“I am able to look fear in the face and move anyway.” — Tricia Teague (from my daily affirmations)
When I was a kid, my sister and I played Double Dragons on Nintendo. We loved the game, probably because it was a way to play karate without beating up on each other (and since I was five years older, I was forbidden to beat up on her anyway). Over time we got good at the game, beating up on all the bad guys, moving from level to level. Then one day we encountered the river.
The mighty river was worse than the bad guys. The river became our nemesis because we couldn’t figure out how to get across it without drowning. Over and over and over again, we died at the river. I hated the river! But I loved the game. So I made it my mission, for an entire weekend (because we only rented games on the weekends), to figure out how to get across that stupid river!
If that game is like our life, then that river is fear. Just like a river, fear is something that most people struggle with, get restricted by, succumb to, or even drown in. Fear is a chasm, mightier than the Mississippi River, that stands between us and our greatest dreams and desires for ourselves.
I used to mistakenly think that I needed to be like Superman to overcome fear. I thought I needed to find my hidden superpower to be successful, that I had to leap over it in a single bound. No matter how much strength I built up, I never became Superman (or Supergirl if you want to be politically correct). Real life is like the game of Double Dragons. One jump is not enough to cross the river.
Over the course of my life’s experiences I’ve learned that overcoming fear isn’t even about strength. In fact, it has nothing to do with how you FEEL in the face of fear. Courage has everything to do with how you RESPOND, how you ACT, in the face of fear.
The strategy you use to cross the river of fear isn’t about the river. We may try to step on logs or rocks to cross. We may even try to build dams or pray to be like Moses to stop the river. All of these are futile, because the river of fear is always present. It always flows.
The key to crossing over isn’t the river of fear. It’s the goal on the other side. The reason why so many of us miss our goals, why we can’t get past the fear, is because we’re too busy looking at the fear. We’re so caught up focusing on the river, on the fear of slipping into the water and drowning, that we lose sight of our actual objective, getting to the other side.
Unlike in the game of Double Dragons, we have a bridge available to us. The bridge that overcomes fear is faith. Most people already know that. They mistakenly think faith is getting strong enough to swim across, to jump across, to struggle and fight with the river. What they don’t realize is that faith can be a bridge, a bridge that can be built for easy passage.
It took me a while, but after a lot of failed attempts at crossing the hard way, I figured out how to build a bridge. The blueprint for my bridge over the river of fear is F.E.A.R.
• F — Face It — We can’t overcome fear until we face it. That means looking it in the face. Just like in karate, the match starts after we look at the opponent in the middle of the mat. If you don’t face it, if you try to pretend it doesn’t exist, it will haunt you and become bigger … or plain drop kick you and bring you to your knees.
• E — Embrace It — Embracing fear means embracing your humanity. Fear is a natural reaction. The moment you embrace it is the moment you acknowledge that it’s a feeling that you’ve chosen. As soon as you realize it’s a choice, you become free to choose something else.
• A — Address It — There are many different strategies for addressing fear, depending upon how big it is and how big the goal is. One of the simplest is acknowledging that the physical response to fear and excitement are nearly identical (rapid heart beat, sweating, etc.). Simply telling yourself “I’m excited” can sometimes be enough to calm your nerves and move forward.
• R — Read to It — This is when you speak to your fear, directly. Sometimes you have to talk to it like David spoke to Goliath in the Bible. Read your resume to it. When you tell your fear (and yourself) all the wonderful things you’ve accomplished and/or overcome in the past, you take a fighting stance and are ready to karate chop it in the neck.
Don’t waste your life letting the river of fear keep you from your dreams. The river may be too big to swim across, but you don’t have to struggle with it. When you build your faith, you won’t struggle at all. When you get to the other side you’ll find the battle at the new level, getting your dreams, isn’t as hard as you thought it was. It only looked hard because of the distance created by the river.
Tricia D. Teague is a speaker, founder of The Trep School, and trained coach with the Coaches Training Institute. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To schedule a free coaching session by going to www.thetrepschool.com/coaching