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Utilizing Fear as a Powerful Tool for Growth

Have you ever let fear hold you back from trying something new?

Have you ever been haunted by the fact that you allowed fear to get in the way of you doing something that you wanted to?

Did you know that fear itself can serve as an invitation for us to step up to the next level in our personal growth and development?

I discovered this for myself when I was 11 years old. My family had taken a trip to the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. It was the farthest I had ever traveled from home and was my first visit to a lush, tropical island paradise. Needless to say, I was SO excited to be there. Puerto Rico is a diverse island with vibrant rainforests, stunning beaches fringed with coral reefs, and aged Spanish architecture.

One particular day my family had set aside to visit a beautiful waterfall in one part of the rainforest. We each wore swimsuit under our clothes and comfortable shoes to make the hike to the waterfall. After a long drive through the thick green forest, we arrived at the trailhead and began the hike. I could hear the roar of the waterfall from hundreds of yards away, even through the dense forest foliage. When we arrived, I was amazed at how much water was falling over this cliff! Keep in mind, I grew up in Utah where the slightest trickle of water can be deemed a waterfall.

The cool spray felt heavenly after an uphill hike through the balmy rainforest. After remarking loudly to one another at the power of the waterfall and taking a few photos, my siblings and parents started to take off their extra layers and shoes, then wading out into the pool which formed at the bottom of the waterfall. It wasn’t long before the oldest had swum all the way out to the waterfall and were even swimming under the waterfall to explore the hidden world behind. Upon entering the pool, I was surprised to find how cold the water really was! On a tropical island in a balmy rainforest, I had assumed that the water might feel like a bathtub. This was not the case!

I did not have much insulation on my body as a child, so the cold felt like it went right to my bones. I waded in and out of the pool, hoping that my body would adjust to the cold, watching my siblings laugh and climb around behind the waterfall. I so badly wanted to be back there with them, but the fear of the cold water kept me stuck at the edges of the pool. By the time everyone started swimming back to the edges of the pool I was quite upset. Upset at the cold, upset at having been left alone at the edges, but mostly upset with myself for being held back by fear of some cold water.

On the drive back, I was able to reassess the situation without being so emotionally worked up. In my 11 year old brain I began to recognize that the fear was there to serve as a warning, but not to be a deterrent to keep me from trying fun, exciting new things. Once I was in a clearer brain space I recognized that swimming in the cold water for a few moments might have been uncomfortable, but would not have endangered my life. I also recognized that now I was carrying some serious F.O.M.O. (Fear Of Missing Out) and regret!

Instead of giving into the FOMO and regret, I decided that instead from that point forward I was not going to let fear hold me back from doing things that I wanted to do. I was going to remember this experience and recognize the fear as an invitation to take a second look at a situation. I was going to ask myself very logically, “Is this truly a danger to my life and well-being or I am just scared because it is something new?!” “Could I possibly learn something new or grow my comfort zone from this experience?”

This new outlook on fear has changed my entire life! Stopping to ask myself these questions when fear arises has opened me up to experience so many incredible new things! Things like rock climbing, speaking in front of a group of people, repelling over a 200 foot cliff, rafting down a river of rapids, traveling abroad by myself, starting a conversation with a stranger, or spending a night alone in the wilderness. Each of these experiences have ended up as incredible opportunities for me that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. They have also helped me to build my confidence and personal strength!

Repelling in Utah.

As a child, I was not particularly adventurous. In fact, I was scared of a lot of things! But if you asked any of my friends, family, or loved ones today, they would tell you that I am an adventurous, thrill-seeking man!

Life is defined as “The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including capacity for growth, and continual change preceding death.” As living beings we have an inherent drive to grow, to move forward, to learn, and to change our state of being!

Fear is defined as, “An emotion caused by the belief that something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or threat.” From this definition, we see that fear serves a purpose. It is not likely something that we will ever eradicate from our lives, nor do we need to try. Instead, we get to be in control of this emotion and decide what to do with it. When it comes up, we get to ask ourselves, “Is my life in danger? Or I am merely scared because I am at the edge of my comfort zone?” If you answer “No” the first question and “Yes” to the second question, then this is an indicator that you are in the perfect situation to set fear aside, move out of your comfort zone, try something new, and propel yourself into a new state of being!

Challenge :

Next time you feel fear arise, ask yourself these questions :

“Is my life or well-being in danger?” If you honestly believe, “yes” - then step back. Keep yourself safe. If your answer is “No” then ask the next question.

“Could there be an opportunity for me of fun, growth, learning, exhilaration, friendship, love, etc.?” If the answer is “Yes” then I encourage you to go for it!

Then come back and tell me about your experience!

Sending adventure, fun, learning, growth, and love to all!!

Colter Wild



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