Overcoming Fear

From the Harmony Habit Tip Archives (October 2011):

“Every choice we make is based either on fear or faith.”
~ Carolyn Myss



Faith or FearThe first time I read that sentence in Carolyn Myss’s book, Anatomy of Spirit, her words really struck me. I looked up from the page, and wondered: “Is that true? Could it possibly be that every single choice I’ve made was based either on fear or faith?” I stopped reading, closed the book and thought about it for awhile.

I thought about some of the big and small decisions I’ve made – and everything in between: choices about my relationships, children, my work, health, money and more. I remembered the time I quit my job and moved from New York to the San Francisco Bay Area. The choice I made to go back to school and change careers. The time I intervened in a challenging conflict.

I remembered recent actions I’d taken (or not), like whether to sell my home, travel solo, rebuild my website, rekindle an old dream – or encourage someone else’s dreams; all of which seemed a bit risky to me. In every case – Carolyn Myss was right – both fear and faith were present. And, without realizing it, both had influenced my decisions. That was an “aha!” moment for me.

I couldn’t help wondering: “What might I do differently if – from here on – each time I was faced with a choice, I was more consciously aware of the presence (or lack) of fear or faith?”

What if, every time I had to make an important decision, I asked myself “Am I coming from a place of fear …or faith?”

Not long ago, I put that question to a test: I was with a team in Southern California with whom I worked for many years. The group wanted to do a ropes course, which involved climbing 50+ foot poles and jumping from a zip line. It was a great outdoor team activity and everyone was excited – except for me! I was happy to handle the arrangements, yet said I needed to hire a facilitator to take them through the course. I had a fear of heights and was definitely not about to climb a 50 foot pole!

So we employed the services of a wonderful young man who helped our group overcome their fears and meet challenges head on. I stood on the sidelines, cheering, as I watched the team members secure harnesses, hold ropes, brave heights and leap into the air, grabbing at trapeze bars or clinging onto zip lines. It was thrilling to behold. As we packed up to head home, everyone was happily regaling in their success.

Then one of the team members said, “Wait a second. We can’t leave until Mary jumps!”

“No way,” I said. “I’m not jumping! I told you, I have a fear of heights and there is absolutely no way I’m going to climb that pole.”

They all began shouting: “You can do it! You can do it! You can do it!”

I’m not sure whether it was sheer embarrassment that lead me to put the harness on or not. Yet, after a few rounds of that chanting, I found myself climbing the pole, shaking like a leaf, panting with fear. When I reached the top, I sat down on what seemed like a 10 inch square platform and looked down at the team. That’s when I really got scared.

From 55 feet up in the air, I shouted, “You can all go back home now because I’m never going to jump and I’m never coming down.” Sitting there for the rest of my life – honestly – seemed like a much better option then jumping.

At some point, I remembered the commitment I made to asking: “Am I coming from a place of fear of faith?” The answer was obvious.

Then someone yelled, “It’s about your divorce!” – and that got my attention. This moment was a metaphor for something larger happening in my life. Fear had held me back before and I no longer wanted it to be in charge. I stood up, grabbed the rope, closed my eyes and jumped.

girl zipliningI’m convinced I could be heard screaming all the way from Anaheim to San Francisco yet it was one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve ever had. It was also an exercise in faith unlike I’d ever experienced. I had to trust that life – and this wonderful team – would support me. Faith won!

Now, I’m not saying that we all need to climb 50 foot poles to put our faith to a test! Yet I am suggesting that we might make different choices – ones that are far more in line with what we truly value – when we consciously choose to reflect on what’s influencing our decisions. Is it fear – or faith?

We all have the capacity to make more life affirming choices. The first step is to become aware of the forces at play and then consciously choose which one we want to win. The time we take to stop and reflect on what matters most can have tremendous impact on our relationships – with ourselves and others – and could very well change the course of our lives.


This week’s practice:

If you have an important decision to make, consciously choose to stop, and take more time to reflect on your options. Ask yourself: “Am I coming from a place of fear or faith?” Sometimes the answer will be obvious and at other times you may have to wait for a while.

Spend some time thinking about decisions you’ve made in the past – have they been fear based? Could you have had a little more faith in yourself, in the people around you, in life’s circumstances? What might your life be like now – and in the future – if you practiced more often at saying “no” to your fears and “yes” to life?

Maybe we’ll see you zip-lining soon!

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