“Do one thing every day that scares you”
The 1999 song Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann features this line as one of its maxims for living a good life. The lyrics for that song were originally taken from an essay by journalist Mary Schich who wrote them in a fictional high school commencement address.
It’s advice we’d all do well to employ, daily. When we take on the things that scare us, we seize the opportunity to be freed from procrastination, to bring forwards results and accomplishments, and in some cases to discover if our expectations are realistic.
When I find myself putting off doing something, it’s usually for one of two reasons:
- Fear of difficulty or failure
- Fear that the results won’t be as good as I imagined (fear of success)
Fear of failure
I may be contemplating something that seems especially daunting or scary. I doubt my skills, wondering if I have the resources to assure success. I might believe I don’t have the time to give it the attention it deserves, doubting that I have the fortitude to put in the work required.
When I submit to these feelings, I remain in my comfort zone, convinced that in future I’ll be better prepared and better equipped to succeed. I’ll have the time to put in the work. Procrastination keeps me safe.
Fear of (anticlimactic) success
On other occasions I’ll pin my hopes on some forthcoming event that I hope will deliver exceptional results. I’ll plan, scheme and prepare, believing I’m assuring my success when (or if) I eventually get started.
I’m convinced that an article I’m writing will miraculously go viral. I’ll pin my hopes upon a forthcoming project that I’m convinced will unlock success and riches. I fixate on an item that I plan on buying that I believe will change my life, bringing happiness and fulfilment.
Nagging in the back of my mind is the fear that the results will be disappointing, even if I get what I want.
I’ve made the mistake of attaching and enmeshing my future happiness upon a result that I’m not convinced will deliver what I crave.
I’m unreasonably piling my hopes for a better future upon something that I don’t fully believe in. I’m staking my future happiness upon something that I may or may not achieve. I worry that perhaps it won’t be as good as I anticipate, even if it goes right.
Fear wins again, but this time it’s a fear that I’ll prove myself wrong, when success isn’t as good as I hoped or expected it would be.
There’s only one way to find out
Whether fear stems from the possibility of failure, or from success that might not be all that good, there is only one way to deal with it; to get on and do it what needs to be done and find out what happens next.
When we get caught in analysis-paralysis, we’re searching for non-binary options that generally don’t exist. We are looking for ways in which we might be able to take the edge off failure or to assure success.
Often though, we have no option other than to continue to procrastinate and keep wondering, or to get on and do it and find out what happens next.
- Sometimes, you just have to get on and ride the rollercoaster. Only then will you find out if it’s as scary as you’d built it up in your mind.
- You have to publish the article and share your thoughts with the world. Only by doing that will you see if your words find an appreciative audience.
- You have to speak up in the meeting, putting your views and opinions out there. It’s the only way to ensure that your voice is heard and to find out if your opinions and ideas have merit.
- Sometimes you have to be the first to say “I love you”, being bold and vulnerable in stating your feelings. It’s the only to make your feelings known and to determine if the other person feels the same way.
- Sometimes you have to swallow pride and be the first to apologise, taking responsibility for your actions and accepting and admitting fault. Only by doing this can you begin the process of making amends and moving forwards after a disagreement.
The outcomes from these bold acts of bravery will undoubtedly vary. You may get the results you desired, and it may not be as scary or as taxing as you’d imagined. Sometimes it will be as terrifying as you feared. Occasionally it might be worse.
We cannot know until we get on and do it. Only by taking the bold choice, to do it, can we test the hypothesis and find out if we were wrong or right. Once we’ve found out, at least we know and can either celebrate the success or course-correct and do something else.
Either way, now we know and can move forwards.
Do one thing each day that scares you.
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