Do Something That Scares You

These days, I am preaching Eleanor Roosevelt to anyone who will listen:

Do one thing every day that scares you.”

It sounds harder than it is.  Doing something that scares you doesn’t necessarily mean strapping on your parachute and jumping out of a plane or hitchhiking after dark. Beth Risdon SkydivingIt doesn’t have to be “scary” as in you-might-have-to-change-your-underwear scary. Eleanor simply meant: take a risk and venture out of your comfort zone. This could be as basic as driving a different route home, talking to someone who intimidates you, buying the generic brand of peanut butter, or signing up for a race that gives you butterflies. The point is to that you continue to experience your life in new and different ways.

Some may ask, “Why bother? Why be uncomfortable?” It is a valid point. While I do not pretend to know what is in people’s hearts, I do believe the human spirit wants to explore, to experience new things, to move forward. A series of rationalizations and excuses swirl around our brains and make us masters at talking ourselves out of things. The fact is it is easier to not take risks. It is easier to not be scared. It is easier to not stand out.

Something profound happened to me when I entered the golden years of my forties. I would not label it a mid-life crisis, nor would I say sat down in the hammock one day and decided to live life to its fullest. Rather, it was a gradual opening up of myself to the world. I wanted my life to be full of that which made me feel alive. I trimmed the fat, meaning I eliminated the ho-hum elements of my life. Naturally, not every unpleasant activity can be removed. However, I found there were plenty of optional things (like being the PTA President) that took up a lot of my time, but that I did not particularly enjoy.

My attitude became one of acceptance and openness. Instead of talking myself out of things, I talked myself into them. Anytime I felt afraid to take a risk, I evaluated if my fear was based on reality (e.g., chances are good it would cause bodily injury or death), or merely my own fear of failing, looking silly or being uncomfortable. If my anxiety was based on the latter, I wouldn’t let myself off the hook. Every single time I got ready to engage in something that scared me, I wondered, “Why do I put myself in these positions by choice?.” But, I never backed out.

Being bold has its payoffs. Over the past three years, here are a few things I did even though they scared me:

Like many people, I have a job that on good days can drain and bore me. I am married with two children and have dinners to cook and a dog to feed. I have a mortgage and my house needs dusting. I have found that the required day-to-day minutia is made bearable and even enjoyable when complimented by adventure and exploration.

The difference between living fully and existing passively is making a decision. It doesn’t require money, fame or fortune. It requires you to welcome what you love and what you are passionate about. It requires eliminating the optional “shoulds” that bore and stifle you. It requires the courage to try things that scare you and to risk failing. It requires you to believe, even just for a moment, that your life can take an exhilarating turn for the better. Like the song says, “We are born to be alive.”

What did you do today that scared you?

 

27 Comments
Mike St. Clair

August 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm

I just did something that scares me. I signed up for my very first marathon!

Laura P

August 19, 2011 at 11:55 pm

The best and to me truest statement from Beth is “I have found that the required day-to-day minutia is made bearable and even enjoyable when complimented by adventure and exploration.” I have signed up for my first half marathon, too!!

Ellen

August 20, 2011 at 5:38 am

I rode 50 miles on my bike and took a canning class! I really can make fresh strawberry rhubarb jam that even tastes good!

Bubblz

August 20, 2011 at 5:42 am

Beth you Rock!! Thank you for such great words, just what I needed!!

Heather

August 20, 2011 at 5:53 am

Your wods are true and inspiring. Last summer I did something that scrared the hell out of me. I was asked to be the lead singer in a band. I loved to sing but was totally self conscious and afraid to have to perform in front of people. But today I do just that….and I love it. Yes, I still get the butterflies before a show but I embrace the moment. It is something I always wanted to do. Also this summer I joined Weight Watchers and did 3 5K marathons.

Wendy

August 20, 2011 at 6:16 am

These are definitely words I need to hear! Everyday I put one foot in front of the other doing one of the scariest things I can imagine- I’m homeschooling my very dyslexic daughter. The fact that I’m not relying on a whole team of “experts,” but rather on my own research and intuition both empowers me and scares me to death. Your article reminds me that I need to do more that scares me though. I still get bogged down in the minutiae of housework and said homeschooling.

I’m inspired!

Jessica

August 20, 2011 at 7:31 am

This was an amazing and eye opening article. I am a believer in Christ and He reminds me everyday of why i should push myself to be uncomfortable. I recently took a homeless man some food and signed up to serve in my daughter’s lunchroom at school. Those things took courage to step out of mycomfort zone, but it feels great! Love life, embrace it… You only get ONE!!! God bless you all.

Lucyland

August 20, 2011 at 7:43 am

Your list is so inspiring, Beth! OK, I’ll sign up for a friend’s zip-lining adventure in November and will make the effort to confronting something that a) I’m not good at and b) really scares me: housework!

Peggy OKelly

August 20, 2011 at 7:46 am

Inspirational post! I’ve been fighting that negative voice all week in determining if we open our third store….you’ve just renewed my strength to stay on my path….thank you!

Marva

August 20, 2011 at 8:33 am

I LOVE that saying: “Do something everyday that scares you.” Thanks for the reminder Beth! It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday hohumness of life. We all need to remember to LIVE!!!!

I also enjoyed reading everyones comments! They too are inspiring!

MJ

August 20, 2011 at 8:43 am

GREAT post Beth!

Karen

August 20, 2011 at 4:34 pm

I did one today! My 1st Mud Run! I feel so accomplished 🙂

Sarah

August 20, 2011 at 6:12 pm

When I reopened my Facebook account two nights ago after a self-imposed absence, I saw the link for this article… and was compelled to read it. The past few months have been very long due to a relationship with a man that meant the world to me plummeting out of control towards a most certain demise. It has ended. I am alone. I will survive. But trying to move on is requiring me to make some major changes in my life, well, they seem major to me. The night I read this story, I emailed it to my daughter Jessica, her comment is posted above. I went back out to Facebook, cleared all my old posts and began from scratch. I posted pictures of two of my daughters and their children, whom I love very much and who have reached out so graciously to be there for me. Today I moved a bed, bought some plants, and made a room. To some this may seem silly, but it is very significant. Tomorrow, well it’s a new day, and I’m sure there will be another something scary to challenge my perception of myself and who I am. Everything happens for a reason and your story came at a time when I most needed affirmation of the journey I am to embark upon. I am preparing to relocate alone for the first time in my life, I want to learn to play the piano, and I hope to take up snowboarding. And along this journey, I hope to not miss the opportunities placed before me to do for others because of “fear of failure”.

Betty

August 20, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Beth – great articla and congrats on all of the things you accomplished.
This year has been a big one for me for conquering my fears. I am afraid of heights. We hiked Zion National Park in June. There is a hike called Angles Landing that requires you to climb along the mountain with hooks and chains for your assistance with 1200 foot drop offs. I was not going to do this! It’s a long story but a friendly couple, Bryce & Janette coached me up and we found my husband who had already gone ahead. It was so exciting to get to the top and realize my accomplishment! 🙂
I also have gone out of my comfort zone to train as a Zumba instructor! I am an athlete…not a dancer…so this was a stretch! Also am starting a new position teaching 4th – 6th graders physical education….I have always taught high school students. This fall I plan to zip-line in Hocking Hills, Ohio. So yes…something is happening in my 40’s also with embracing these fears and feeling great about it!

Catey

August 20, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Love this!
You inspired me to do something recently that really scared me….I submitted a photo for a modeling contest for a local swimwear company. I have worked very hard to maintain a healthy fit body after having 8 kids in 12 years, but still-to a photo of myself in a swimsuit out there for thousands of people to see is kind of scary! So far, so good. 🙂

Kris Miner

August 20, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Awesome theme. Life is short, baby. Carpe diem (says the girl who just agreed to run a marathon on 6 weeks of training. Sometimes “carpe diem” means it’s gonna hurt. ;D) LOVE the blog!!!!

Kate

August 20, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Love it Beth! All so, so true. You totally nailed it too saying “the required day-to-day minutia is made bearable and even enjoyable when complimented by adventure and exploration.” Somehow I don’t mind cleaning the house if I’ve run a few miles, or done something for “me”.

You, and all the commentors, are inspiring. We, as humans, possess incredible potential but sometimes it means pushing ourselves, reaching for the impossible, and daring to dream. It’s the foundation that our country was built on, and if you ask me, we’ve lost that a bit. We need MORE people daring to get outside their comfort zone, DO the difficult, and RISK failure. I think we would be a happier, and healthier, race if we all did.

Thanks for the reminder Beth! Keep up the good work.

Jeannie

August 20, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Awesome post! I definitely believe in challenging myself in order to continue to grow as a person and strive to pursue my passions and dreams.

CynDee

August 21, 2011 at 3:47 am

I just signed up for a sprint triathlon and I’m doing it with a friend. Hope that this gets me more motivated to try other things.

Mary Anng

August 21, 2011 at 4:22 am

As another 40+ year old, your statements ring true. What are we waiting for? Get out there and just do it. We’re going to Costa Rica and even though the zip line stuff scares me, I will sign up for it. I’ll just pack another pair of shorts.

Brutalism

August 21, 2011 at 6:34 am

Love your attitude! That thinking was what started my http://www.dilettante club.com where I try something new every single month (for five years now)!

Meghan

August 21, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Or as her husband said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”

Robin Howard

August 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Completed my first sprint tri with an open water swim this morning in prepping for the Nations Tri in 3 weeks(1500 meter open water really scares me.)

APG

August 22, 2011 at 5:56 am

Thanks for the reminder that it is about a “mind set”, making that decision. I just returned to “clipping” into my bike after a major fall with injury 4 years ago. I rode 40 miles of the Stonewall Colorado Century Ride August 13th, clipped in on the road for the first time…scary 🙂 I’ve spent the last several weeks facing down a giant corporation that has been doing their best to disrupt my small business. Very scary but my business, staff and clients are all safe. Thanks for these great words!!!

LauraLynn Jansen

August 22, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Feels like you took my motto for my life and put it into words. 

Annie

August 25, 2011 at 7:13 am

love it, love it, love it! every word you wrote rang true to my life. my husband and i took up rock climbing about 5 years ago, right after we got married, and when people ask why we do it, all i can say is that i enjoy a good scare. it’s that rush of adrenaline from doing something that pushes you out of your comfort zone that makes you feel really alive. i just completed my second full marathon, and part way through running it i thought, why do i do these things? why do i put myself through this? these things ARE scary, but, you are right, they make the day-to-day things, such as cleaning and changing diapers, worth it. they make those tedious things that you HAVE to do every day a little easier, because you know you have an adventure waiting (even if you don’t know exactly what that adventure it) right around the corner.

Lisa

August 26, 2011 at 6:29 am

Mid July, I signed up for a sprint triathlon Dec 3rd! When I signed up, I did not know how to swim, run and haven’t biked for 20 years, I was scared! Late July, I started the couch to 5k running program, swim lessons, and getting reacquainted with my old bike. Experiencing how difficult trying to run and swim have been this past month, I am still scared; but I am determined to keep training and keep trying so I will finish!

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