henry David Thoreau: “The tragedy of a man’s life is what dies inside of him while he lives.”

Ned, a client of mine, is safe but miserable. He has dreams—marvelous and reachable dreams—but he’s constantly paralyzed by a brain full of what-ifs, like “What if I don’t succeed?”

He wanted to know how to overcome that barrier. I started by giving him a personal example:

Several years ago, I took scuba diving classes before taking a trip to the Caribbean. Scuba diving was on the itinerary and I wanted to be prepared. But when the time came to perform, I froze. There I was in all my diving gear, poised to jump off the boat, but nothing happened. I couldn’t jump! This wasn’t me. I love the water and I’m a good swimmer! I think I stood there for ten solid minutes while everyone was forced to wait on me. Not a comfortable moment.

What was wrong? My brain was full of the what-ifs. Was a hungry shark awaiting his lunch? Would the equipment work? Did I really learn what I was supposed to learn?

Finally, I made the decision to take the plunge (literally). I did not have the luxury of waiting for my fears to subside. I decided to jump—despite my fears.

That event and others like it taught me that we have to act—seize the moment—if we want life to be real for us. We can’t wait for our fears to go away because they won’t. We’ll be waiting forever.

My son, Tav, once said this:

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, “Am I in control of the outcome, or is my most feared outcome controlling me?”

That is where I took Ned next. I wanted him to feel capable of managing obstacles instead of being a helpless victim at their mercy. And in fact, according to Orison Swett Marden,

“Most obstacles melt away when we make up our minds to walk boldly through them.”

My earlier blog post titled “Close Your Eyes and Jump!” also addresses this topic.

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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Filed under Client of the Week, Get Free

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