I was five, and was going swimming with my father. Every afternoon that summer, my family would visit our neighbor’s pool, but today was different. This was the day I would jump off the diving board. I had been dreaming of this for months, but I still felt scared. Two weeks earlier, I had split my chin open in an attempt to achieve this very goal. Now, with freshly removed stitches, my father was pushing me to try again. He had penned encouraging notes all week, and promised he would be in the water to catch me. In his wisdom, he knew the importance of keeping dreams alive, and not succumbing to fear.
When we arrived at the pool, however, I was petrified. Wasting no time, my father jumped in as I apprehensively stepped up on the diving board. Treading water, he smiled and gently coaxed me on. “You can do it,” he said. “Just lean into my arms. I will be here.” So on a hot July day, I took a deep breath, let go of fear, and dared to step off the board. As I emerged from the water, I was exuberant. I had accomplished the biggest dream of my five-year-old life!
“It’s not that things are difficult that people do not dare. It’s that people do not dare that things are difficult.” It doesn’t matter if we are 5 or 25, fear of failure stops us from achieving our dreams. It keeps us from thinking big, taking risks, and challenging the status quo. Fear triggers the personal saboteurs that have haunted us our entire lives. It pushes our buttons, diminishing our confidence in our abilities and hindering our willingness to travel into unknown territory. Metaphysicians define fear with the acronym: False Evidence Appearing Real.
Granted, there are times fear signals real obstacles we must navigate, or failed attempts from the past. In that case, it helps to find a mentor to support you, like my father did years ago, to brainstorm the necessary steps or skills needed to accomplish your dream. You might want to slowly test the water again, build a team of support, or implement a pilot program for your goal. Each failure is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently.
What is vital is that you don’t let your dreams and ideas become dampened because of fear. There’s one thing stronger than all the armies of the world and that’s an idea whose time has come. The creation of Facebook, the iPhone, and even the invention of sticky notes were all just ideas whose time had come. They were dreams that someone dared to achieve.
What ideas are emerging through you now? Do you have a new project or idea for your organization or team? Do you want to become a more powerful leader? Do you have new personal goals? Each day, spend time journaling about your ideas, then put feet on your goals. Create a plan of action. Then step off the diving board and face your fears head on.
Elaine Penn incorporates the power of storytelling to move students emotionally and intellectually. She uses her abilities as a coach and teacher to take students on an inspirational journey that changes how they think, feel, and act. Sharing pivotal lessons about leadership, diversity, and the effects of positivity, she helps students transform the culture of their organizations and campus. Learn more at campuspeak.com/penn.