I stood at the top of the Grand Teton, making my move toward a double rope descent which was to be off a sheer cliff hundreds of feet above the ground. I am afflicted with acrophobia so the thought of what was approaching me was daunting to say the least.
As I participated in securing our ropes, my mind raced in thoughts of ways I could get off the mountain without having to take this next step. I had trained for mountaineering it is true, yet I wasn’t comfortable enough to go on a different route alone. I didn’t have the heart to ask any of my fellow climbers to change course simply to meet my needs. The safer route would add hours to the descent, it just wouldn’t be fair.
While the final preparations were being made, one of the climbers began to freak out at the thought of merely jumping off the edge, as the first step toward reaching the bottom. His fear instantly began to affect my mindset. The immediate horror of what I knew lay ahead, if allowed to occupy my heart, would prevent me from ever doing what was necessary to succeed; reach the bottom with my group.
All I could think was that I would have to be thrown off the cliff if I didn’t resolve the anxiety being placed in front of me. My first reaction was to ask this person to either keep their feelings to themselves, or I would need to remove myself from the situation. I knew that by leaving the area and waiting for the conversation to end, my mind would naturally default to the exact same trepidations; worsening to the point of my physical inability.
I decided the only way out for me to get down was to leave the security of the ridge immediately; before any further damage was done to my already fragile existence. I asked if the ropes were ready; they were, and I prepared my harness. My climbing buddies knew this wasn’t like me to lead out as a result of my fear. Are you ok, one asked? Yes, I simply need to move before it is too late. They understood, I was assisted and prepared to descend.
I stood on the edge scared to death, secured by my rope, needing to jump off. Not wanting to contemplate anything beyond knowing I had followed precise procedure, I leaped into the unknown. At first, this was one of the scariest things I had ever done. As I fell the ropes tightened and I maneuvered myself down safely. Upon reaching the ground below I felt immediate relief. I learned quickly that it had been much easier than I had ever dreamt. If you can imagine; I wanted to do it again.
Fear is commonly known to be a negative emotion that is brought on by perceived danger. I feel it is a survival instinct used to protect us from doing things that could harm us. Courage on the other hand is the ability to erase the negative emotion. It is a natural reaction; we use courage to move past unwarranted fear.
I am using fear and courage for our discussion; we could say apprehension and confidence, or uneasiness and self-assurance. The words don’t matter; it is the understanding that these emotions never occupy our hearts at the same time that is important. Think for a minute of some of your life experiences, times when your fear was replaced by courage.
Were these times when you were deciding to run for an office at school, entering a competition you knew would test your strength, making a life decision, or simply determining whether or not to cross the road? These experiences in our lives, when our fear leaves us, and our heart is filled with courage; don’t need to be times where we jump off the cliff. Knowing these two emotions can’t coexist simultaneously in our heart is what is needed for us to understand, for us to reach our greatest potential.
When you sit back and dream of where your life will take you, know this for sure: The negative emotion of fear should only be used to prevent you from harm. When you know the coast is clear, and the only fear remaining is the unknown; replace it immediately with courage. Take the step; realize it won’t be as bad as you think, and that you can do even more after you are done! This is how dreams come true.