Here’s how you can live on the “edge of your fear” and have a life others are afraid to even dream about…
– – –
See the author’s TEDx Talk on Creating Extraordinary Intimacy in a Shut Down World
– – –
I’ve been an observer of human nature my whole life. And one thing that has always amazed me is how the vast majority of human beings seemingly would prefer the certainty of their shitty circumstances than risk going for their dreams. Hell, most people don’t want to even THINK about their dreams so they don’t have to face the risk of never achieving them. And here’s the cruelest part of this. No matter how much you avoid throwing your all into going after your dreams or even identifying them, there is a part of you that will always know you didn’t have the guts to even try.
Fortunately, there is a sure-fire way out of this self-imposed hell…
Survival vs. Revival
Humans are hard-wired to avoid uncertainty for a very simple but incredibly powerful reason: survival. Back in the hunter / gatherer days, uncertainty usually meant an untimely death either as the main course of some fierce predator or at the hands of an enemy (who, in all fairness, were probably working out their own survival issues).
The survival instinct still is the most powerful motivator of human behavior in general. Yet ironically, to truly have any chance of thriving instead of just surviving, it requires one to consciously and willingly going against that inborn instinct. To press forward through those (mostly irrational) fears into the abyss of not knowing for a chance to come out the other side as a human being who has chosen to live life fully rather than sit desperately quiescent on the sidelines.
There is No Such Thing as Certainty
“Certainty” is merely a mental construct. When we talk about being certain, it simply means our perception of a situation or circumstance appears to be predictable. And while it is true we have influence over predictability from a purely statistical standpoint, the fact remains that nothing in reality is certain –except for one thing: our power to make choices.
Our free will to make choices is what separates us from the stimulus-response automatic Darwinian behavior that effectively controls the rest of the animal kingdom. It is through this infinite power of choice alone that allows each and every one of us to transcend our primal wiring and to live lives that others are afraid to even envision.
Choosing to Risk Uncertainty = Choosing to Live Fully
I’m a veteran of jumping into the abyss of not knowing what’s next more than once. And I did (and continue to do) this because the pain of being aware of not living fully greatly exceeds any misery of uncertainty I may have. I can honestly say that every time I have done this, my circumstances and experience of life had improved tremendously –most often in ways that were never even on my radar. Essentially, my forays into the unknown become doorways into possibilities I had never even considered before.
To be honest, until recently, I thought I had a personality defect for making these big leaps when so many others around me just went about their lives quietly and (apparently) contently, and with predictably unremarkable outcomes.
Then I started reading “The Way of the Superior Man” by David Deida. In it he talks about men who are willing to live on the edge of their fear. Never allowing themselves to shirk back into their comfort zone:
“And a fearful man who still leans into his fear, living at his edge and putting his gift out from there, is more trustworthy and more inspirational than a fearful man who hangs back in the comfort zone, unwilling to even experience his fear on a day to day level. A free man is free to acknowledge his fears, without hiding them, or hiding from them. Live with your lips pressed against your fears, neither pulling back nor aggressively violating them.”
He also talks about men who pursue their mission and purpose passionately only to eventually chuck it all to go into their next period of not-knowing until clarity once again emerges. Each of these cycles ideally brings us closer to our true sense of purpose and mission. When I read this my jaw dropped a bit because it was like reading about my own life. For the first time I now had a context for my otherwise inexplicable behavior that has always been driven by this need, this hunger, to live life fully. To transcend my fears and dissolve the invisible chains of uncertainty that strove mightily to imprison me.
The Way Out of the Certainty of Your Misery
No matter what your current circumstances, you have the power of choice. And, here are the ones I recommend you consider if you want a life fully lived:
- Acknowledge your fears – awareness of your fears, no matter how uncomfortable, is the first step. Being fully present to your fears (i.e. not using distraction to avoid them) is a discipline anyone can learn.
- Dare to dream authentically – your dreams may be big or small, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is to be authentic in identifying what yours are, no one else’s. Write them down with the unrestrained passion and fury of your being. And, with the full recognition that you risk never achieving them (see step 1. above).
- Do what scares you the most first – make a habit of starting your day by tackling the one thing you dread the most but could have the biggest impact to achieving your dreams. When you do this the rest of your day will seem like a walk in the park.
- Be willing to let go – birds would never taste the freedom of flight if they stayed within the safety of their nests. It’s your life, figure out what it means for you to fly then do it and screw whatever anyone else thinks about it.
- Persist – life will inevitably throw you setbacks, often time and time again. Each setback is an invitation. To your primal self it is an invitation to back off lest you end up disappointed. To your true self it is an invitation to learn, strengthen your resolve and to enjoy fully the process of this adventure.
If at this juncture you ask yourself: “If I do these five things will I achieve my dreams?” you have missed the point entirely –go back and re-read them.
You have a choice. You’ve always had a choice. You can choose to shirk your possibilities and live a life of quiet desperation. Or, you can choose to risk the uncertainty, the abyss of the unknown as a way of life, as a way of the Warrior. One where facing your fears head-on, unwaveringly brings you the moment by moment bliss of living full out regardless of outcome.
– – –