What Are You So Afraid Of? Fear, Procrastination, and the 'Bad Timing' Myth

I went skydiving one time. It wasn’t my idea. I was interning after college back in Ames, Iowa and when my internship ended, my boss said he had a surprise for us. He drove us out to a small airport one Tuesday afternoon,  plopped down $700 on the counter, and said... 

“I’m going skydiving today, yours is paid for if you want to do it too.”

I had never wanted to skydive but I knew in that moment if I didn’t take action, I NEVER would. I would let fear paralyze me and it would never happen. I also knew that THIS opportunity wouldn’t necessarily come again. Sure, there are a million skydiving outfits all over the world, but opportunities don’t just materialize over and over again. They are there, and then they are gone.

I’m glad I did it. It was exhilarating, terrifying, and something I will always remember. I know if I had thought too hard about it, if I’d told myself, ‘I’m only 25, I’ll have more chances to do this why TODAY?,” I would have walked away and never gotten up the nerve to sign up for that experience. 

It’s an innocuous example. My life would not be measurably different if I had chosen not to skydive, but it’s a metaphor for other (more significant) risks in my life. Don’t overthink them, I tell myself now. The longer you think about it, the less likely you are to do it. If you don’t do it now, this opportunity may NEVER present itself again.

Timing, Fear, and Procrastination

I’m not impulsive, per se, but I know that the easiest thing in the world is to say you’ll do something some other time. It’s the biggest, fattest lie we tell ourselves to justify our fears. Procrastination is our way of convincing ourselves that we stand for x, y, and z, while not actually living any of them out.

When faced with the opportunity, we don't say, "I'll never go skydiving" we say, "I'll go skydiving when...

  • ...I can do it on my own terms
  • ...the timing is right
  • ...I get older
  • ...Inspiration strikes me

Here is what I know about risk and timing. We often think it’s the timing that is ‘off’. We convince ourselves of this later date when it will be better to take a risk. That almost never happens. Life gets busier, or one barrier is simply replaced with another. Most of all... 

If we have fear about something, it doesn’t get smaller with time, it gets BIGGER. Fear grows.

Most people think it’s timing. It’s not, it's fear. And fear does NOT go away unless you face it, head on.

If I had not gone skydiving that day, I KNOW my fear would have grown. I would have remembered the feeling of my stomach sinking when my boss presented the offer, I would have watched the safety videos and read all the disclaimers, imagining the worst. I would have watched my boss jump out of an airplane, started hearing about skydiving accidents, and that would have just built a bigger wall of fear.

I know that if I hadn't taken the leap that day, I would have never gotten up the nerve to go skydiving.

I know this about risk, not just because of my own experience with skydiving and risks in my business, but I see it with my students.

The ones that overcome their fear and take action become bigger than the fear. Suddenly, it gets a little easier every day to overcome fear. 

The ones that wait, use procrastination or timing as a cop-out, become a victim of their fear. Slowly, it gets a little harder every day to overcome fear.

Here's the truth: Timing is almost never a real issue, so timing won't actually solve inaction. People who use 'timing' as an excuse will simply find ways to avoid opportunities in the first place. Case in point: I’ve never stepped foot in another skydiving facility since.

Becoming the Master of Your Fear

I see this in myself all the time. The procrastination of something that scares me. But I’ve learned that taking action quickly is the best antidote. Because at the end of the day, I’m not reckless. I’m not going to throw money at something stupid, I’m not going to do something overly dangerous. It’s not that I’m not thinking things through, it’s that I try not to think beyond what is necessary.

I’m no expert at this, but I try. Because, I realize if I don’t, I become that person that is waiting. And THAT is way worse to me than making some mistakes along the way.

What Are You Afraid Of?

What’s the thing, big or small that you are overthinking and waiting for the ‘right timing’? What action can you take TODAY towards that thing? Sign up for a class you’ve been scared to take? Reach out to someone you’ve been holding back from contacting? What will you feel when you take that action? My guess is you’ll feel empowered, strong, excited. Stay with THAT feeling.      

Mindset Coach Academy - 2020

Note:  Applications for The Mindset Coach Certification are now closed, but we'll be launching our next cohort in Fall, 2020. To be the first to know about this upcoming cohort, put your name on our waitlist.



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