Leap of Faith
It’s funny how some of my favorite shots are taken in passing without any prior intent to photograph. This one was taken on my way home after I had packed up all of my equipment. The contrast between the sunset and the greenery instantly caught my eye and caused me to stop for a while. I probably stood there for about a minute trying to decide whether or not the picture was worth taking until I finally caved and set up shop. Whenever I’m indecisive about something I always remember the following corny but inspiring words: “There are no mistakes, only missed opportunities.” And for the most part I have found this true in life, especially when my instincts are involved. Have you ever just felt that you should do something, but been afraid to do it because logic may have dictated otherwise? Maybe you rationalized to yourself about why you shouldn’t do it and why its irrational to trust your gut. As it turns out, some of the most successful people on this earth are also some of the most irrational – keep that in mind. And when it all comes down to it, most avoidance type rationale can be narrowed down to simple fear. And fear is definitely hard to overcome sometimes – the fear of failure, the fear of being looked down upon, and even the fear of success. Fear can be a powerful deterrent, but it helps to remember that many times the things we obsess and debate over most are the things we are most afraid of. And the more we obsess over them, the more clouded our vision actually becomes. That’s why it is so important to trust yourself and to not over think things. If there’s a feeling in your gut, follow it don’t stifle it because if its strong enough it will likely return to haunt you. Now, I’m not saying that you should go around exercising your every whim to the detriment of yourself and those around you, all I’m saying is that you should believe in yourself enough to explore what your heart is telling you. I like to think of it as a “measured leap of faith.” First comes the feeling in your gut that’s telling you you should do something. This is usually accompanied by strong positive emotions, driving emotions, motivating emotions… the very kind of emotions we want to keep. But the next part is where things can fall apart. Our mind takes over and starts running the numbers to see if it all makes sense. When it doesn’t, anxiety ensues replacing the positive emotions and keeping us at bay. The really dangerous part is when laziness takes over along with anxiety. Your brain figures it is too much effort or too far out of reach so you just stop to “conserve energy.” Don’t let that happen to you. Be driven in life or it will drive you where it wants. Harness your passions and use them as fuel to propel you towards your dreams. We were born with emotion and instinct for a reason. Don’t let your natural “fight or flight” response turn to “flight and flight.” So clearly I’m advocating the “leap of faith” mentality, but am I saying that we shouldn’t think about our decisions at all? No, on the contrary, that’s where the “measured” part comes into play. If your leap takes you off a cliff, then it doesn’t pass the sanity test… you haven’t measured the distance to where you’re going. But, if you stop to actually measure the distance rather than claim with instant authority that it’s too far, you may get an answer that allows you to jump and still land on your feet. You probably won’t know exactly how you are going to get there, but you’ll know enough to know your idea isn’t stupid. Now it well may be that your idea is the craziest thing in the world (the crazier the better actually!), but the important thing is that it not be stupid. Stupid is anything that hurts yourself or others or preys off the weaknesses of others for your own benefit. Stupid is pursuing something despite absolute knowledge of failure. The good news is that almost nothing in life is absolute, and most people are inherently good (I believe) so they aren’t likely to have gut instincts that actually lead to the harming others. What about this whole fear thing? So you’ve measured the distance and you’re ready to make the jump, but you just can’t seem to bring yourself to do it. This is likely because you are afraid of falling. It’s really a deficit in faith more than anything else, ruled by fear. I could say, “well, don’t be afraid.” But I know as well as you do that we can’t just snap our fingers and make fear go away. There are a few things that have helped me most in overcoming fear: 1. Death is imminent. If we live for 100 years, it’s still nothing in the grand scheme of things so why waste time being afraid to fail when eventually you won’t have time to worry about anything anymore? I know this sounds a bit morbid, but really think about it, don’t just read it. Think to yourself, “One day I am going to die.” Say it like you mean it, you already know its going to happen, but if you realize its going to happen, it will start to change how you perceive the world. Be careful here though. You don’t want to think yourself into a premature death, nor do you want to use the fact that you’re going to die as a reason to render all your passions and dreams insignificant. You ARE alive now. (Tuesday’s With Morrie by Mitch Albom is a great book discussing the power of death and its impact on life) 2. Visualize the TRUE fall. Associate more fear with missed opportunities than with the possibility of “failing” or making a “mistake.” Failings and mistakes are the only way to build experience and they’re rarely catastrophic enough to destroy your life… and if they do well hey, you’re going to die anyway remember ;). See what I’m getting at? You need to really visualize the pain that would come to you if you continued to miss opportunities in your life. Really play the story out in your head and envision what your life will be like years down the road if you continue to let fear fuel your decisions. Make sure you end the visualization with something you fear. Even if your life is good and you appreciate what you have (which you should if you have the time to read this), the only way to break free from a habit you don’t want is to associate fear with its continued practice (Read “Awaken the Giant Within” by Anthony Robbins for more information on how we function as pain avoidance, pleasure seeking machines). 3. Visualize the leap. Associate more pleasure with the possibility of success than with the guarantee of safety. I can’t tell you how important this is. Whatever you believe in life will make itself manifest (law of attraction – too many books to list that discuss this, please ask me if you’re interested as there are some great reads out there). See the end result you want clearly in your mind and never get it out of your head. Live it as often as possible… FEEL it as often as possible. Get emotional about it, move yourself to action. 4. Leap, don’t fly. This point is extremely important. With all the self help books and and inspirational writing that can be found these days we have people thinking they can actually fly after reading a few books. Before you run you must learn to walk. The same holds true for everything. Don’t expect instant results and instant success… get the consumer mentality out of your head as there’s nothing instant about changing lifelong habits and ways of thinking (the inspiration can be instant, but results take work). Anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying to sell you something. If you try to fly and fail before you even get off the ground you’ll quickly revert back to the original fear that prevented you from trying in the first place and whats worse, it will be harder for you to get inspired again and to overcome your fear. I’d like to end with some advice that my parents gave me when I was kid that has stuck with me till this day. My dad used to repeat these words to me over and over again when he saw me start to trip up with something: “Patience, persistence, and no nagging.” Sounds simple doesn’t it? But I return to those words whenever I start to struggle with something and I’ve found that they always help me up. My mom used to give me similar advice, but in a different way – with an analogy. Picture yourself at the beach, you pick up a handful of sand and in a desperate attempt to hold onto it forever, you make the tightest fist you possibly can. In the process, all the sand escapes through your fingers and is lost. However, if you open your hand and let the sand rest on your palm, it will stay there so long as the winds remain calm. So calm down, take things slow, maintain balance, patience, and persistence, and never nag or complain. You’ll be set for life. Thanks mom and dad! 🙂 Phew, all done. There you have it, my recipe for taking measured leaps of faith in life. If you have any questions or comments feel free to post them below or email me directly. Take care of yourselves.