“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” — a poignant question posed by Sheryl Sandberg in her book “Lean In,” one that makes us pause to consider our lives and the decisions we have made and those we have not made. This question highlights the times in our lives when we have been paralyzed by fear instead of making choices to walk forward boldly into our seasons of joy and prosperity. I chose to start this week’s column with this particular quote because in the last month or so I have been overwhelmed and slightly frustrated with the fear mentality that I’ve witnessed conquering the champion of so many folks around me.
This fear mentality is one I’ve heard much about over the years. It’s this mentality, one of complacency, that many leaving Louisville use to label the people here. Beyond the level of damage it does to my heart to hear those things, I suggest that it is just not true. Fear is not a Louisvillian issue; it’s an issue of international bondage. There are many people doing amazing things in this city, but just like in other cities, for every Comfy Cow or Justin Patton (Facebook.com/JustinPattonInspires), there are 100 others who never try … because they are afraid to take the risk. To quote Sheryl Sandberg again, “Opportunities are rarely offered. They are seized.” I greatly believe that. It has rung true in my life.
As evidence for my statement that this is a not just a Kentucky issue, in June of 2014, the Huffington Post ran an article entitled, “9 Reasons You Won’t Pursue Your Dreams.” I will quote here the #1 listed reason in its entirety.
“Because there is an easier, safer path. As Jim Carrey says in his now famous commencement speech, ‘The decisions we make in this moment … are based in either love or fear. So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.’ We rationalize, justify and persuade ourselves into making the decisions that ‘make the most sense’ — which is often our way of hiding the fact that we are just too darn scared to take a risk on something. Because, we might just fail at it.”
We often are compelled to take the same road that others are traveling. It’s safer. It’s more “normal.” What will people say if I fail? Fear just doesn’t feel good.
I do not believe that having fear means you are a coward. I have felt some level of fear before every major step I have taken in my life. At the tip off of every basketball game I ever played in, before I stepped my high heel on stage in any pageant, when I took my national certification exam to officially become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and even on the day I filed my paperwork to run for office, I was scared, and sometimes terrified! I suggest that it does not matter the intensity of the fear you feel inside, but what you do with that feeling is what matters. This means that we need not be afraid to feel fear, but that we need to be willing to feel the fear and do what we need to do anyway.
I would like to close this article with the words of my friend, Dr. Shaun Owens, “Fear today has become the fuel that drives me to conquer, not to simply run away. Today, my biggest fear is the “regret” of not reaching out my hand to see what happens.” Don’t allow your life to be reduced to regret or shoulda, woulda, couldas. Live in the moment. Yesterday cannot be altered, tomorrow isn’t promised. All you ever have is right now. Be present in each moment, truly experience it: each breath, each vision, each smell, each interaction, each opportunity. For those things will never return and will soon be nothing more than a memory. Be bold. Be brave. Start that business. Go back to school. Change the world. Pursue those dreams! Accept your fears, but walk forward. #Fearlessly