I begin each morning by identifying three things I want to accomplish that day.
I also leave a bit of room for things to pop up throughout the day, because I like never really knowing where the day will take me.
Today it took me to a couple of phone calls with close friends that ended up forming a theme.
One friend was considering a lucrative offer to live and teach abroad in South America. Sounds good, right? The friend she was planning to go with backed out and she wasn’t sure she wanted to go alone. The other friend was considering moving — from the place she has called home for the last thirty years to the city she’s always wanted to live in. Both were unsure of how to proceed. They knew what they wanted — but when the time came to make the decision they were feeling the same limitation: fear.
I’ve heard it said that every action has one of two feelings driving it: love or fear. If fear is really that dominant in our lives, there must be a reason.
Fear serves us well. It keeps us from being emotionally or physically reckless with our lives. It often stops us from inflicting damage on ourselves or others. It might also, however, unnecessarily stop us from embracing a change that is good for us. It may keep us from visiting a place or meeting a person that enriches our lives. When fear is not serving us, how can we overcome it? And how do we know the difference?
What is holding you back besides fear?
If you can’t answer this question, proceed to the next….
What is it exactly that you are you afraid of? Is it being alone, not being safe and secure? Or is it the judgment of others?
What is waiting for you on the other side of fear?
I asked my friend today what exactly it was she was afraid of, moving abroad to teach. Her reply: “it’s a fear of the unknown.”
In embracing the “unknown,” we accept that we don’t have much if any control over the future. Your level of comfort with fear and the unknown is ultimately a reflection of your level of optimism. The unknown could be bad or worse — but it could also be great or better.
So what next? The most important question you can ask yourself also happens to be the antidote for fear: what are you going to regret more?
When we really want something, we don’t let fear hold us back. Choosing to side with your fear means you didn’t really want it that much in the first place.
For so many of us, this is what travel gives us. With each trip, with each new country, we gain incremental perspective and experience that adds up to confidence. The sixteen-year-old me that went to Germany is not the same as the twenty-year-old me that moved in with a family in Barcelona — nor the twenty-five-year old me that went to India to teach. Travel isn’t the only reason for this — but it’s a large part of it.
I felt so much fear when I left my job to travel. I felt fear when I wasn’t sure what country I’d be visiting next or where I’d be sleeping that night. I felt fear as I learned to scuba dive, bungy jump off a bridge, or attempted to speak French to a waiter in Paris (What! They’re really intimidating!)
The irony is that I feel more fear now that I’m not traveling. I am scared of the uncertainty I have to cozy up to in order to start my life over from scratch.
When I explain this to friends, they universally acknowledge that the fear is valid. They then resolve, “it is much more exciting than it is scary.” And that’s true.
“Making a big life change is scary. You know what’s scarier? Regret.”
Comfort zones are fun places to be. I crave comfort and familiarity as much as the next person. Yet by now we know that life is change. If you’re standing at the edge of a ledge, and you know that you’ll have to eventually jump off…would you rather you worked up the courage and decided to leap, or would you rather someone pushed you off? (Because life will push you. That’s how it works.)
The beautiful paradox is the more we leap, the more confident we become in the act of leaping. The more we choose to jump, the more side effects of change — such as growth and perspective — we gain.
I’m beginning to see that the more fear, the more unknown, that I am comfortable living with…the more possibility and potential I am open to. It’s what’s on the other side of fear that excites me. It has certainly proven true for me in my travels.
We can’t abandon fear altogether, but we can work to get over there — wherever there may be — faster.
What places have you traveled that were scary at the time (but might not be now?)
What are you on the cusp of? Where in your life is fear or regret the only thing holding you back?
Could travel be something that helps you become more comfortable with leaping?