To get unstuck, we have to overcome our fears. The only way to do that is to confront them!
My oldest son, Caleb, seems to struggle with many fears. He’s a borderline hypochondriac at times. He is not comfortable talking to people. He sometimes worries too much about his looks and about what other people think of him. But I think his biggest fears are in the categories of “change” and “trying something new.”
When he was 7, we were going to sign him up for baseball because he enjoyed playing catch and batting. He was a natural. A week before sign-ups, he said he didn’t want to play anymore. Although disappointed, we didn’t want to force him so we let it go. A week after the sign-up deadline, he changed his mind. Too late. But lesson learned for mom and dad, because the following year, history repeated itself. He got cold feet just before sign-ups, but we signed him up anyway and he went on to have an amazing “career” in Little League, elementary school and junior high.
The pattern appeared again during the summer before junior high, when we started talking about him playing golf for the school team. He had never played competitively before, but he started to get excited and we found him a good starter set on sale. The week of tryouts, he got cold feet and started complaining and moaning about how he didn’t want to play anymore because he wasn’t any good and he’d embarrass himself. I dragged him to the information meeting. And then told him to just go to tryouts and if he didn’t like it, he didn’t have to play. Plus, if he got cut, then no harm done anyway. He made the team—barely—and then decided to stick it out. When he started, he was number nine on the depth chart of a 10-player roster. He finished the season at number two on the depth chart. He has kept playing and has played on the Varsity team in high school all three years he’s been there.
I could go on and on with examples like this, but let me share just one more. At the end of his freshman year, he had the opportunity to go to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes summer camp at U.C. Davis. It’s four hours from home and was going to be his first time being alone away from home for an extended period of time—about four days. One of his golf teammates would be there, but other than that, he didn’t know anyone else going. In addition, his friend would already be at the venue ahead of him, so he was going to have to ride a bus to the camp filled with other kids from around the area. So to recap, he has to ride four hours with a bus full of strangers, to a location he’s never been to, with no family and—oh yeah—he was going to have to share a dorm room with a kid that he didn’t know. Total Discomfort Zone. And as expected, about two weeks prior to the trip, the complaining started that he didn’t want to go anymore and why couldn’t he just stay home and blah, blah, blah.
Two weeks later, I dropped him off at the bus, gave him a hug, told him I loved him and watched him drive off in the bus. My oldest boy. Alone and afraid. (I’m getting a bit emotional as I retell this.) A few days later, when we went to pick him up, I got even more emotional—not from welcoming him home, although it was exciting to see him. No, what got me emotional were the first words out of his mouth. As soon as he saw us, before he even said “hello”, he said “Can I go again next year?”
I share all these examples because I can’t think of any others that are better at illustrating the perfect way to attack our fears and get unstuck. And that is to just act, in spite of the fear. (In fact, there’s a great book on this subject whose title almost matches that called Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway) The only difference between my son and me (and you) is that I don’t have anyone to drag me into doing things that I know will be good for me. Except me. Caleb had to face his fears because I had the leverage as his dad to make him. The only person with that type of leverage on me is… me. And I’m an expert at negotiating my way out of confronting my fears. Steven Pressfield calls this “Resistance”. And there are lots of other less flattering names for it, too.
I can’t imagine letting Caleb stay stuck in his fears. He may have never experienced all the pleasant surprises and joys of playing baseball, golf, and FCA camp. Nor gone on our hike to Mt. Whitney. Nor rode any roller coasters. And yet I let myself stay stuck every day.
I like how Matt Damon attacks fear in the film We Bought A Zoo. His son has a crush on a girl that works at the zoo and can’t decide how or if he should let her know. What if she doesn’t feel the same way about him? What if she rejects him? Damon encourages his son by saying, “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.” His son takes his advice and acts. Later, (SPOILER ALERT) it’s revealed that Damon’s brother in the film was the original source of that advice. To which Damon says, “I have lived my whole life by that one statement,” indicating that that is how he met his wife, and how he came to be the owner of the zoo, etc.
What could you do in 20 seconds of insane courage to get yourself unstuck?
Maybe it’s calling that employer or that personal contact that you’ve always wanted to work for or with. Maybe it’s taking a step toward starting that new business you’ve been thinking about. Maybe it’s calling that special person that you’ve been thinking about. Or doing something spontaneous with your spouse to reignite the spark that’s grown dim. Or humbling yourself to apologize for that rude thing you said and reconciling.
Anyway, I’ve gone on way too long and I had meant to include some of the Bible verses that talk about not being afraid and not being anxious, but I’ll save those for another post. For now, let’s just focus on 20 seconds of insane courage.
- Step 1: Make a list of all the fears that are keeping you stuck. Call them out. Expose them.
- Step 2: Write the worst-case scenario of your fear coming true.
- Step 3: Write out the best-case (and more probable) scenario of what your action could produce.
- Step 4: Decide if you can live with the worst-case scenario happening, and if so…
- Step 5: …take action! Do it. 20 seconds of insane courage.
Let’s stop letting fear control us. Tell fear to take a hike, grab life by the collar and take action. Like Caleb, I’m confident we’ll find some pleasant surprises on the other side.