When you perceive a threat to your wellbeing, fear becomes your primary emotion. In response, your perspective narrows, and you only see the threat causing you to feel afraid. That makes it challenging to act boldly or to perceive your options for avoiding danger.
Your challenge lies in reducing your level of fear—even a little—so you can see the big picture. Survival depends on perspective, so you can see your options and opportunities.
The Edge of the Cliff
Imagine hiking up a mountain. You want to get to the summit so you can see the beautiful view at the top. As you walk up the path, you arrive at the place where you first glimpse the view. You’re struck by the fantastic panorama. You take a few more steps forward so you can get a better look, and feel awestruck by how gorgeous it.
You want to get an even better view, so you move closer to the edge of the flat area. As you walk toward the cliff’s edge, notice how your gaze shifts from the horizon to your feet.
Also, pay attention to how you feel. The closer you get to the edge, the more afraid you become. And the more afraid you become, the more your perspective becomes limited.
By the time your toes are lined up with the edge of the cliff, you no longer see the awe-inspiring view, only the tips of your hiking boots and the pebbles that drop off the side. And instead of fear, you’re petrified that you might fall off the edge like those pebbles. You can hardly breathe for fear of falling.
And that panoramic view…it’s gone.
Step Back from Fear
So how do you, first, stop feeling so afraid, and, second, regain your perspective?
Imagine yourself stepping backward. Take one full step, bringing both feet about a yard farther away from the edge.
Notice how you feel now. Your terror has subsided, and you can breathe. You may still feel afraid, but you are no longer petrified. You also have regained the ability to look up from your feet…just a little.
Visualize yourself taking another step backward…maybe even two or three…farther away from the cliff’s edge. Again, notice your emotions. You no longer feel afraid. You can breathe and move your body feely. And you can once again look up and see…and appreciate…the view. Maybe you even feel more gratitude and awe for the view after the scary experience.
See the Opportunities
From this vantage point, you allow yourself to look around and notice your surroundings. Low and behold, you see that the place where you are standing is not the actual summit. Another path leads higher up the mountain and to another outlook. You didn’t notice the route previously. Your fear blocked your view.
When you back away from your fear just enough to gain perspective, you notice the opportunities presented by the moment. Suddenly, you have options.
At this moment, step back from the edge of your fear. Whatever you feel threatens your wellbeing, back away from it. Maybe you are afraid you or someone you love will get Covid-19. Perhaps you are out of work and fearful that you won’t find a job soon enough to pay your rent. Or possibly, your business is floundering, and you can’t stop worrying that your investment of time and money will be lost.
The more you think about your fear, the more afraid you become. The focus on what you fear most moves you closer and closer to the edge of the cliff.
Step back! Gain perspective. See the bigger picture. Only then will you notice the paths you can choose to take to safety.
Take Bold Action
Maybe your fear has left you feeling unable to take bold action. You’ve stepped back from the edge, and you have some perspective. You see the opportunities that surround you. Yet, you are struggling to find the courage to take action.
There is a way to act boldly. Remember a time in your life when you acted courageously.
You could have remained stuck in fear, but you didn’t. You were courageous. You told bold action. Why? Maybe it was the situation itself, necessity, a supportive person in your life, or your strong desire, for instance.
When you have the answer, apply it to your current situation. What can you learn from that experience when you acted boldly? And how can you use that lesson to help you become more courageous now? Maybe you need to feel more supported or increase your desire to feel less afraid, for instance. Or perhaps you need to feel a higher degree of need for calm and peace rather than anxiety and fear.
Take a Leap of Faith
Last, to move from fear toward courage, you need faith. There’s an aspect of taking bold action that relies on faith. The best example I have for this comes from the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indiana’s father is dying. To get the chalice they’ve been searching for, he has to figure out how to cross a vast chasm between two sheer rock walls.
He can see the doorway on the other side of the deep ravine, but it’s too far for him to jump. He needs a bridge.
As he stands at the edge with seemingly no choice but to turn back or fall to his death, he remembers that he needs to faith…to believe in the unseen. He then puts one foot out into the nothingness, knowing that, if he is wrong, his foot will meet the air, and he will fall to his death. But if he is right, something will appear to hold him and allow him to get to the other side.
Lo and behold, his foot lands on an invisible walkway. In fact, this bridge, while narrow, readily holds his weight. It was an unseen option—one only discovered when he exercised faith.
If you’ve never seen this movie or don’t recall the scene, watch the video below:
It’s All Working Out for Your Highest Good
Scary situations require you to take a similar leap of faith. You have to believe the situation will turn out alright, and good things will come from your actions. You have to believe that it will all work out for your highest good.
I really believe that, while people are struggling financially, dealing with significant health issues—like Covid-19, and wondering what their life will be like in 3, 6 or 12 months, something good will come out of their situation.
Specifically speaking about the global Covid-19 pandemic—since I’m writing this in April 2020, I believe humanity’s level of consciousness is rising, people are learning to connect and love on a deeper level, the planet is healing, and we are all gaining a new appreciation for the lives we are privileged to live. Most of us are re-evaluating how we live our lives and committing to living them more fully.
I have tremendous faith that everything will be alright in the end. And, as Patel, the hotel manager in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel says, “If it’s not alright, it is not yet the end.”
So, step back from the edge of your fears and toward courage. Gain perspective. Use lessons learned from past courageous actions. Have faith. And notice what options and opportunities present themselves.
Do you feel able to step away from fear and see the opportunities before you? Tell me in a comment below. And please share this with someone who feels afraid.
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