Patti DeNucci is a regular contributor to intrepidNOW, writing about people who want to live, work, and connect at a higher level.
A few years ago my son and I were invited to spend an August weekend with friends at a lake house near Austin. School would be starting soon, so it seemed like the perfect way to wrap up the summer and make some new memories. After an hour’s drive through the hill country, we found the house and were greeted by our friends. We plopped our bags down in the foyer and dashed down to the lake to investigate where we’d be cooling off for the next few days.
It was a beautiful setting on a private cove flanked by rocky cliffs. Right away my son, ever the adventurer, began noting which cliff overlooking the cove would be most suitable for a thrilling jump into the water. The options were of heights equivalent to jumping off the roof of our two-story home. As a mother (and someone who is fairly nervous about heights in general), I was not happy about this. Yet, other than saying, “Make sure the water is deep enough,” I held my tongue. After all, my son was 18 at the time, not 8.
Later that afternoon, after an hour or two of leisurely floating in the cool refreshing waters, I found myself doing something unexpected. Had I been talked into it? Prodded? Dared? Shamed? I don’t really recall. All I know is I was out of the water, leaving my comfortable, colorful floaty behind, climbing the steps to the top of the cove, and following my son out onto the cliff.
The rocks beneath our bare feet were scorchingly hot and littered with prickly burrs (the kind medieval weapons were likely modeled after). The going was slow and painful – and about 25 yards too long. I recall my feet were actually blistered, if not bleeding by the time we reached the edge. We peered down at the sparkling blue water and our friends gazing up at us from below.
My more fearful side was on Maximum Red Alert, screaming, “What are you doing?! What kind of mother are you?!” My more intrepid side countered boldly, “Come on!! It will be fun! We are SO doing this!”
Nonchalantly, my son made the leap first, creating a smooth trajectory through the hot summer air and a magnificent splash below. Everyone cheered.
My apprehensive side suddenly relented to the situation, deciding, purely out of practicality, that limping back over the hot rocks and the mine field of sun-hardened pickers simply was not an option. Before I could indulge in any further debate, I too had left the cliff, was airborne, and seemingly floating through another dimension of time and space.
I awoke from my split-second reverie and let out a shriek that is probably still ricocheting off the banks of Lake Travis. Splash! And then effervescent bubbles all around me. I could hear more cheering as I bobbed to the surface, exhilarated and thoroughly refreshed.
Later we’d do two more mother-son cliff jumps, including one off the higher cliff across the cove. I screamed both times. Loudly.
It was incredible.
Was this crazy cliff-jumping experience frightening? Absolutely! But I have to admit, it was fun and empowering as well. (And, just so you know, the water below was 15 feet deep at the very least. We checked with a depth finder.) Best of all, my son still seems duly impressed that his mom, who at the time was just entering in her sixth decade, was gutsy enough to do something new and exciting. (Though he still gives me a bad time about my screaming.)
Have I always been one to do crazy things like this? Not a chance. But I have learned some secrets about letting go of the many ridiculous fears I’ve harbored over the years and still find cropping up from time to time. Here are a few of the secrets I’ve discovered that seem to help me be more fearless. Try them for yourself.
1. Don’t confuse fear with discomfort. Fear is what protects us from real danger. Discomfort is what prevents us from stretching beyond our known limits, routines, and ruts and moving into what life and work can potentially bring to us.
2. Find and focus on your purpose. If you invest the time and space to reflect, you can make exciting discoveries that help you find your true mission, purpose, and desired way of living and working. This can ignite your passion; give you new and compelling reasons to get out of bed each morning. It can even help you obliterate or blow right through obstacles that get in your way. (Fear? Pfffft. You’ve got this!)
3. Factor fear in. Face it. Fear, discomfort, and change are part of life. There will be ups and downs. Get used to it. Learn to expect it, strengthen your mojo, gather your wits and resources, and know how you will strategically deal with it.
4. Think in terms of possibilities. Shift your thinking from worrying about what could happen and instead consider the possibilities of what could be.
5. Have fun. What fears are stopping you from having the time of your life? Inventory and examine these fears, real or perceived, big or small. Make a list of every little situation, idea, or achievement that causes you to hesitate or feel frightened or unsure. What are these pesky demons that keep you from doing, trying or experiencing amazing things? What are you missing out on? What’s the worst thing that could happen if you try and fail?
Often, we discover that, as Franklin Roosevelt so wisely noted, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
What are your perceived fears? Are they really fears or just hallucinations and hesitations? What would you do, what could you do if you weren’t afraid? What fearless shift, large or small, could you make right now?
Go ahead. Make the leap.
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