Much of my life has been spent in fear, keeping me from going after what I wanted and living my life to the fullest. I was unable to put fear behind me and take positive action in the moment until I spent time with a group of people learning to move past their fears. I learned fear did not need to be a roadblock in my life and, in fact, fear could be an ally.
My first experience with moving beyond fear was a day of rope course activities designed to take the participants outside of their normal way of thinking and present them with a new perspective. The objective was to climb a forty foot telephone pole, stand on a small platform on top and jump from there to a swing which represented a goal. The exercise would require each person to choose into the event and take action that seemed fearful towards their goal. At each point fear became overwhelming, they would once again get to choose to move forward. The focus of the event was “look, see, move.” We were learning to trust ourselves in moving forward towards our goal even when we felt uncomfortable.
When my turn came, I prepared by putting the harness and other safety equipment on. I turned, faced the pole, and listened as the facilitator told me I could make fear my friend. My heart was pounding, my hands shaking and my breathing ragged. I placed my hands on the bars and took my first step onto the pole. I started moving methodically up the pole, looking ahead for my next move and then moving. I slowed as I neared the platform at the top. It was no more than twelve inches across, round and appeared wobbly. I reached my hand onto the disc and stopped.
The mountain air was still and the team cheering me on from below quieted as I stood there clinging to the pole. The pole stopped swaying and I hung there in the silence. This was the moment of facing the fear I felt in every cell of my body. Finally, I took my next step up with both hands now on the disc and my right foot poised to move upwards. I took a deep breath and then, in one swift move, stood up on the disc, stayed for a brief moment and then fell, my safety equipment catching me and lowering me safely to the ground. Though I did not make it to the swing, my success was huge. I learned I could keep moving in spite of my fear and that alone made a significant impact on my life.
A few months later I put my new learning into action. I was part of a team of people who volunteered to put on a grand opening party for the local YWCA as they celebrated the renovation of their facility. I volunteered to call restaurants and ask for donations of food for the event. Each phone call seemed like climbing that forty foot pole again. I had very little experience with making this kind of call and was way outside my comfort zone. I would sit at my desk, telephone in hand, staring at my computer screen where I had my call list and my script for the call. Then, just like taking a step onto the pole, I started to dial. With a sick stomach and shaking hands, I asked for assistance. I was amazed to find supportive, wonderful people, even when they were not able to donate. The fear began to subside, my focus moved to the objective and the task became easier.
Learning to look at the objective instead of the fear helped when I started thinking about going back to school. I would go to the DeVry website, my heart would begin to pound and I’d close the site. Then one day I marked the box to ask for information. I received a phone call from an advisor who explained some of the programs and invited me in to talk with her. I went to the appointment and registered for school. Once I took the initial step, the fear was gone and the process was easy.
Using fear as an ally has become second nature now. While I still feel the butterflies in my stomach and hesitate from time to time, I now know I have to act. The sooner I take action, the less power fear has. From the moment I took that first step up onto the pole, I chose to stop allowing fear to be a roadblock by using it as a catalyst for movement. Fear is now my ally.