Years ago, I was working on a work project about leaders and read numerous quotes from Gandhi. This one struck me.
As soon as I turned eighteen I promised myself to do one thing that scared me every year. I went white water rafting down the Zambezi river. Jumped out of a plane in western Sydney. Travelled solo for a bit. Lived overseas. Found soul mates in the most unexpected of places. Delivered a speech in front of people!
Eighteen years on from that promise to myself, do I need to keep doing this? What do I have to prove to myself or anyone for that matter?
You would think setting off around the globe to set up our online business was enough, but noooooooooooo. Apparently I have this evil inner child that makes me sign up for things.
You find your hand automatically signing the accident waiver and release of liability form.
It will be fun they said. Then they asked you to do this:
Wild dolphins are friendly they said. Snorkelling with them is fine, they smile at you.
It’s obvious I’m not an adrenaline junkie who sees a mountain and needs to climb it then base jump off it holding a snowboard to board down a steep slope before landing in the ocean to take a selfie with a great white. I’m more of a reincarnated house mouse that has a fear of heights, falling, feeling pain and the sound of popcorn rubbed against teeth.
So I made a new pact:
Then earlier this week I was researching things to do in Malaysia for our next trip and came across Gomantong Cave Sandakan. It’s full of bats, cockroaches and guano (for the uninitiated that’s bat poo) and you climb up some circumspect stairs.
WHAT AM I THINKING? I hate bugs and I can’t say I have a positive feeling about animal poo either.
Where did this need to go to some terrifying and disgusting place come from?
I did a little more searching and found some interesting reads about why we seek out fear and why it is good for you.
The one that caught my interest is the idea around a ‘sedentary society’. For this 35-year old surfer and coasteer from Cornwall, fear provides an opportunity to escape from the “mundane and the routine…take those risks to feel fully human, fully alive. It’s about joy and intensity.”
Do we take risks to experience exhilaration? This goes way beyond the flight or fight response of our predecessors.
Rich made a good point and asked me how have we changed since travelling and maybe there’s an answer there.
Interestingly, for the last 6 weeks life has been sedentary. We have been hard at work on the blog and app whilst adjusting to a new country.
Maybe doing scary things is like developing a habit. Each time you do something outside of your ‘normal’ routine you form new neural pathways. Each time these pathways get used they become stronger. I believe it’s those feelings associated when you push yourself – more than just adrenalin kicking in – that you like who you are and what you are capable of. You then created an opportunity that didn’t exist until you did challenge your fear.
So does fear equal opportunity? In a lot of ways yes. More doors open and you definitely learn what you are made out of and most times it is of stronger stuff than you give yourself credit for. Perhaps that’s why travelling and doing scary sh*t while travelling go hand in hand. We are seeking to broaden our horizons, find new opportunities and in some small way develop new habits for our life.
Spoiler: We won’t be going to the guano caves because I found a spectacular snorkelling spot instead, but the fear projects will still be an annual thing. Hmm, I’ve always fancied wing-walking.
Avoiding terrifying times to will.i.am & Britney Spears.
Does this ring true for you? Write your story or experience in the comments below.