Fear is the barrier that separates us from achieving our dreams. At a young age I recognized the paralyzing force of fear when I chose silence instead of speaking my mind or when I froze, instead of leaping, on the jungle gym at the elementary school playground. At times not leaping is the wise decision, just so long as it is a calculated decision, not an insurmountable reaction. Fear as a biochemical result of a perceived threat has served a very important purpose in the preservation of our species. The fear response is what saved our ancestors on the plains when a saber tooth tiger was nearby. On a personal level, fear assisted my decision to walk around, rather than kayak, certain big water rapids. While traveling abroad, I have felt a hint of nameless fear that was my first indication of danger. However, fear is not always a reliable indicator of danger and the paralysis associated with fear has often prevented me from taking positive action in my life.
As a boy I was quick to learn that inaction due to fear was a worse choice then incorrect action. Incorrect action involves a lesson and the potential to learn and grow. Inaction only maintains the status quo of fear. I chose to face fear and act despite the consequences. The result was embarrassment and injuries, but I also developed coordination, understanding for social norms (mostly), and a sense of my own potential.
As a people we have developed deep fears surrounding situations that are not dangerous to our physical well-being. We have profound fears of being poor, living and dying alone, and my personal favorite; living a meaningless life. What I find interesting about my fear of meaninglessness is that it paralyzes me from taking the very actions that would give my life greater meaning. Currently, my life is relatively free from saber tooth tigers and the fears I have are not saving me, they are hindering me. So I say no to being ruled by fear. I have no illusions that fear will disappear from my life completely, and it shouldn’t as it still serves a purpose for self-preservation. But I will not be ruled by it. I will not be paralyzed. I choose courage.
I live life with the goal of overcoming fear. I have had many nicknames to this effect: Danger Dave, Crazy Dave, and Extreme Dave. My mom thinks I was fearless. This isn’t true, I am just very good at facing fear. I am not fearless, I am courageous. There is an important difference. The word courage comes from the French word coeur, which means heart. To have courage is to have heart. Courage is a choice we all must make for ourselves. It is a choice to step boldly into the future despite the chance of being poor, alone, or meaningless. It is a choice to love passionately and serve others regardless of the occasional saber tooth tiger. It is a choice I choose to make. It is a choice you can make as well. Have heart. Have courage.