I’m nervous, my daughter shared as we walked with my wife to the staging area for a 4-mile obstacle run in the mountains…
For years, my default response to comments like this was to try to explain why there was no reason to be nervous. To try to defuse the anxiety and show how everything would be just fine. To eliminate the possibility of things not going as planned and make the unknown known, make the new old, even if just in appearance.
But, I began to realize that response was doing a disservice.
Because anything worth doing, any creative endeavor, any new experience will come with a healthy dose of uncertainty. With an inability to know how it’ll all work work out. Trying to paint a picture that turns unknown into known is not only unrealistic, but also frames uncertainty as a bad thing. And action in the face of uncertainty as something to be avoided.
As Kierkegaard said:
“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”
It’s a signpost of possibility.
So, now I take a different approach. One built around a different line of thought.
I understand you’re a nervous, I say, so am I, but that’s okay. It’s really just your mind and your body saying that what you’re about to do is something that really matters, that can be really cool and it’s something that’s a new experience for you. That’s an amazing thing, because that’s where the great stuff in life happens. In this place where we feel a little nervous, where we’re doing something we’ve never done before.
It’s okay to be nervous, even a bit afraid, and still do it, I tell her (and, frankly, half the time I’m saying it to convince myself as well).
Because the core skill set I want to help cultivate in situations like this as a dad is not the belief that eliminating uncertainty is a pre-condition to action. Rather, nervous energy is often a signpost that what you’re about to do matters. The real challenge is to learn to intuit whether the visceral response is shutting down opportunity or keeping you from physical harm.
There are times when it’s the latter. And those are the moments, when there is very real risk of physical danger, when you seriously consider the intelligence of backing away. But, in my experience (at least once you’re out of your teens), the vast majority of times, it’s the former. And that’s all about leaning in.
What do you think?
P.S. – Check out the new Good Life Project™ TV, just launched last week.
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