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Fear: A Figment of Your Imagination?

This weekend I heard a wonderful illustration about fear and focus that I thought deserved to be repeated on a larger scale.

Let us imagine that I took a long plank that was 50 feet long and 1 foot wide. I put it up on cinder blocks so that it is about 3 feet off of the ground. At one end I place a $20 bill. I challenge you to walk from one end of the plank to the other without falling off. If you make it, you get the $20 bill. Sounds pretty easy, right? I think all of us could do it pretty easily without too much anxiety.

Now let’s imagine that I take the exact same plank and place it across a narrow and deep canyon with a raging river flowing at the bottom and razor-sharp rocks jutting out from the walls. Instead of a $20 bill, I place $100 on the other side of the canyon. If you can cross the canyon, you get the $100.

How many people do you think would be successful at crossing the canyon? How many do you think would even attempt it? I’m not sure I would.

But why not?

The plank is the exact same width and length. The reward is 5 times greater. Anyone who could cross the plank when it was 3 feet above the ground could also cross it when it is 100 feet above the ground.

The truth is that even though the plank dimensions haven’t changed, our focus has. We stop focusing on the money and start looking at the crashing rapids and jagged rocks. We focus so much on the obstacles that fear sets in and we forget that we already have the ability to make it safely across to the other side. In the end, we tend to be more likely to not even make an attempt.

Henry Ford said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”

In the trailer for an upcoming Will Smith movie, he says “Fear is not real. It is the product of thoughts you create.” What a true statement! There is no tangible object called fear and it isn’t like some virus that we catch.

Fear is created by our own mind as it tries to protect us from “danger”. The problem is that most of the time, our imagination gets a little irrational. It over-thinks and then overrides our common sense and confidence. Things that we know we have the ability to accomplish suddenly become impossible. Some times people even become paralyzed by the fear they have created. In simple terms, fear is a choice.

As you come to the chasms in your life with that narrow path leading to success, try not to focus on the obstacles. They are merely distractions to keep you from moving forward. When you feel fear growing inside you, it is okay to recognize it. It is okay to feel it. But move forward anyway. Remind yourself that you were created for success and destined for great accomplishments. The high achievers in the world are not those with no fear, they are the people who feel the fear, and move forward anyway.

May your determination exceed your trepidation.


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