Don’t Look Down Keep Climbing

Fear is a bad thing right? We tell children not to be afraid of the various things we know won’t hurt them, the dark or monsters under their beds. As adults we try to rid ourselves of fear like the fear of public speaking or the fear of failure. Some of us are afraid of spiders and other creepy crawlers, while others are afraid of heights, which is a fear of mine. You probably can’t tell from this picture however.

Fear has its place as an important emotion, a reaction that can save us from a bad situation or from doing something stupid. Being confronted by a robber, fear is a natural response which heightens our senses so we can react fast enough to avoid a tragedy. The term healthy fear indicates that, in moderation, fear is good for us.

I often feel limited by my fear of heights as my wife Julie is able to walk to the edge of a cliff and see what I can’t because I’m standing twenty feet behind her, my knees weak. With enough time and a gradual increase in comfort, I’m able to get past the fear and do things like you see in the picture above. Believe it or not, however that is relatively simple compared to what I faced in the picture below.

I enjoy hiking and climbing, I don’t believe in obstacles and want to be able to go through or over them to discover new things, see new sights. I want to remove limits, especially self imposed limits. That’s why I’m up there climbing that sheer cliff, to face my fear (for any climbers out there that was only a 5.2 climb — for non-climbers that’s definitely a beginner’s climb).

Our climbing instructor, Robert, was great and understood the role fear plays as we challenged ourselves to push past the anxiety. “You can’t overcome fear,” said Robert, “you can only manage it.” And that’s when it struck me, the word manage is so crucial to everything we do. There is very little we can control but we can manage quite a bit.

As I climbed higher and higher, with only the slightest of footholds, the fear was there. I wanted to quit, to be lowered down by my belay partner, and wife, Julie, who had my life in her hands, but I pressed on. It reminds me of a story my father told me about the first time he ever water-skied, “I was too afraid to fall, so I didn’t” he said. I can completely relate to that now.

I was successful on that climb at managing my fear. On the second climb however I was not as good a manager and psyched myself out, opting to quit half way up. One step forward, one back. Next time, and that’s part of managing your fear, next time, I took two steps forward.

What fear are you willing to face so that you can learn to manage it?