Fear is only as deep as the mind allows. – Japanese Proverb
I learned a lot last week watching my four year old play and he inspired me to reflect on this experience. I took my older son, Lucas, out of daycare and went on an adventure to the Liberty Science Center in NJ. In the middle of the museum is a large climbing feature known as the Infinity Climber. It’s a suspended play space that is 26 feet wide, 24 feet deep, 19 feet tall, and most importantly, it’s perched 35 feet in the air. It’s contained by hand threaded wire to prevent any climber from falling 35 feet to the ground below and has 64 pedal-like platforms creating multiple pathways throughout the structure. In a nutshell, it’s a blast for most who enter, but it’s daunting structure for a four year old.
Lucas and I have visited the museum several times and he’s always been too afraid to go near the climber. As always, I encouraged him to try and tackle this seemingly massive structure. This time he went to the edge, looked around, took a step and leaped into the structure (see the above photo). In the blink of an eye, he was off to the races! Once he took that initial step, he was climbing up and down, swinging on the pedals and conquering his fear. Every so often, he looked and flashed a smile as he continued his way around the Infinity Climber. I cheered him on and encouraged him to explore and have fun for as long as he wanted. He spent nearly an hour working his way through with only a small break for a drink of water and a high five for his mother.
When we confront our fears, we find out how resilient we really are. Being able to do so helps us grow and we take away valuable lessons even from a four year old taking on a climbing structure. My family is my biggest joy in life and I couldn’t help but share this anecdote and some of the lessons I learned from someone much younger than me!
- Conquer your fears. Everyone is afraid of something or other. The only way you can go ahead in life is by overcoming your fears and conquering them. We develop confidence when we successfully overcome adversity. For my son, taking the first few steps in and realizing he couldn’t fall was all he needed to realize he was going to be okay. Remember, the more challenges we face throughout our lives the more prepared we’ll be to deal with adversity in the future. Don’t wait for fear to put you in a corner, tackle it before it tries to tackle you.
- When forced to do so, embrace fear. Sometimes life is scary. It’s normal to be scared and sometimes life may only give you one opportunity to say YES or to try something new. The best things in life often happen as we approach the edge of our comfort zone. We don’t know what we’re capable of until we find ourselves in a situation where we have no choice.
- Support systems are key. Anything we’re confronted with in life, chances are someone has experiences or been through something similar. Leaning on others and asking them how others have overcome a similar challenge can often help us to shorten our learning curve and identify and take the right actions.
I encouraged my son to explore and take a risk, highlighting how much fun he would have should he try and conquer his fear. He needed that subtle encouragement to go to the edge and take his first step and the rest is history. If we’re able to accept that our fears are mostly made up within our minds we’re likely to take on new risks within our lives. As long as we take on thoughtful risk, we will likely grow and be better prepared for the next challenge.
I’d love to know what lessons or advice you have for encouraging people to face fear. Please leave a comment or send me a tweet. Thanks for reading!