“When you face your fear, most of the time you will discover that it was not really such a big threat after all. We all need some form of deeply rooted, powerful motivation — it empowers us to overcome obstacles so we can live our dreams.” ~ Les Brown
Fear is such a powerful motivation, isn’t it? I’ve never gone skydiving because of fear. I’m not afraid of what could happen. I don’t have visions of some terrible outcome from it. It’s just that when I even start to think about jumping out of a plane, I get instant butterflies in my stomach. Of course, that means my imagination makes me believe that during the actual event, my anxiety would be doubled – at least!
This level of fear reminds me of The Giant Drop at Six Flags, Great America near Chicago, IL. In case you’re not familiar, The Giant Drop is a 227-foot tower. You sit on an outward-facing seat with your feet dangling with nothing below you. Slowly, the ride lifts you up 20 stories. Once the ride reaches the top, it sits still just long enough for you to look out over the park and think “Holy Smokes. This is UP THERE.” And then, you are dropped to the ground at 62 heart-pounding miles an hour.
Usually when I go on this ride, I stop breathing completely for the 20 or 30 seconds it takes to reach the ground. It actually only takes about 3-5 seconds, but it feels much longer. Just typing about my experience on this ride is making my palms sweaty and my heart is racing a bit.
I love roller coasters. I admire the science and engineering that is behind the genius of making our adrenaline run. When I lived close to Chicago, I made it a yearly tradition to visit Six Flags. Every visit, I would say, upon entering the park, “I am NOT doing the Giant Drop! That ride freaks me out!” And then, my friends and I would eventually make it to The Giant Drop. I would stand in line, anxiously awaiting to get done with this pain. Who’s idea was this, anyway, to go on the Giant Drop? I would attempt to leave the line at least three times. Once you’re strapped into the seat, there is no turning back.
Without fail, every single time after riding this ride, I would turn to my friends and say “Let’s do it again!” Facing my fear of the Giant Drop is agonizing – even after the tenth time! Yet, every single time, I discover that there was nothing to be afraid of, and instead, it was a lot of fun! It’s so exhilarating and in a perverse way, it’s a very safe way to make yourself feel a truly large amount of fear.
There are plenty of reasons to be afraid of The Giant Drop. There are websites dedicated to the horrors of roller coaster rides gone wrong. The statistics for skydiving fatalities is something to take seriously. But there are risks involved in everything we do, every day including: driving our cars; walking on a sidewalk; habitually eating foods that are bad for us; smoking; walking up or down stairs; radiation from cell phones; breathing in fumes while sitting in traffic; and the list goes on and on.
Most of us get over the fears associated with these things because we have to drive, talk on our cell phones and walk up and down stairs. We realize at some point, on some level, that the threat isn’t really valid. Or, it wasn’t worth the anxiety because we have to do these things so often. Who wants to walk around feeling scared of everything, all the time?
Even though I’m well aware that we choose our feelings, I can’t deny that The Giant Drop freaks me out. Every single time. It doesn’t matter if I remind myself of the fun exhilaration I felt last time. I am always afraid of The Giant Drop. But… I never let that stop me from going on that ride. That’s where the real choice comes in. Overcome your fear and take action towards your dreams. You’ll see that there wasn’t really any big threat after all. Now… I just need to work on that fear of skydiving…