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When You Feel the Fear, Do This Instead


I’ve been away for a few weeks on one of the most significant trips that our family has ever taken. We ate well, followed the footsteps of history, and did things that we would never do at home. In our son’s case, that meant rappelling down a makhtesh that’s also the world’s largest erosion crater.

Before our trip, when we talked about rappelling, he was excited. During his school camps, he had gone abseiling and loved it. Then we arrived on location, and suddenly, it was as if his confidence was possessed by an unexpected strong gust of wind and thrown over the edge of the crater never to be seen again.

Here’s a view of the crater from our hotel room:

As his Mom, I tried to be encouraging, but that only goes so far when you tell someone, “You’ve got this and no, I wouldn’t do it in a billion years. Have fun!”

I stood safely back from the edge and watched our guide hook up the ropes and had our son step into the harness.

Then our son stopped.

“I don’t want to do this,” he said with conviction.

We all shouted our support.

You’ll love it!

We’ve talked about this!

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!

Be brave!

What we didn’t shout, but all thought was:

Holy crap, thank goodness that’s not me.

As he walked to the edge, his protestations got louder.

“Please. Unhook me. I really don’t want to do this.”

The guide tried to center him on his voice. He spoke to him calmly and soothingly, but it did little to convince our son he should go over the edge. At one point, he’ll never admit it, I think he was almost in tears.

As his mother, I wanted to stand up and shout to get him unhooked ASAP! He didn’t want to do it, and we weren’t going to push him over the edge! A smaller, quieter part of me knew that the guide wouldn’t force him, safety was paramount, but was trying to help him find it within himself.

Related: This Approach Will Let Your Leadership Shine Every Time

Then the guide said the words that changed everything:

“Stop thinking about the fear; think about the success.”

Something had shifted. Our son was still afraid, but instead of being frozen and ready to walk away, he started moving towards his goal.

Do You Feel Like You’re Rappelling Down a Cliff?

It’s not often you’re literally going over the edge of a cliff, but there are many times in life that it feels like it. Starting a business, new job, getting married, moving overseas, you name it. It’s something that you really want to do but the closer you get to doing it, the louder the voice in your head shouts that you should stop. What if you get hurt or fail or hate the choice that you made?

Let’s Get Real

In my son’s case, he had a harness, and his rappelling set up by an expert. He wasn’t getting a running start, jumping over the edge, and hoping for the best.

In your case, there’s planning, work, and effort that enables you to make the leap from here to where you want to go. It’s not about satisfying a whim, but instead making a decision and taking action to make the leap.

When your brain goes into overdrive, and you begin to obsess over everything that could go wrong, your deepest fears, it doesn’t mean you have to listen. You can stop focusing your energy on the fear and like our guide that day said, focus on the success.

Ask Yourself

What is it you want to create?

When you’ve gone over your mental cliff instead of running in the other direction, what will it feel like?

What will you learn about yourself by moving forward?

Who do you want to be? Need to be?

Who’s writing your story?

Tune Out to Tune In

It’s easy to encourage someone to take a huge risk and go where they’re most afraid to go from the sidelines. I gave my son a double thumbs up to do something I’d never have the courage to do.

When you have naysayers or encouragers surrounding you, neither one can force you to move. You need to turn within, beneath the fear, and listen to your inner knower.

As I watched my son go over the edge and begin his descent, yes, I wanted to throw up, but I was proud. He found it within himself to not let fear take the lead. He also was a role model for me to take a look at my life and be honest about where I was embracing the fear, the worst case scenario, and forgetting to envision the success.

Create a picture of your success, your best case scenario, that’s so big and irresistible that it calls you forward. You have what it takes, you just need to be brave enough to go for it.

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