The day was beautiful.  The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining brightly, and the scenery was breathtaking.  You could feel the excitement and adrenaline from the group as the guide explained our adventure.  We would be scaling up a cliff wall, wire walking across a canyon, bungee jumping off a rock platform and then zip-lining across a valley to land safely back at camp.

I was gripped by fear inside and started silently ticking off all the things that could go wrong.  But on the outside, I smiled, and nodded along like everyone else, adding in some “oooh’s” and “ahhh’s” to fit in with all my seemingly courageous peers.

Was I seriously the only one scared of what we were about to do?  In a group of 20 others, someone else must be at least a little nervous – why weren’t they admitting it?

As the guide went on and describing the details, my stomach continued to twist and churn.  I couldn’t even begin to process the enormous safety measures put in place to keep me from plummeting to my death.  I could only hear him say, “about 200 feet above ground,” and that made my head spin.

I heard a voice beside me ask “are you ok?”  Those may be some of the best and worst words you can hear when you think you’re alone in your torture, I answered honestly.

“No, I’m afraid of heights and not sure I have the courage to do this.”  I could hear the shakiness in my voice and knew I couldn’t keep it together on my own any longer.

“Me too!” she said.  “But I thought I was the only one so I didn’t want to say anything!” Hallelujah!  It wasn’t just me!

Have you ever felt like that?  Afraid to admit that you’re afraid.  We think we’re the only one and we forget that fear is innate in all of us.  In some cases it’s healthy and keeps us safe – like being afraid of something that will harm us, so we seek protection.  But most of our day to day fear is built around being afraid to stretch ourselves to do new things.  That fear is loud and feels real but instead of protecting us, it stifles our courage and can stop us from growing and reaching potential.

I ended up having an amazing day and as I scaled the cliff wall I felt a rush of adrenaline I hadn’t experienced in years.  All day I focused on just putting one foot in front of the other to keep moving and before I knew it I was zip-lining through the air with a rush of exhilaration. I felt proud, courageous and victorious – it was awesome!

My friend and I encouraged one another all day and along the way found several others who were just as scared, but it took dangling off a cliff for them to admit it.  At the end of the day we had a big party and toasted our success and the incredible experience we all shared.

I took away several lessons that I still apply today, over five years later.  Hopefully one of them will help the next time fear tries to override your courage and threatens to stall your plans.

  • Change your default setting – You were born with plenty of courage but over time your default to the unknown gets reset to fear.  Try examining the situation through your courage first rather than letting fear shut you down.
  • Have the courage to admit your fear – You’re not alone.  Finding a friend who feels the same way doesn’t double the fear, it divides it so that you don’t carry the full burden.
  • Celebrate your courage – You do courageous things all the time but how often do you stop to tell yourself good job?  Stop overlooking those moves – throw them a party and watch your courage thrive!

I bet there’s a place in your life today where fear is overriding courage and holding you back from something amazing.  But you can commit right now to choosing courage over fear – so what are you waiting for – let’s go!