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Friday, March 1, 2013

Do something scary... do something crazy!

Because life is boring without a real challenge once in a while.

I am talking about positive challenges. I am not talking of the unpleasant, sometimes cruel challenges life sends our way, usually with the worst timing ever, and that we did not need to become a stronger person (I've heard cancer survivors say this).

I'm talking about the stimulating challenges that we create for ourselves and that make us grow as a person.

Challenges get us out of our comfort zone. Don't get me wrong, they are scary. But they also have a tremendous effect on our self-esteem and appreciation of life. Like my fellow blogger Dr. J would say, we have to stop hoping that one day, we will get it done... and instead, "make someday today" (see Dr. J's blog here).

Not all challenges are good for you though. Aim too high, and you will probably end up overwhelmed. Aim for something that's not exactly tailored to your needs or hopes, and it will fail to fulfill you.

There are challenges I find deeply inspiring, yet would not be willing to embrace for myself. Examples include:

- Selling everything, building my own sailboat and traveling the seas for years on a very frugal budget (see this website for the story of a family of 6 who did just that... for 6 years!)
- Growing an all-inclusive garden, making my own bread, jams, soap, etc., raising hens and goats, in short, homesteading
- Writing a "roman-fleuve" (very long novel/saga)

Pick the right challenge, however, and you will be rewarded a hundredfold.

I have already talked, on this blog, of how I got rid of my shyness: once a day, for about six months, I forced myself to do something that generated social anxiety in me. Scary? Absolutely. But it effectively and completely dissolved the chains that were holding me back. I am so glad I took care of that while I was still young (early teens), because my life has been so much more enjoyable since then.

Getting rid of a heavy weight you're carrying, like shyness, is a huge gift to give yourself. Anything one can do to make one's life less miserable is worth all the effort: stop smoking/drinking/gambling, lose weight, leave an abusive partner, come out of the closet... none of this is a small feat, but in the long run the benefits exceed anything you could even begin to imagine.

Extending your arm and trying to get what you've been dreaming of is another type of a gift you can give yourself. You might feel paralyzed by fear, and that's normal. The fear of rejection (asking someone out on a date, applying for a new job/position, submitting your work for publication) and the fear of failure (registering for a sports event you've never done, trying a completely new activity), or simply the fear of the unknown (going on a trip in a foreign and distance place), are potent forces.

What's the worst thing that could happen? Maybe it won't work so well. But is that so bad? At least you'll know you did everything you could, and you'll be able to move on instead of ruminating endlessly! As they say: you'll never know if you don't try! So crush your fears down, and remember the wise words of Dale Carnegie: "If you have a worry problem, do these three things: 1. Ask yourself "What is the worst that can possibly happen?" 2. Prepare to accept it if you have to. 3. Then calmly proceed to improve on the worst."

Surprisingly enough, life is not always that cruel: you crush will not return your interest, but will be very nice and gentle about it, and you might even win a friendship. Your work won't be published (the world of publishing is ruthless to say the least!), but it will only motivate you to keep trying elsewhere. You will end up walking half of your marathon, but you will finish it and feel so pumped anyways!

And guess what... maybe it will work. Maybe you will be pleasantly surprised. The person you thought was way too hot for you will be interested. You will succeed at what you thought was a lost cause. Those things are commonplace! In the past I have applied for jobs I wasn't sure I was qualified for. Guess what? More than once, I did get the job (ex.: assistant-head coach for a university swim team). There would be so many examples of things I was sure I would fail at... yet worked like a charm (like obtaining my Beach Lifeguard certification). I'm sure you have examples as well!

No matter what the outcome is, if you focus on the fact that you gathered all your courage and took a plunge, the whole endeavour will leave you more confident, stronger, better equipped to tackle the next challenge in line!

The nice thing about fear is that if you confront it, you desensitize yourself, and what used to terrify you becomes unremarkable. The more you confront your fears, the more willing you are to confront other fears. Soon enough you discover that you're now doing things you never even dreamed of attempting a few months/years ago. And that's the best feeling in the world.

Make yourself uncomfortable. Do something you've never done. Take the plunge.


  1. You are a wonderful writer and are fighting the good fight!

    I certainly can relate to this article. I had a terrible fear of speaking in front of an audience that I was able to overcome. I used to keep feelings in yet eventually I realized how much better it was to express the good feelings I had about others.

    I'm pretty fearless with many things, not so much with others. But with those I push through. That saying that a coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave person but one is very true, although I haven't died that once yet :-)

    My favorite mantra is "Fear is the mind-killer." I've used it to shut down fear when life or death was on the line and it worked. The fear came later when I had the time to process it :-)

    Thank you very much for the mention.

  2. Thank YOU Dr. J! And you are so right! Might be my background in psychology, but I approach fear with a go-getter attitude: expose yourself gradually, desensitize yourself, and if you do that long and often enough... bang! you're not scared anymore! How cool is that!
    I want to add that yes, there are times when you have to put fear aside and deal with it later. As a lifeguard and first aider I have often experienced an "after the fact episode of trembling": once the victim is stable (or taken away by the paramedics), then the emotion gets to you.