Reconciling Fear and Courage Builds Resilience


What looks like courage...Today I was talking with a friend about something we both want to do. I openly admitted to her that I’m afraid. Terrified is more like it.

I felt vulnerable admitting that. She’s already making strides and moving forward. I don’t like being seen as weak, wimpy or as someone who gives up easily. I wasn’t sure how my confession would go over.

“I’m afraid, too,” she admitted.

This simple statement gave me such relief and helped to shift my focus.

It reminded me that years ago I read. “Chancing It: Why We Take Risks,” by Ralph Keys (1985.) The author did a study of people who take risks. He interviewed people who do extreme sports type adventures and people who have dangerous jobs.

Twenty-five or so years after reading his book, a couple take-aways have stuck with me.

  1. People who take risks that we see as extreme don’t see what they do as so risky because they plan, prepare and take measures to ensure their success. (And they love the adrenaline!)
  2. A person doing stuff we consider dangerous may be fearful of things like flying commercial airlines, getting married or spiders.

Over my lifetime I’ve had to overcome a lot of fear. Everyday fear like leaving a bad but familiar relationship, moving to the city, traveling on my own, living alone, white-water rafting although I can’t swim. All these things I did in my twenties, around the time I read Keys book. I’d made the decision early on that I didn’t want to let fear rob me of an interesting and exciting life.

All along I’ve referred back to the understanding that I could mitigate my fears with planning, preparing and doing everything I could to set myself up for success.

Over the years I’ve married, snow skied, snowmobiled, zip-lined, participated in a sailing regatta during a storm, done a ropes course taken motorcycle riding classes, cared for my husband during his illness and built a new life after he passed. All those things were scary for me but my desire to do them was greater than my fear.

Here’s what I’ve learned. Sometimes what looks like courage is fear pointed in the right direction!

What do you want that you’re afraid of trying?

How can you plan, prepare and set yourself up for success?

Which is stronger—desire or fear?



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