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Why should we do things that scare us?

Last week I went on a 5 day bike trip in California to ride in some very beautiful national and state parks.  Now I’ve been riding my bike for a really, really long time but here in the midwest, the roads are nice and flat.  I’m only comfortable on flat roads where a highway overpass is what we consider a serious climb.  


But instead of staying in my comfort zone, I’ve been taking these trips to places that wouldn’t know a flat road if it hit them in the face.  They know mountains, they know hills, hard climbs, steep descents. 


Not only are these roads tougher to traverse, with the climbs taking all the air out of my lungs, but the downhills - well they’re just terrifying, the speed and the lack of control.  Then there’s the pain in my hands from the death grip as I squeeze the brakes so I don’t go flying off the face of the earth, which is what I picture as I summit the top of the climb and see that long, seemingly endless road down.  


So why do I do it?  Why do any of us want to do things that scare us? 


Laughter during fun team building event

(A team at Breakthrough in Chicago laughing during a Knuckleball Comedy Team Building Workshop)


I’m not talking about truly dangerous things, no, I’m talking about reasonable things that might just enhance our lives if we can overcome the fear.  For some people, it’s the fear of public speaking, for others it’s having the guts to ask a question at a team meeting or offer an idea to their manager. 


Maybe it’s getting past the fear of striking up a conversation with a co-worker who you might want to collaborate with on a project or just be friends.  


I’m not sure I know the answer for everyone, but I can tell you one thing - when I actually do the thing that scares me, man, that is just the best feeling - of accomplishment, of pride, of feeling really good about myself.  I have to think that the same sense of satisfaction is the result for many people who find a way to do the things that scare them.  


So how can we go from debilitating fear to accomplishing the thing that frightens us?  Sometimes it’s just about taking a really deep breath and diving in.  But other times, it might take some outside help. 


Hmm, what could that be? 


Maybe some comedy improv, team building events, where the laughter and connection can relax us and give us more self confidence.  That might make the workplace feel like a safer place to ask a question, offer an idea, or maybe start a friendship, talking to the guy in the next cubicle to find out that you have much more in common than you knew before. 


Once that happens, you might be able to take that newfound confidence into other areas of life.


As for me, I’ll always have some fear of bike climbing, but I’m already looking for my next adventure on the road.     


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