We all live in fear
The difference is what you fear. Some people fear the dark, some unfortunate souls fear open spaces. Many of us fight Imposter Syndrome on a daily basis, and fear being found out. Some fear being inadequate. Most fear death. A surprising amount even fear success. Almost everyone fears failure. And that fear of failure is debilitating, holding so many back.
Why fear failure?
You know the early development stages of a human being’s life. Babies are born, learn to turn over, then later learn to crawl. Eventually, most babies start standing up, holding on to things. And then the big day arrives: the baby takes their first step. We know what the outcome will be: the baby will lose their balance and fall over. In fact, we know this outcome so well that we keep our hands ready to catch them when they fall. We know it’s a matter of when, not if. And how do we respond? We cheer! We’re happy and proud.
Think about it for a second: we cheer and celebrate abject failure. And why? Because we recognise it’s the effort of trying that counts, not the end result. We instinctively know this. At what point, and why do we stop cheering someone for making an attempt? At which point, and why do we start booing people for trying something, and getting it wrong? When , and why do we start to (entirely unrealistically) expect perfection from the outset?
Changing your mindset
There was an astoundingly brilliant behavioural scientist, Dr Leo Buscaglia. He was pretty much impossible to dislike, and if you watch any of his speeches, I’m sure you’ll agree. He once published a book compiled from conversations with terminally ill patients, asking them what their biggest regrets were. And you know what? Not a single one said “I regret I didn’t have more money” or “I regret I didn’t work harder”. Instead, they expressed regrets about the things they didn’t do. They told of regrets of not showing others that they loved them. Regrets of not having been there for others enough. Regrets for having been too responsible to have more fun. And yes, regrets about always putting those things off till “later”. Until it was too late.
The joy of the moment
Leo Buscaglia wrote the following. It speaks of death, but not in a way you probably heard before:
Freud said a lot of really nice things, and one thing that he said was so many of our problems – and our inability to live – stem from the belief that we will never die. We think we have forever.
If you think about it in the back of your mind, you always think it’s the other person who dies, not you.
Well I have news for you, We are all going to die! The is the most democratic thing that has ever happened. No matter who you are, how wealthy you are, how illustrious you are, how many degrees you have, how fouled up you’ve made your life, how beautiful you’ve made your life, you’re going to die.
But why fear it? You only fear death when you’re not living. If you’re involved in the process of life, you won’t wail and scream. If you’ve treated people in your life beautifully while they were alive, you will not throw yourself over the casket, screaming, “Don’t go, Don’t Go!” For goodness sakes! We don’t even let people die in dignity. We let them die guilty by screaming, “Oh, please don’t die.”
What a weird concept we have of death. We don’t want to take children to funerals. Some of you had it explained that everything dies, as flowers die in winter and then grow again. Death is a continuous beautiful process of life. Then, when you’ve seen it, you don’t fear it.
Death is a good friend, an awfully good friend, because it tells us we don’t have forever and that to live is now; therefore, you see how precious every minute is. We read it and say, “oh yes, that’s so true”, but do we live that way? How wonderful it is to be with the moment, when you see a flower. When somebody is talking to you, for goodness sake, listen and don’t look over a shoulder at what else is going on. If you don’t want to be with me, don’t be with me! That’s all right, I can adjust to that. But if you are going to be with me, will you be with me?
You say, “I am going to look at the ocean”. Do you look at the ocean?
“Oh, isn’t that a beautiful sunset.” Do you mean it, do you see it, do you recognize it will never come again?
Death teaches us – if we want to hear – that the time is now. The time is now to pick up a telephone and call the person that you love. Death teaches us the joy of the moment. It teaches us we don’t have forever. If teaches us that nothing is permanent, It teaches us to let go, there’s nothing you can hang on to. And it tells us to give up on expectations and let tomorrow tell its own story, because nobody knows if they’ll get home tonight. To me that’s a tremendous challenge. Death says, “Live now”.
What are you saying, Will?
Life is short. Each and every single one of us is here for a limited time only. Most of us should live into old age, but do you really want to be old and infirm, with nothing but regrets? Wouldn’t you rather be old, with many memories of a life well lived? Take your chances now. Don’t delay. There’s never a “right time” so stop using that as an excuse and start planning adventures. Go cycle around your county. Go cycle around your country. Go cycle around the world. It doesn’t matter which option you go for, as long as you go. Go do the stupid things. Go dance with wild abandon, in full view of others. Sing out loud, however good, or bad. Live!
Go plan that madcap adventure. Step out of your comfort zone. Dress in the bright colours you love, but have always been to scared to wear. Go skinny-dipping. Grow old disgracefully! Spend your money on experiences, as opposed to things. Travel as much as you can (but try to avoid flying!) Build those happy memories. Get yourself into spots of trouble, and afterwards laugh at it. Get things wrong.
Fear regrets, not failures! Failures you can overcome, and learn from. Regrets will last a lifetime.
If you have the time, please sit down, and watch this entire video of one of Leo Buscaglia’s talks (there are many more available on YouTube) – I promise you it’s worth your time: