Do or Do Not.

Do The Things You Cannot Do

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One of those Messages from the Universe I’d talked about on Sunday arrived in my mental inbox a few minutes ago, and this time it was pretty easy to decypher the message’s meaning. In the last twenty minutes, I’ve read two articles (including this one by Kathy at Creating Passionate Users) that both boiled down to the same basic premise, one which resonates pretty strongly with me: Sometimes you’ve got to do the scary, you’ve got to push yourself farther than you think you’re capable, you’ve got to do that thing you think you cannot do.

I admit that I tend to get a bit too comfortable with most things. I find myself happy with a situation — or, at the very least, not unhappy — and don’t want to change it. Change and I aren’t the most bosom of buddies: I order the lasagna from every Italian restaurant I go to because I’m pretty damn sure I’ll like the lasagna. I’m a big proponent of safety and security and familiarity, and while those qualities have their merits, they close me off to so much of what the world has to offer. (I suppose I should say I close myself offto so much of what the world has to offer.)

I know that I tend to talk myself out of doing a lot of things I want to do but just don’t think I can — either I’m down on my own abilities or I think the topic under consideration just isn’t feasible. And basically what that comes down to in all cases is, unsurprisingly, fear. I’m so afraid even to try $thing that I quit the race before I’ve even laced up my sneakers.

And I’m not even just talking being afraid of The Big Things — I’m afraid of doing Little Things, even ones that might advance my goals or enrich my life if I’d just not be quite such a coward and do them. One online buddy of mine recently jumped out of a friggin’ plane to raise money for a good cause, and I have trouble sacking up the courage to make a phone call? (What kills me is that I’m afraid of stupid little things like phone calls and meeting new people, but big decisions like getting married, buying a house, having kids? No problem.)

Kathy touches on a point which hits painfully close to home when she says that, just like anything else, doing scary things takes practice. One of the biggest reasons (though far from the only reason) why I don’t do more boundary pushing is because I’m not used to doing it. There’s a particular feeling that I get when I know I’m doing something new to me: my hands start shaking, my skin feels cold, my brain ratchets up into hyper-sensitive mode (though I have trouble speaking clearly). And honestly, I don’t much like those sensations. Those new-thing feelings tend to be so intense that they leave me shaken for awhile afterwards. Even when the experience or the results have been worth it — which they almost always have been — I don’t like that feeling, and it makes me not want to do it again. (“It” in this case is “trying new things,” not the thing that now isn’t new; having done that thing, I’m usually less reticent to do it the next time.)

Obviously, some people get off on whatever sensations new experiences bring on for them, and I’m curious as to why that is. I don’t know if other people get an entirely different set of physiological responses than I do… or if they just intrepret similar responses in an entirely different manner. I’m sure that Kathy’s point about practice feeds in here: the more you try new things, the more practice you get at managing your responses to said new things, which should, in theory, make doing new things less scary in the future.

And I want things to be less scary. This fear is as baffling as it is crippling, and I’m tired of feeling crippled by my own insecurities. I’m obviously one of the primary role models for my children, and this certainly isn’t a trait I want to pass on to them; I don’t want fear to control their lives the way it’s controlled so much of mine. I want them to be strong and capable and confident and to face the world with their chins held high and just a touch of an “I can do anything” glint in their beautiful blue eyes. And if I truly want that for them… why wouldn’t I want the same for me?

So how about you? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but think is too far beyond your reach even to give it a shot? What is it you think you can’t do?

And what’s really stopping you?

Written by Allen

May 9th, 2006 at 5:18 pm

Posted in Inspiration

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