Last week I was sitting at a table in the gym lobby talking to several of my clients when a guy interrupted our conversation and asked me what this “I Quit Fear” thing was all about.
He had been noticing the posters I placed around the gym with my picture and the I Quit Fear logo, it caught his attention and he just had to ask. So I thought…here’s my chance. I’ve got several clients gazing at me with smirks on their faces, eagerly awaiting my response to this guy and of course I’d win him over once I had a chance to quickly explain my mission. I wove together a few engaging sentences that had something to do with challenging people to define the fears in their lives that are keeping them from setting goals, pursuing dreams, building and repairing relationships and fulfilling their life’s purpose. His response left me sitting there somewhat devoid of words, “I’m a Navy Seal. I’m not afraid of anything.” Then as he wandered off into the stairwell he said, “except maybe spiders.” So, there I sat still fixated on the empty stairwell and thinking…
Not cool man. You can’t tell me you’re afraid of nothing and then just walk away. I’m sure you’re wrong and I can prove it.
Who am I to question a Navy Seal? They are like a universal symbol of “fearless”. To this point in his life, if it hasn’t been military training, commanding officers, active duty or even hand-to-hand combat that has driven him to fear, it may just be a tantrum prone toddler that awaits him at some point in his future. He is young and as life happens sometimes fear comes in the most unexpected places no matter what our challenges have been this far.
Military training teaches you to be prepared and feeling prepared can eradicate fear. It’s the things we don’t feel prepared to handle that we fear the most. Come to think of it, that’s why I don’t buy the whole “spider” thing. The spider deserves a bit of attention here because it’s not the first time that someone has told me that they’re not sure what they’re afraid of, except maybe spiders. Why is this such a prevalent fear? Don’t all of us have actual life-altering fears that we refuse to even acknowledge so we make compensatory decisions every single day that alter our entire life’s course?
I don’t make fear based decisions every day because of spiders. I get startled when I see a spider. I’m scared of spiders but I’m not afraid of them. There’s a difference.
I guess if I wanted Navy Seal guy to dig deep and admit he was afraid of SOMETHING then maybe I should be required to do the same. So, what am I afraid of? I’ll name a few things…
Living a life where I’m not truly and deeply known or understood, losing family or feeling alone and like a stranger in my own home, suffering the results of ignoring what it takes to cultivate my soul, the inability to provide for my family or pay back debt…not because I’m unwilling to work but rather the possibility of my own selfishness that defines how I spend my time. One more big one…being so caught up in my own battle against all of this that I’m completely incapable of offering anything of value, support or strength to anyone else who truly has difficult life circumstances that are outside of their control when I’m the biggest instigator of my own problems. I’m afraid of living a selfish life. Do you start to see why defining fears is a painful process? It’s kind of gross and doesn’t make me look very good. Human I guess.
I’m not afraid of stuff like gaining weight or having cellulite or being imperfect or what other people think when they look at me or singing in public or trying something and failing. I’m scared of that stuff sometimes, but not afraid.
Our biggest fears don’t always debilitate us in every moment which is why they can be easy to ignore. I Quit Fear is a continual call to action. It doesn’t happen all at once and most likely it needs to happen over and over again but this beautiful, arduous process is the only way to discover a life lived with complete gratitude, eyes wide open and on purpose.