I am intrigued by Anita Moorjani's counter view to the adage, "fear keeps you safe." Following her near death experience, she expressed, "fear doesn't keep you safe; love keeps you safe." She explains that when you love yourself unconditionally, when you live in a state of self-love and self-respect, you remain safe because you don't put yourself in a position where you wouldn't be safe. You wouldn't do that to yourself.
At my coaching conference last month in Boulder, I stood in front of our class of thirty and interacted with Newfield's founder, Julio Olalla. I shared my declaration, "I do what I fear." I produced this in response to reflections about times in my life when fear, rather than opportunity, had driven decisions. Julio asked me to step back and consider how the emotion of fear can be protective, how it makes us pause to assess a situation. If we feel fear because we sense danger, our first act is to assess the potential for harm. If we find it, we can act accordingly to stay safe. If we don't, we can move on, leaving the fear, and our encounter with it, behind.
Within their respective contexts, Anita's and Julio's apparent opposite views both seemed true - "fear doesn't keep you safe" and "fear does keeps you safe." As I pondered this paradox, a story from my childhood pulled up to the curb and clarity stepped out wearing a little baseball cap.
When I was five years old, tee-ball didn't exist. For reasons I can't fathom now, adult men in 1962 thought it was a good idea to have five-year-old pitchers. Of course they sucked (no offense intended to today's five-year-olds), and the very first pitch for my very first time at bat resulted in a bruise the size of an orange on my left hip! That could have been my first and last time in an organized team baseball game. And if I had had my way, it would have been. I went into that game with no fear. I came away from that at-bat full of fear. A five-year-old can't reason with odds. I could have easily given harbor to the fear of that wayward pitch and left team baseball for good. But Poppa D, my best friend's dad, knew that. He took Lee and me to every game, often umpiring behind home plate. He cajoled me and encouraged me to stick with it when I didn't want to. I eventually stepped up to that plate again, and against all odds, played that full season of baseball.
This recollection brought to mind a distinction that made sense of the apparently opposite views expressed by Anita and Julio. When that pitch hit me, it ignited the emotion of fear. Then, when I agonized about ever going to a game again, the intense fear emotion from that singular event settled into a persistent mood of fear and dread around baseball. It was only with Poppa D's help that I was able to overcome this.
If we feel fear because we sense danger, our first act is to assess the potential for harm. If we find it, we can act accordingly to stay safe. If we don't, we can move on, leaving the fear, and our encounter with it, behind.
And there's the rub - leaving the fear behind. Leaving a fearful encounter behind doesn't necessarily leave the fear behind. Dragging the fear, real or imagined, with us, transforms the protective fear emotion into a potentially debilitating mood of fear, empowered to affect our future.
With that, I had my answer. Anita and Julio are both right. Anita is referring to a persistent fearful mood or state of being. Julio is referring to a transient fear emotion. Feeling the emotion of fear in a moment can keep you safe. Living in that state, in a mood of fear, most certainly doesn't. It can leave you stuck and worse.
Thanks to Julio, I rewrote my declaration while honoring the truth that lives in Anita's insight. It begins,
"I take action and engage with my fear...
because I no longer deny my fear emotion. We are not in control of the emotions that simply arise. I neither deny the fear emotion, acting in spite of it, nor do I give it safe harbor, taking on its mood. Rather, I acknowledge it and engage with it. I dance with it, doing so
...in the spirit of learning,...
because all emotions, including fear, are instructive. Every emotion gives us feedback about our lives and how we are relating to our world and our circumstances. I don't simply feel the fear and hope it goes away. I examine it and pull it up by the root,
...greeting both so-called success and failure, loss and gain, with curiosity, gratitude and love...
for a very specific reason, namely,
to continually enhance, advance, and fulfill my life purpose."
Now it's your turn to put fear in its place with this powerful act. Examine your relationship with fear. Find your voice. Then declare its healthy place in your life.