When I lived in Los Angeles, I had a close friend who was always searching for new adventures. And a partner in crime. So whenever she discovered a new dance class, self-defense seminar, or cooking school, she immediately called me and “asked” me to sign up and join her. No matter what the activity, my friend was always game to jump in and try it. That was something I loved and admired about her.
One Friday afternoon, my friend called me and told me that she had just signed us up for a pole dancing class the following day. “Signed US up?” I asked with horror. “Yes,” she replied. “I will pick you up at 10 am. Wear comfortable clothes and bring a pair of 5 inch heels.”
I started to sweat. A lot. “Are you nuts?” I asked. “I will make a fool of myself. I don’t even own a pair of 5 inch heels. What makes you think I could even WALK in heels that high, let alone dance? What if I fall flat on my face? How is that sexy? No way, forget it. I’m not brave enough to try this. You’re on your own.”
My friend didn’t say a word, so I just kept babbling at her. “You do things that other people are afraid to do,” I said with admiration. “Yes, I do,” she replied confidently. “And the only reason I can do those things is because I have done them. Doing them is how I learned to do them.” My friend helped me realize that I was living my life backwards. “Don’t wait to try new things until you feel brave or confident enough,” she told me. “The power to do something often shows up halfway into the doing of the thing, not up front. Action comes before the courage to act. The action itself is the source of courage. Doing it is what erases the fear of doing it.”
I knew she was right. It was intuitive. As children, we just put fear in our back pocket and did stuff, right? You just pushed off the ground and rode that bike with no training wheels. Or you closed your eyes and jumped off the high diving board at the community pool. You didn’t worry whether you had what it took to ride or jump; you just did it. And as you accelerated on that bike or descended toward the water, the fear dissolved and you experienced a rush of pure joy (even if you let out a scream or two).
As adults, however, we tell ourselves that being afraid to do something is the same as being unable to do it. We forget that action defeats fear, just as scissors cut paper, paper covers rock, and rock breaks scissors. We forget about the joyful rush that remains when our fear dissolves.
Couldn’t we all make room for more joy in our lives? If you find yourself living life backwards by waiting for courage, faith, or motivation to appear before you tackle something, I want you to try this exercise:
Grab a notebook and find a quiet place to sit by yourself. Write down 10 things you would do in your life if you had absolutely no fear. Then pick one of them to do. Don’t think about it; thinking about it is what is making you afraid. Just get started doing it. The action you take doesn’t have to be perfect. Just do something. And notice how your fear dissolves while you are in action conquering it.
And for the record, I took that pole dancing class with my friend. And I loved it. So much so that I took another class, bought a package of classes and several pairs of 5 inch heels, and even hired a handyman to install a pole in my apartment!!!
So remember: faith, courage, and motivation are rewards – not requirements – for action. “Do the thing,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, “and you shall have the power.”