Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith...
There was a devastating incident that happened in a part of London I frequently visited which triggered an anxiety in me like never before.
In the days following all I wanted to do was stay as close to home as possible – drive to work and back in my car without having to get on public transport, or any vehicle I wasn't in control of.
I had a big event to cover for work in central London coming up which I had been so excited to attend, but I was very close to going to my managers to tell them that I’m really sorry, but I don’t think I can do it.
Fortunately I had a counselling session the day before the event, and as embarrassed and shameful as I felt for feeling this way, I told myself that it was better to talk it out rather than keep it bottled in.
And I am so grateful that I did, because during this particular session, I came to a realisation that would flick a switch within me.
"Don’t be afraid to give up the good for the great" – John D. Rockefeller
I realised that I wasn’t afraid of my life coming to an end, it was that I was afraid of my life coming to an end without having lived my life.
There were a multitude of things I wanted to experience that I'd been saving for a rainy day, but now when I thought about it a bit more, I realised I didn’t actually have any real excuses as to why I wasn't just doing these things.
So I decided to make myself a bucket list – which incidentally became a bucket booklet – filled with all the things I had been saving for a rainy day. From classic movies from the 80s I had never watched, to going to Disney World – I put it all in there.
But of course, old habits die hard; and instead of executing any of these plans, I just kept adding to the list.
"So perhaps the best thing to do is to stop writing introductions, and get on with the book" – Winnie the Pooh
A few weeks after the event, I entered my office to find a card and gift on my desk. The message written on the inside of the card read 'jump and the net will appear' and was alongside it was a cute little notepad with just a few blank pages in it. On the first page my dear friend had penned 'too much planning, not enough doing.'
She was right. I was sooo good at planning. I was so thorough with everything. I had a contingency plan for my contingency plan. The plans were there: every 'I' dotted and every 'T' crossed. Just there, collecting dust with no one to execute it.
I eventually thought to myself that if I was always focussing on the future, I was basically living in the future – a future that I can’t actually predict – and while my head is in the future, I'm missing out on so much in the here and now.
What if you go all the way for that outdoor event and it chucks it down with rain? Well unless you're a snowman or the Wicked Witch of the West, I doubt you’re going to melt. And hey, if 'Wicked' the musical is anything to go by, water didn’t actually make Elphaba melt anyway – it was all an illusion so you're safe.
And that’s often exactly what it is. An illusion. Something built up in our mind that doesn't actually have any substance to it. It's not fact. It's just our perception. And sometimes all we need to do is pause and ask ourselves if that perception is 100% truthful and based on actual evidence, or if it's something we’ve just told ourselves in an attempt to protect ourselves?
Protect ourselves from what though? Why do we constantly have the urge to 'play it safe'? What are we trying to keep ourselves safe from?
What if you decide not to go to that gig in the field because of the potential downpour and then it turns out to be the most beautiful sunny day?
What if you go and it does rain and you get absolutely soaked – maybe it would actually make it even more memorable?
Yeah, but what if you then get ill?
But what if you don't.
I could do this all day.
"What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?" – Erin Hanson
Not every 'jump' has to be some life-changing event. It can be as small as doing something you’ve convinced yourself you can't do.
I can't go out for dinner without make up; people will notice. I can’t put this photo as my new profile pic; no one will like it. I can't apply for that job; there are more qualified candidates and I’ll embarrass myself. I can't go to see that film if I have no one to go with. I can’t get that tattoo I've wanted for the last two years because I might not like it in thirty. I can't go to a tap dance class at 29; I might suck. I can't pursue my dream; I might fail.
No one knows what they can do until they try. If we try something new only to find that we aren't any good at it and we absolutely hate it, then at least we'll know, and that pesky 'what if' won’t be dangling over our head. And there's no shame in taking a step backwards if we change our minds mid-way – a step backwards doesn’t mean a step in the wrong direction.
One thing I learned from the legend that is Oprah is that whatever you fear most has no power – it is your fear that has the power.
If we are able to learn from our failure, then that experience becomes of benefit to us, so does that still make it failure? Or does it count as a lesson?
Jump and the net will appear
When I booked my one-way ticket to Toronto I had absolutely no idea if I was going to like it. A big part of me wanted to chicken-out and get my flight refunded. I had started convincing myself that I would end up being trapped in Canada, miserable and alone for the rest of eternity. It didn't even occur to me that I could just get on a plane and fly back home if I wanted to.
It's not about taking that leap knowing that there’s a net beneath you if you fall, it's about making the leap knowing that it’ll be there if you need it.
Have faith in yourself. Take a chance on yourself. I choose to believe that everything has a way of working itself out – for me and for you. So jump, and trust that the net will appear.