We all feel it.
We all experience it.
Simply put, there's no avoiding it. Fear is just part of the human experience.
And whether we acknowledge it or not, fear is often what influences most of our decisions. Or choices.
You don't believe me? When was the last time you caught yourself thinking what could go RIGHT..? when making an important choice?
Our default is usually what could go WRONG..?. Right?
And that's fear-based.
Hypothetically speaking, in a perfect world without fear, there could be no wrong.
If (again, hypothetically) we approached every experience from a neutral place (without judgement), any outcome would simply be viewed as interesting. Even if it wasn't the specific outcome we initially intended.
That's the theory, anyway.
In reality, fear plays an important role. It's our guide. It tells us when we're limiting ourselves.
Yup, fear is our built-in indicator that we have beliefs that don't serve us.
A Personal Example
Some years ago, when I was new to trail running, a fellow mountain-goat (FMG) suggested that we enter a local 100 miler. Yup, that's 100 MILES. In the mountains"¦!
My default reaction was a resounding NO..!. No surprises there.
From where I stood, it just seemed impossible. A gargantuan task.
What if I couldn't make it? An official DNF (runner's-speak for "did not finish") is a runner's worst nightmare.
My mind focused only on disaster scenarios. Lack of sleep, blistered feet, bad weather, even potentially serious injuries.
All fears. Based in limiting beliefs.
Luckily, this same FMG is an (annoyingly) optimistic fellow. He is a rare breed who naturally defaults to what fun..! So, after patiently listening to my tirade of fear, he gently shifted the conversation in the opposite direction. Away from fear. Towards adventure. Eagerness. Anticipation.
What if we just do it for fun? He asked.
Imagine running through the night! In the dark! How cool! What an adventure! He added.
What if we simply start, and then see how it goes?
As I listened to him, I felt a small tickle of excitement begin to emerge.
And as his enthusiasm flowed and gathered momentum, so the tickle grew too. And I found myself thinking Could I"¦?
So, I did it. I jumped in. Both feet.
Yup, I entered.
And the 6 months leading up to the event was a balancing act between feeling fear (sometimes terror) and then consciously shifting my focus to the good stuff instead.
And that's precisely how it's supposed to be.
That's how the "system" works.
Because that fear had a purpose. It helped me prepare. It gave birth to new desires. It gave me CLARITY in what I DID want, through observing what I DIDN'T want (limiting beliefs).
Whant I Learnt
Fears of a DNF gave birth to the creation of the perfect training program. Quite simply, I wanted to finish.
The fear of blisters motivated much research into the ideal trail shoes and foot care. Good foot-care was key to an awesome experience.
Fear of the cold and wet inspired the purchase of decent rain gear. The importance of staying warm and dry was a no-brainer for success.
And fear of potential injuries led me towards a proper strength training program. I wanted to feel strong. Fit. Confident.
This story has a happy ending. And my fears paid off.
I did the event. I finished. Without injuries and only minor blisters.
And it was one of the most AWESOME experiences of my life.
One I would have missed had I succumbed to my initial fears. Those fears that screamed NO! Those fears fueled by the belief that completing a 100 miler was impossible.
Make no mistake, the actual event consisted of 31 hours of fluctuating between elation and despair. Rapidly and often without warning.
100 miles has the ability to bring out interesting aspects of yourself previously unexplored and untapped. Exhaustion and lack of sleep can do that"¦
Quite honestly, my FMG deserves sainthood. He does! I whined and complained. A lot.
Yet, thanks (largely) to this same wonderful FMG, and his initial persistence in twisting my arm, I got to weed out my limiting beliefs and methodically whittle them down to mere thoughts.
In creating new (more exciting) beliefs, I faced and processed each little contributing fear. One step at a time.
So there it is: Fears serve a purpose.
A big one.
Our fears are a tool. An indicator that we're accessing a limiting fear.
And when we shift our perspective and recognise that, their power over us dissipates. Pretty quickly, actually.
And from there we can appreciate their VALUE.
Instead of trying to avoid or ignore them. Or judging them as bad.
Quite simple, really"¦
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