A little under a year ago, I’m driving home in the dark when thick fog sweeps the area.
In fact, visibility drops to about 20 feet. I’m putzing along at a measly 35 mph… because there is no way to tell when the road will turn. The signs warning you of this… are impossible to see.
The only way to know where I was – was when I passed an exit.
A drive has never commanded my full-attention like this. If a panicked deer, stalled car, strolling raccoon or anything else stopped in the road, there would be no way to avoid it…
As I’m navigating this treacherous drive, I remembered a story from years ago:
In the book Many Miles to Go, author Brian Tracy, shares his story of traveling to Africa with his friends. Their goal was to work their way south through the entire continent. It was the ULTIMATE journey of adversity.
They worked on a ship for 6-weeks just to make it over the Atlantic… biked day-after-day across Europe… lived in a tent each night… survived off of little food… they even ran out of money at one point…
After slaving away for months, they finally reach the Sahara Desert - one of the most dangerous and unforgiving destinations in the world. When hearing about their plans to cross the desert, the locals tell them “Vous allez mourir dans le desert”
Translation: You will die in the desert
Despite their warnings, they cross the scorching wonderland.
But how? Their route had black 55-gallon oil drums every five km. They’d simply drive to the oil drum. And then the next one would appear on the horizon.
So they’d drive to the next oil drum…
And the next… And the next…
Until they crossed it.
All you have to do to cross the biggest desert
in the world is to take it ‘one oil barrel at a time
One oil drum at a time…
That’s exactly what I did that night.
(Or in my case one dashed line at a time)
Sometimes that’s exactly what we have to do in life too. We can’t see too far out. The future may be unknown and there are things out of our control but what can we do?
Just take things one oil drum, one day at a time.
It’s a whale of a debate.
Is anxiety meant to be fought? Or is it meant to be accepted? If you would have asked me years ago, I would have hoot and hollered that it should be fought until it’s knocked out cold.
This Fighter Mindset was something my strength coach in college instilled in me:
You have to fight for everything in your life.
Fight for your workouts. Fight for your relationships.
Fight for your success. Fight for everything.
This resonated with me. This made me realize that those things were not simply going to fall into place. Don’t leave it up to chance. If you want great health, you must fight for it. If you want a great relationship, you must fight for it. And it seemed like fighting anxiety and fear was no different.
And while this Fighter Mindset has its place, the more I learned about anxiety, the more I realized maybe fighting ourselves isn’t always the best route. In her book The Fear Cure, Dr. Lissa Rankin states, “It’s not so much about curing fear; it’s more about letting fear cure you.”
What if we ran with this idea?
What if fear was showing us what needs to be healed in our life?
What if fear was showing us where our next area of growth is?
What if fear was showing us where our currently limitations are?
What if fear was showing us the edge of our current abilities?
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you have a fear of public speaking. Most of the population is scared stiff of this. This was something that plagued me for most of my life. I was fortunate though. By using this fear, it showed me how to help more people. By using this fear, it showed me how to express myself in a totally different way. By using this fear, it showed me how to grow as a person.
How can YOUR fear help you?
What if fear was simply handing us a sealed envelope? And we had to rip it open to discover the hidden message inside. And what if we accepted this message instead of fighting it? Instead of running from it. Or distracting from it. Maybe it’s telling us we need to heal some past hurts. Or find a better way to do something. Or change our beliefs about how the world should be.
And accepting does NOT mean giving up. It does NOT mean saying “This is just who I am” either. That’s nonsense. You are much more than your anxiety. It simply means accepting that currently [key word] fear/anxiety is present in certain situations.
It doesn’t always have to be there.
But right now it is.
And maybe… just maybe… by accepting it… and embracing it… it’ll open you up to understanding it more and ultimately how to end it. But it’s worth trying and seeing how it works for you.
You may be pleasantly surprised.
Have you seen the martian?
Yes, the movie.
Not a real martian… (Shucks!)
Author of the book, Andy Weir was interviewed by CBS recently. He pulled back the curtain on his struggles with anxiety and fear:
“I’m afraid of flying. So, yeah I’m here in New York and I live in California. I have to take meds and stuff just to fly out here. I have a general problem with anxiety and have for most of my life and I spend most of my life just thinking ‘Well, I’m broken and there’s nothing I can do about that’.”
On one hand, it breaks my heart to hear this. I know the pain he’s describing. The debilitating fear that impinges on your freedom... that controls life… that holds back the real you.
On the other hand, I’m also inspired by him.
Because he did NOT let his fear stop him from his mission.
That’s not the case for everybody.
So many give up on their dreams… jobs… careers… even relationships… because of anxiety and fear.
I don’t’ blame them.
I truly believe we all do the best with the resources we have.
That’s why I feel so strongly about helping people with these same struggles.
Because I know anxiety is NOT who someone is.
People are MUCH more.
And it’s one of my greatest joys to show people this.
More importantly, for them to see it for themselves…
Let me tell you a story:
Years ago, a special task force (called “smoke jumpers”) parachuted down onto a summit in Mann Gulch, Montana. Their mission: to extinguish forest fires. This 15-person team was led by Robert Dodge.
On this sizzling and gusty day, they started hiking their way down the mountainside – and straight towards the fire. Just an ordinary fire, they thought.
As they descended, the worst thing that could happen - happened.
A blast of wind swept the area, creating a “Blow Up” – where the wind oxygenates the fire… causing explosive growth.
(To give you an idea: it covered 3,000 acres in just ten minutes.)
This ordinary fire burst into a gargantuan one with flames 200 feet high. Then like a rogue wave, it hurls up the hill… straight towards the team.
Robert tells his men to drop everything and RUN! Without hesitation, they sprint back up the mountainside. But because of the incline they can only run around 5mph, while the wave of fire is coming up at over 25 miles per hour…
Realizing they can’t outrun it, Robert tells his men to stop.
One of the men keeps running and says,
“To hell with that, I’m getting out of here!”
The rest of the team also continues sprinting up the hill. And sure enough, shortly after, the fire catches up to them and kills each and every one of them…
Except three. Two who escape through a canyon wall and… Robert Dodge…
Robert knew he couldn’t outrun the fire.
So he did the unexpected…
He struck a match and started the grass around him on fire - then laid in the middle of his own fire. When the fire reached him, the area was already burned so it jumped over him and continued up the mountain.
Despite the odds - he survived.
What can we learn from this?
Sometimes we have to do exactly what Robert did…
Sometimes we can’t run from our fears.
Sometimes we have to face our fears head on!
Sometimes we have to go into the unknown!
Sometimes we have to do the opposite of what the people around us are doing!
Because sometimes… that’s exactly what it takes.
I don’t know if you’ve seen Wicked on Broadway before.
There’s a famous scene where Elphaba (played by Shoshana Bean) is hoisted up and “flies”. Behind the scenes, this is done by a cherry picker lifting her up.
Apparently during one Broadway performance, Shoshana stood on the cherry picker, started singing, and realized the machine was broken. So she just kept singing and walked off it. However, the rest of the cast was in trouble. They were supposed to run on stage and point up in the air while she was “flying”.
Instead, they all laid on the ground and pointed at her from there, singing, “Look at her!”
Talk about improv.
Apparently this type of improv is not uncommon. A friend in theater once told me they've experienced the same thing. They explained how much sweat, blood, and tears went into one single play. The hours and HOURS of learning the material…memorizing their lines… and getting ready for the show.
Yet - despite all this preparation, something inevitably happens the day of the show.
More often than not, someone will forget their lines or make a mistake on stage. So not just a mistake but a VERY PUBLIC mistake. (In some cases in-front of hundreds of people)
What do they do about it?
When it happens, the cast members simply adjust to the mistake.
They flow with it.
They roll with it.
They play along with it.
They even make up lines if they have to.
I had no idea! Looking back on all the plays I’d seen, I wondered how many had to be adjusted because of mistakes.
Crazy thing is, I didn’t notice and neither did the people I was with…
The truth is… most people don’t.
I heard something similar from a former Chicago Cubs employee. He told me how one day, they were preparing for the first pitch of the game, when the guy who was supposed to bring out the ball, waltzed out there WITHOUT it…
(Mind you, that’s in-front of thousands of people and on LIVE television.)
Once he realized it, he just kept waving to the crowd, casually walks back to the dugout, grabs the ball, and goes back out there.
Besides management, hardly anyone noticed it…
Now think about both of those situations. Hundreds if not thousands of people are watching when these mistakes happen…
Yet hardly anyone notices the mistake.
If a VERY public mistake like that is hardly detected - what are the chances that the little ones in our daily lives are?
Very often though, people beat themselves up about little mistakes they make – and think that EVERYONE is going to notice what happened.
Chances are no one saw it…
And as long as you “mend the fence” or “course correct” you have nothing to worry about.
So instead of pummeling yourself (Which most people are VERY good at!)
Maybe we should take lessons from theater (and the Cubs) when mistakes happen…
Roll with it
Play along with it
Have fun with it
Because the show goes on.
So there’s a new anxiety called FOMO.
Fear of missing out.
This new anxiety is even etched into the Oxford dictionary.
If you’re surfing social media and see friends, family, or coworkers doing fun things without you like painting a fence… playing bingo… or eating pie… (Okay, maybe more zestful than that) But when you see them have fun without you…
FOMO may strike like a rattlesnake.
So what do you do?
The easiest slice of advice:
Go on a social media diet.
There’s a buffet of reasons to consider this. For one, social media distorts the appearance of people’s lives almost like fun house mirror does. People posting “successful” pictures can give the “appearance” that their life is perfect. This can give you an expectation that yours should be too.
When in reality the stuff people post, is only the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface can be pretty dark… and cold…
Also, almost everyone I’ve known who have done this “diet” reported huge relief. They feel more mentally free, able to think clearer, and don’t feel glued to their phone like before. Heck, some even found they can connect with those around them better (what a concept!).
You see, when your phone jingles or vibrates and you hop online your brain squirts dopamine into your system. It’s released whenever we encounter anything new or novelty.
And it gives you a jolt of good-feeling.
But this type is short-lasting and isn’t very fulfilling.
Kinda like empty calories.
So take the social media diet.
Even if it’s only for a month
Even if it’s only for a week
Even if it’s only for a day
Give it a whirl.
And see how much better you feel.