What Are You Afraid Of?

Posted: 29th January 2016

Next week I’m doing Zip World Velocity. I’m telling you this because I hope my going public about it might just keep me from chickening out at the top. I want to be able to say I did it, and not that I was too scared. My ‘tough’ reputation means more to me than the minute of terror I anticipate I’ll experience. And I have been promised the biggest adrenaline rush ever at the end of it.

Why the terror? Zip World Velocity is a mile-long zip line over Bethesda quarry in Snowdonia, North Wales. “Passengers” are suspended from the zip line horizontally in a flying position and can reach speeds of up to 100mph. It’s actually very safe, but my subconscious will undoubtedly tell me a compelling story about how the cable, the slide mechanism, and the harnesses will come undone, fail to slow me down, twist in the wind… and so on.

Zip World Velocity

This is an obvious fear to experience. But I’ve been musing about some other fears we experience, fears that equally shape our decisions and behaviours but in a more damaging and life-limiting way.

"" When we don’t say what we want to say because we are afraid we will upset people.
"" When we don’t do the things we want to because we are afraid other people will misunderstand our motives.
"" When we don’t share experiences with others because we are afraid we will be judged negatively.
"" When we don’t publish our work because we are afraid our thoughts and ideas will fall short, that our grammar won’t be perfect, and we’ll open ourselves up to criticism.
"" When we stick with a course, a degree, a career, because we think it’s too late to choose again.
"" When we behave indecisively because we are afraid of making the wrong decision – even if it is totally reversible.
"" When we don’t speak up in meetings because we are afraid people will think we are naïve or inexperienced, or that our opinions are ill-formed.
"" When we turn down an opportunity to give a presentation because we are afraid of looking foolish to our audience and not being able to answer their questions afterwards.
"" When we accept a position we don’t really want because we don’t think there will be a better alternative.
"" When we don’t ask a question because we think we already know the answer and it’s the answer we don’t want to hear.
"" When we don’t compete for something we really want, because we are afraid to look foolish if we don’t win. So we don’t throw our hat in the ring, we pretend we are ambivalent and act half-assed about it.
"" When we choose to spend the best years of our working lives in a job we hate because we are afraid of losing out on things like pension benefits.
"" When we are afraid to try again after a failure in case we “find out” that we were right the first time.

When we act out of fear we retreat, we compromise, we become smaller. We round our edges.

Edges are good.

Seth Godin describes fear as “experiencing failure in advance”. Baz Luhrman says in his brilliant 1999 hit, Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen) that “worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.”

But today is Friday, not Tuesday, so you have a pass for a worry-free day. Be aware of your thoughts and actions as you go through today and ask yourself what are you doing because you are afraid and what in what way would things be different, better, if you weren’t?


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