Motivation in the Face of Fear

Have you ever been afraid to try something new, or been afraid to take action because of the fear of failure?  We all have fears and yet some people learn to live with them and overcome them, while others are paralyzed in their presence.  Personally, I am afraid almost everyday, yet I still get up and face these fears and even overcome them once in a while.  Fear can lead one to action.  Once on a rock climb I was getting tired beyond belief and was moments away from falling.  There was a jagged ledge below and hitting it in a fall could have been deadly.  But somehow, the fear lead me to a do or die action, and I carefully placed my foot on solid holds, breathed in a deep breath, cleared my head and made the move to safety.  In that moment, fear led me forward and I used it to take appropriate action.  I remember being afraid to leave Boulder, Colorado for my first teaching job in California.  I was scared of moving across the country and failing at the job.  But I knew the kids there needed me, and I knew I could help students there find their way.  I was sad to leave the mountains, yet happy for newness.  In life you must always try to grow and seek new pastures or else you will surely fade away with the setting sun.  I remember being afraid to take up mountain bike racing again at age forty.  I wanted to see if I could rise to the challenge, because it had been fifteen years since I raced in Colorado.  I started training relentlessly and went to my first race in Danville, Virginia last October.  I was scared beyond reason and my nerves leading up to the race were overwhelming me.  I could not sleep for two days before the race and I kept catastrophizing bad situations that would happen during the race like getting a flat or crashing and getting hurt.  It turns out that after five minutes of racing it started to rain like a monsoon in Thailand.  It rained hard for an hour and the course was a slop fest.  But halfway through the first lap, I said to myself, “race your own race, it is just for fun.”  I finally calmed down and just started having fun.  I remember there was a woman who had tunes blaring from her I-Phone and she was just singing along with the music and having a blast in the rain.  I rode with her for a while and realized that really this endeavor was just for fun, and to try not to be so serious.  I pushed through the fear and started to have the time of my life.  Funny thing though on the second lap my front brake cable broke so I had only a back brake for nine miles in the mud soaked, slippery course.  But I kept going and finished the race.  I even took ninth place and still beat two people in my age class.  Wow, how was that possible?  Fear in that instance turned to action, and in the end I had fun and learned many lessons about living.  When you can turn fear into a motivator, life begins to reward you.  You realize that all things are possible and failure can happen, but it is all right.  If you fail at something, that is just an opportunity to try it again in a new way.  As Randy Pausch said in The Last Lecture, “Brick walls are there for a reason…’they’ are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”  Do you climb over the wall, do you dig a hole and go under it, or do you take a brick out and go through it?  Challenges are stepping-stones to action and trying new things in new ways.  If we never tried new things and stepped out of our comfort zone, we would never grow.  So think about whether fear is holding you back from realizing your true potential.  It is all right to have fear, but try not to let it overwhelm you to the point of non-action.  When you face life directly and go out there and live and not hide from life, life will truly reward you for your efforts.  I have learned so many life lessons simply by action and failure.  Get out there and try something new.  Climb a mountain, write a story, ride your bike, communicate to a distant family member, ask a girl or guy out to the movies, dream big, travel, live life.  Take your next step.  In the end, only good things will come to you.


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