Fear + Excitement = Winning Combo

A COUPLE years ago, Melissa and I were walking through a village in Belize on our way to breakfast. While talking about where we planned to go hiking that day, Melissa pointed out that the trails were behind a place that offered a zip lining tour through the jungle.

“What do you think,” she said, “want to zip line first and then hike?”

“Um, no thanks,” I said before she could finish the question. “Hiking I can do, but zip lining? No. I’ll gladly cheer you on from the ground, though.”

As we drove to the hiking spot, I found myself contemplating the idea of giving zip lining a shot. I felt kind of excited but mostly terrified. Would I regret not doing it? I mean, how often am I in Belize with acres and acres of jungle available to explore?

The closer we got, the more my excitement grew and the more my fear lessened. Now don’t get me wrong, my fear was still like an 8 out of 10, but earlier in the day it was a 12.

“Maybe we can talk to the people at the zip line place,” I said to Melissa. “You know, so I can feel them out and see how nice they are.”

I talked to them, explained how scared I was, got my questions answered, and felt I could maybe do this. Once I learned that it would just be me, Melissa, and two guides, my fear decreased even more. It’s not like I’d look like a baby in front of a lot of brave zip lining strangers.

So…. I did it! And it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Granted I made the guide go with me each time and be in charge of speeding up or slowing down so I could just enjoy the ride, but I did it. On one of the runs, he even got me to flip almost completely upside down! It was exhilarating!

You see, fear and excitement are opposite sides of the same coin. When you feel scared about something, if you look closely enough, you’ll see there’s also some giddiness under there. You’re likely feeling a little excited at the idea of going for it, whatever “it” is for you.

It’s normal to feel the fear first. It jumps in quickly in hopes of you not even noticing the excitement. Like when Melissa mentioned zip lining, I immediately shot it down without pausing to think about it. Fortunately, we had a long enough drive to the hiking trails that I had time to let the joy peek out from under the fear.

That experience really drove home that I need to pause before answering; that the one who is quickest to answer is my inner naysayer. You know, that part of you who is scared of making any kind of change or trying anything new?

She’s a source of mental clutter that needs purging just like any other kind, but the way to clear this kind isn’t to throw it away or donate it. This clutter needs to be heard; to be made to feel safe; to know its fears are being tended to.

The naysayer needs baby steps, like when I talked to the owners of the zip line place in Belize. That was something she could get on board with. I didn’t immediately ask her to get geared up and start climbing. I dipped her toe in the water by getting some questions answered, and when she had more information, she felt safer with me and was then more willing to go for it. I showed her that I had her back.

While zip lining may seem like an extreme example, the same principle applies to anything you’re feeling tentative about:

  • Accepting a new job
  • Getting married
  • Restructuring your business
  • Letting go of boxes of old memories you’ve held onto for years
  • Exploring that big, hairy, audacious goal you think isn’t possible
  • Being open to new and different perspectives

Whatever your crossroad, this week I challenge you to pause and look at what is rumbling alongside your fear. What about this option, decision, or new direction feels stimulating? Intriguing? Titillating? See past your hesitation to the opportunities that might be waiting for you down that other path.

You needn’t fly through the jungles of Belize to experience the joy, surrender, and exhilaration of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Just find one small way you can step out of your comfort zone this week. The more often you do, the less fear you’ll feel. Then, my friend, you’ll soon see that there is nothing you can’t do!

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