Posts Tagged ‘courage’

In recent years, I have seen a vast amount of changes both in my external world and my internal landscape. From US politics to the world’s environment, from where I live now to my overall health, change has been the most constant part of my life (as the saying goes).  A year and a half ago, I was just barely packing up a life of 13 years to move out of state…more because I felt like it than anything else. I’ve gotten a tattoo, done a triathlon, started a new job, picked up writing and editing jobs, jumped out of a perfectly good plane, learned to downhill mountain bike, began surfing again–all amazing and wonderful experiences I would never have had if I allowed fear to control me.

However, fear still lurks everywhere. This month, January 2013, my goal is to face and conquer as many of my fears as possible. The reasoning? Let’s take skydiving. My friend, Stacey, invited me to her birthday-skydiving extravaganza. At first I heartily refused, but when I considered WHY I was so eager to decline, it occurred to me it was primarily terror. There was no rational explanation or discussion regarding my hesitance, but the turmoil must have stemmed from the unknown. As we watched the “safety” video, a friend snapped a picture of me…having a panic attack. The attack didn’t abate. I pretended all was well, but once airborne the panic set in hard. Hyperventalating, near tears, and shaking, the jump instructor next to me locked me to him to keep me calm.

But it wasn’t until my instructor scooted me toward the door that I thought I might die. Sweat rivulets everywhere, hard breathing, a slew of swear words, and then…

…we were out! Dancing through the air, I instantly fell in love. No gravity, no concerns, and no fear. It was the unknown that had prevented my desire to jump, but facing that horrid, sickly panic head on made me feel powerful, confident, strong! At landing, I couldn’t stop smiling. My throat was sore from screams of joy. “Again?” I asked, half joking, but also half very, very serious.

Had fear stopped me, I would never have known this joy, and I would not have this memory.

Years later, this experience still stays with me, reminding me that facing fears makes me stronger. If I can jump out of a plane, surely I can…[fill in the blank].

The Missouri Department of Mental Health states that fear is most common if it includes such things as:

  • Dread: Dying in a terrorist attack tends to seem more frightening than dying of aheart attack in your sleep because it is more “dreadful.”
  • Awareness: Right now terrorism seems more frightening than mad cow diseasebecause it is on our “radar screen.” The media plays a major role in definingcurrent concerns.
  • Familiarity: New risks tend to be more frightening than those with which we arefamiliar.

and continues by saying “We can choose to avoid feared situations (such as riding in an airplane) or we can choose to encounter the feared situation (riding in a plane despite feeling fear).”

So this month, I choose to face the situations that most hold me captive: karaoke (more so being vulnerable in front of a group of people, or just the fear of judgement), icy slopes and big jumps, submitting my writing, surfing “big” waves, and just trust in general. Though I may not conquer all of these, I certainly will become a stronger woman by facing fears each day! Using The Yamas and Niyamas as my ethical guide, I will look into the heart of my fears because “to create a life and a world free of violence is first and foremost to find our own courage.”


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Though mothers around the world cringe at the thought of their offspring and “risk” in the same sentence, it has been proven that taking risks in adolescence is “a positive tool in an adolescent’s life for discovering, developing, and consolidating his or her identity”, as per Dr. Lynn E. Ponton. Taking risks is vital to our development, but should we stop taking risks when we become adults?

We have graduated college, found a career, maybe even settled down. The harder we’ve worked, the more we have to lose. Fear of loss, then, causes most adults to risk less, to find safe routines and comfortable lives. Yet this comfort–immediately lounging on the couch after work, rarely stepping out to meet friends unless it’s a special occasion, spending more time indoors than out–can also lead to complacency and later, despondency. We become lazy, overweight, energy-less, and with fewer and fewer experiences to make living worthwhile. However, reintroducing risk to break up routine can solve that!

At learnthis.ca, “Reach Out Beyond Your Comfort Zone” encourages readers to, once a month, take a small, calculated risk to break up routine. Some safe, small risks to try are:

  • Get out of the office at lunch (if you normally stay in)
  • Meet a friend you rarely see for coffee or a drink
  • Do something for a stranger. This can be volunteering or even just complimenting or smiling at a random person.
  • Step out of your normal “media” circle: try a new genre of book, music, or movie
  • Try a new and exotic food
  • Approach and tackle a fear, like skydiving or taking a dance class

Essentially, risk is comprised of four elements: get out of a comfort zone, face a challenge, use innovation, and have courage. Escaping the area of most comfort allows us to explore and re-examine who we are. Too much routine and we lose the definition of ourselves. We do this through facing, embracing, and hopefully overcoming a challenge of any variety. One day it might be dealing with feisty parents, while another it might be hucking off a cliff on a snowboard. When we approach these challenges, we must do so with innovation (new thinking) and courage, lest we turn and run the other way.

That courage element can often be a tricky one. “Life and Business Tips” on blogspot recommends the following to increase courage:

  • Feel and accept your fear, then visualize a positive outcome
  • Practicing daily affirmations can contribute to increased courage as well. Affirmations, such as “I am courageous. I am strong, bold and confident.” repeated regularly help guide our subconscious into a more powerful level.
  • Do a daily “anchor” exercise where you remember and meditate on a moment in your life where you feel particularly courageous.
  • As the song in Beauty and the Beast advised, “be prepared.” Know what you fear and make an informed plan of attack. For example, I once feared skydiving. I researched, learned the process, and went knowing I was ready.
  • Exercise daily. It isn’t enough to be mentally prepared, we must be physically balanced as well.
  • And last, seek examples. We can find courage in everything from uplifting movies to biographies of strong people, or even a personal role model who has achieved that which you desire.

Risk is important at all stages of our lives, but we must remember that the types of risks are what change, not whether or not we take risks. As a teenager, I took risks I know now were seriously dangerous. So as an adult, I have the capacity to make better decisions, and better risks. Dare I say even more fun risks!

Of late I’ve found myself in a routine. Same morning rituals, same afternoons and evenings. This has lead me into the “funk” I currently am swimming in, and might be partially to blame for my current illness. Thankfully, tomorrow I have the opportunity to change. Why wait for tomorrow? Right now I am plotting my revenge against routine, am building a courageous future, and hope you join me on it!


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