Fear: Don’t Let It Fossilize You!

I’ve had some interesting conversations with people who want to make major changes in their lives. Smart, interesting, passionate people with talents galore. They’ve been doing the hard work of thinking what they want and how they might achieve it, step by step.

They’ve dared to throw out their old “rules.” They’ve dared to look at things through different lenses, to consider new options and alternatives, bravely charging ahead, again, step by step. As conversations continued, I detected slowing momentum. I asked what seemed to be holding them back. It didn’t take long for the word fear to spring to the surface.

Fear of what? Fear that all those steps had led to the edge of a cliff with no more small, safe baby steps available. Leap, or stop dead in your tracks. Opting for “Stop!” at such a point is a natural reaction, a means of self-preservation. But think about that word “preservation.” It stands for maintaining the status quo at the very time one is trying to update it!

In its grip, we typically fail to realize how much fear is influencing our thinking. We play sophisticated mind games under the guise of “doing more research,” or finding all the “Yes, but’s” to rationalize procrastinating. Usually the real culprit is not our circumstances but our fear.

Recognizing that is the first step to getting unstuck. Naming something changes the power that thing has over us. We can be more objective about weighing actual circumstances instead of imaginary ones.

It’s human nature to sweep fearful thoughts under a rug. I don’t know about your rugs, but mine don’t have enough room for all those thoughts, so no amount of sweeping does the job. Instead, like happy little gremlins they reproduce and spread, and my anxiety grows proportionately. It’s so much better to allow thoughts a full airing, to see them for what they are instead of what my imagination has inflated them to be.

Change can be scary, but it also represents opportunity. As a college student I happened upon this quote from Sam Ewing: “On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions who, at the dawn of decision, sat down to wait, and waiting died.” This pops into mind when I feel stuck. It’s a graphic image: a body slowly fossilizing from inaction. It reminds me that sometimes any action is preferable to paralysis, changing the landscape enough to get me moving again.

Planning is necessary. Some hurdles are real. But opportunities favor the brave, those willing to “flow with the river,” trusting that it will carry them where they need to go. Take baby steps when possible, but don’t be afraid to leap with faith when the signs point in that direction. There will be ample opportunities for course corrections and fine-tunings as the journey continues.