“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
I have wanted to skateboard since I was a little kid. I remember the first time I tried it, I was probably about 10 years old. We didn’t have a lot of money at the time and my mom wasn’t about to splurge on a skateboard I might not use more than a few times. So, we borrowed a cheap skateboard from a neighbor and I tried to go down my steep slanted driveway. Needless to say, the board ended up at the bottom of the driveway empty, and I ended up hitting the pavement with a loud “thud”. Skateboarding career over. However, I always wanted to try it again, but I remembered how much that first fall hurt and I honestly was afraid. I didn’t want to feel that pain again. So, I never tried it again.
Until now. Since I have started getting more fit, I have wanted to try new active hobbies that I have never tried before. Now, I am no spring chicken at 34, and it’s probably not as easy for me to learn something as it is for younger people, but I am trying and have had some success. However, skateboarding was a risk. I mean not only do I have to pay for a board I might not use, I also risk falling and hurting myself. Once the weight started coming off, the desire to skateboard started to surface again. I started looking online for used skateboards and started checking out local skate shops. I was too embarrassed to even try to stand on the board at the store. I left the first time and decided not to purchase one. However, I just couldn’t get over the fact that I needed something else active to do besides walk. So, with serious hesitation, doubt, and uncertainty I purchased a skateboard that was on sale. I walked out of the store unsure of myself, but as I have lost the weight, I have begun to become more confident in myself and my abilities.
So I got home and went to the park determined to learn to ride my new board. I cautiously stepped on and immediately stumbled. Strike one. A few more times of the same routine, and I was beginning to wonder if I had made a huge mistake. To compound the fact, there was a group of homeless guys at the park that were chuckling and watching me nearly fall on my face. I’m not sure why, but just having complete strangers watch me made me more self-conscious. So, I headed to my driveway.
My driveway is almost entirely flat, except for a small dip right at the edge. I tentatively rode around on the driveway slowly gaining confidence as I went. Without the watching eyes, I was more willing to take chances and actually fell twice. This is where the lessons started. I had built up in my mind how terrible the falls were going to be. Now, don’t get me wrong it hurt. Falling is not fun, but I fell twice, and that was it. After that, I was able to ride all the way to the edge of the dip. It was only about 15 feet, but it felt like a huge accomplishment. However, I was bombing out before I started down the hill, afraid I wasn’t going to be able to handle the speed, and level change. But, like I said I have been gaining confidence in myself, and after about 30 minutes I tried the dip, and made it! I was so surprised I made it, I hopped off as soon as I hit the street. Then, I decided I could hit the dip again and still keep going. The next try had me hit the dip and make it all the way across the street. I started timing myself when I got out to the driveway, and within an hour I was riding down the dip and all the way down my street and back. What does all of this have to do with risk you ask?
1. Fear of risk gives us permission to limit ourselves. Skateboarding is fun. I think I would have loved it even more when I was younger. I could have saved myself time going to and from class in college. I could have been more active. There are a lot of positives that could have happened, but I didn’t try because I was afraid of the pain of falling. Now, in order to teach myself to skateboard, I fell twice. TWICE?! That was what was stopping me from trying something really fun. Two falls? As crazy as that sounds, that is what many of us, myself included, do when we think about changing our lives. We let our fear control us. We listen to those voices of the past telling us we can’t be successful. We are afraid to fail or look bad. This is really ridiculous if you look at it objectively, but many of us let fear direct our paths.
2. Usually the anticipation of the pain is worse than the pain itself. Tim Ferriss, in his book, The Four-Hour Workweek, used this idea in one of his activities to complete in the book. He asked his readers to write out their worst case scenario if they tried to pursue their dreams and failed. After I completed the task, I looked at the list and said, “That’s it?” This is the absolute worst case scenario, which is probably not even likely to happen, and this is what I’ve been afraid of? Fear is a strong emotion, that runs to very core of our being, and helped our ancestors survive. However, for us it acts as more of a limiting agent than anything else. If you are unhappy with an area of your life, try this exercise out and see what happens. For instance, if you are overweight and want to lose weight, what is the worst that can happen if you choose to follow some of what I have suggested in previous posts? You might tell your friends and loved ones that you are going to change and then don’t. Why is that so scary? Fear of rejection is a powerful motivator. But, when you really look at it, its not that big of a deal if you fail. Heck, it’s probably not the first time. But, on the other hand, what if you’re successful? You’re entire life gets better, and you have a chance to dramatically improve each and every day. The rewards seem to far exceed the risks.
3. Challenging ourselves makes us stronger and able to take on more challenges. Woodrow Wilson sums up this point when he says, “The only use of an obstacle is to be overcome. All that an obstacle does with brave men is, not to frighten them, but to challenge them.” The more challenges we face and conquer, the stronger we become. Even if we aren’t successful in every challenge, the fact that we are facing obstacles builds resiliency and toughness in us. We must build the discipline to regularly face challenges. Thanks to our ancestors, when we face challenges we go to our default setting, fight or flight. For most of us, our natural inclination is to avoid challenges. We do a lot more flight than we do fight. But, we must stay in there and face challenges. Don’t let yourself avoid difficult situations. Face them head on. Initially, you will need more encouragement. Share your fears with someone close to you and ask them to help you face them. As you go up against obstacles, and succeed, you will begin to gain more confidence and eventually you will face them on your own without needing any encouragement. Just like everything else, this is a skill that can be improved and must be practiced in order to get better. And that’s the goal, EVERY DAY GETTING BETTER!