The Definition of Courage

I occasionally write about climbing mountains. Not only is it one of my favorite things to do, but climbing makes a nice metaphor for a lot of the things we talk about here.

Goal setting. Hard work. Determination. Fear. CourageFailure. Success. Fear, againDisappointment. Hope. Uncertainty. PatienceCommitment. Challenging yourself. Experimenting.

I once wrote that climbing was my greatest teacher. I still think that’s true.

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One of the things climbing has taught me the most about is fear. Fear and courage. The difference between them. The fact that you can’t be courageous unless you are afraid.

I used to believe that climbing was about courage and glory and the triumph of reaching a summit against the odds.

I used to think fear was complicated. I thought courage was a personality trait.

That was before I became a climber. Now I know better.

Courage is not a personality trait. Courage is a choice. – Click to Tweet!

Climbing has taught me that the summit does not define us.

We are defined by the simple act of going toward our challenges.

That’s the definition of courage. And you don’t need a mountain for that.

 

A Wet Man Does Not Fear The Rain

This post is part of the No Excuses Challenge.

wet-man-does-not-fear

There’s a track near my house where I like to run. Especially on rainy days. It might sound strange, but I’ve always loved running in the rain. Ever since I was 10 years old.

When I used to run track, practice would be “rained out” but I’d do it anyway, usually all by myself. Same for soccer, except my whole team would practice or play in the rain.

I never understood why other sports didn’t carry on in the rain, but soccer players seemed to have discovered that they were, in fact, waterproof, and nothing bad would happen to them if they got wet.

Oh well. I loved it. And I still do. Even if it’s a hard rain or a cold rain, I’ll still go sometimes. The track is different in the rain.

When it’s sunny out, if there’s a puddle, I’ll probably run around it. Or jump over it. But when I’m already soaked, I splash right through it. 

[Read more…]

The Ultimate Cure for Fear & Procrastination: Jump Without Looking

Cure Anxiety

Last month, I held a No Excuses Challenge here on the blog. It ended up being one of the toughest and most rewarding experiments I’ve ever done.

At the beginning of the year, I was floundering a bit. I wasn’t really making great progress toward my goals. I was making excuses instead. So, for two months, I gave up making excuses. I kept an Excuses Journal and every time I felt like making an excuse, I wrote it down. Then I ignored my excuse and took action instead.

A lot of my excuses fell into three main categories:

  1. I don’t feel like doing this now.
  2. I don’t know exactly how to do this.
  3. I’ll wait until later because ________ (insert lame excuse).

You know what those excuses have in common? They all contain a hidden lie.

Excuses are just little lies we tell ourselves. Here are the lies behind my excuses:

  1. You only have to do things you feel like doing in life. (False.)
  2. You have to figure out how to do something before you start. (False.)
  3. If you just put it off, you’ll feel like doing that thing you don’t really enjoy. (Ha! Nope.)
  4. Waiting is the answer. (Sometimes true, but usually false.)

Of course, it’s normal to have thoughts and feelings like that, even if they’re not true.

The truth is that we avoid what makes us uncomfortable. That’s how anxiety and procrastination work. We anticipate that something will be unpleasant, so we put it off and make excuses. Of course, waiting doesn’t make the fear go away. Over time, the fear grows, and your problems get bigger and harder to fix.

You can never solve a problem by ignoring it!

How To Cure Anxiety & Procrastination

The two best cures for fear and anxiety are:

  1. Making decisions. 
  2. Taking action.

Make decisions. Even if they’re wrong decisions. You can usually make a new decision later.

Take some kind of action. Even if it doesn’t go perfectly at first. You can always course-correct once your in motion.

When you’re paralyzed by fear. The cure isn’t to tackle the fear. It’s to tackle the paralysis. (click to tweet that)

The cure for inaction, is action. Just start moving.

How to Make Fear Irrelevant

I used to have a lot of anxiety. 10 years ago, I was afraid of all kinds of things, and my fears were holding me back from doing what I wanted to do.

So, I started to study how fear worked. I started to intentionally put myself in situations I was afraid of. I eventually figured out something really important that changed my life, and maybe it will help you too:

Your fears exist in the future. You can’t be afraid of the past.

Therefore, the key to conquering your fears is to take them out of the future, and put them in the past as quickly as possible. That’s why I asked you to list your fears. I’ll give you an example to make my point.

Every single mountain I’ve ever climbed has scared me.

Before a climb, I look up at the route. I read about the accidents that have happened to other people. I study the objective dangers, the avalanche risk, the rockfall risk, the weather report, the ice conditions, the route itself. How hard is it? What’s the crux like? Can we protect against a fall? How loose is the rock? Are there snakes? And on and on.

All these things are scary if you think about them in advance. There’s a very real sense of fear at the bottom of a mountain.

But once you actually start climbing, the fear starts to change. It changes because those scary questions start to have answers. What is the avalanche risk? It’s low today. How solid is the rock? It’s, um, rock solid. And it’s too cold for snakes.

When you actually start climbing, you don’t have time to be afraid. You’re too busy climbing. The fear just fades away.

Getting closer to the things that scare you will make them a lot less scary. That’s why I say the definition of courage is the simple act of going toward your challenges.

It takes about two minutes of climbing to erase 90% of your fears. The other 10% is the healthy fear that stays with you to protect you from making stupid mistakes.

Then, when you finish your climb and you’re back down on level ground, there’s nothing left to fear.

The mountain isn’t scary anymore, because you’ve already climbed it.

Why Excuses Are So Dangerous

When you make excuses in your life, it’s usually a form of procrastination. You’ll “get to it later” or you “have to wait until blah blah blah.”

You already know excuses are bad because they keep you from getting things done, but that’s not the most dangerous thing about making excuses.

The most dangerous thing about excuses is that they prolong your fear.

The longer you stand at the bottom of the mountains of your life, looking up at them, the longer you’re going to live in fear.

The way to keep your fear under control is to stay in motion. Keep making decisions. Keep taking action.

And if you’ve been making excuses for too long and your fear feels too big to act upon… there’s an answer for that too.

Jump Without Looking

I remember the first time I jumped off the high dive as a little kid. I climbed up the ladder and walked slowly to the edge of the board and looked down. Big mistake! It looked so high. I froze up and felt like I couldn’t jump.

Eventually I walked back to the other end of the board and closed my eyes. I knew the fear was irrational. I knew if I jumped I would be fine.

So, before I could think any more about it, I turned and ran and jumped off the end of the board without looking.

I’ll never forget the feeling when I swam back up to the surface. I LOVED the high dive! Even though, just 20 seconds before, I was terrified of it. Now it was my favorite thing.

Sometimes it helps to jump without looking. It’s like a shortcut to taking action. You skip the anticipation and anxiety and get straight into whatever scares you. You don’t give yourself a chance to hesitate or make excuses or chicken out. Of course, taking action cures your fear.

It might sound silly, but I use this technique all the time.

When I write an email I’m a bit nervous about, I don’t edit it, even when I know it sounds silly or a little bit crazy, I just close my eyes and click SEND as fast as possible. My goal isn’t to avoid sounding silly, it’s to set something in motion instead of flinching and hesitating. No one cares if I sound silly anyway. Everyone I know is used to it by now. 🙂

I do this when I don’t really feel like doing my daily workout. I don’t wait to feel ready anymore. I just put on my workout clothes and start my timer, knowing that in 10 seconds, I’m going to be doing pushups no matter what.

When I don’t feel like going for a run because it’s cold and rainy, I don’t give myself a chance to think about it. I just put on my shoes and and step outside. My goal isn’t even to go for a run, it’s to put my shoes on and walk out into the rain. The run happens on its own.

I try to say the things I’m afraid to say before I have a chance to talk myself out of them. I put on the shoes and walk outside. I pick up the phone and dial it before I know what I want to say.

I do this, not because I’m fearless, but because I really don’t like feeling afraid. So, I try to be afraid for as short a time as possible by cutting down the anticipation time.

When you jump without looking, you don’t have time to be afraid.

What Are You Afraid Of?

I once asked you to list your fears. I told you it would change your life in two minutes; and that’s true.

Today, I invite you to look at your own life again. What are you hesitating on? What mountain are you afraid to climb? Where are you holding back?

What fear can you take out of the future and put in the past, where it belongs?

There’s something in everyone’s life. Some area where you’re making excuses and holding back. I’m not judging, because I’m the exact same way.

But we have to agree upon the truth, that most of our obstacles exist in our mind. And the only way past them, is through them.

So, pick one scary thing, and do it today. Before you have a chance to think.

No excuses!

Oh, and if you like this post, please share it.

Fear & Hope. Failure & Success.

The Most Amazing Boxer Ever

I met an amateur boxer at a party a few years ago. He seemed like a nice guy, quiet, maybe even a little shy. We were making small talk, and I started asking him about boxing.

“So… how many fights have you been in?”

“86”

“Wow, that seems like a lot! What’s your win-loss record?”

“Believe it or not, my record is 0 and 86.”

“Oh… you mean, you’re undefeated?”

“No. Just the opposite. I have 0 wins, and 86 losses.[Read more…]

A No Excuses Experiment Update. Plus, 3 Lessons Learned from my Excuses Journal

You might remember that I started a No Excuses experiment back in February. Well, it’s time for an update. Actually, it’s past time, but more on that in a minute.

Overall, the No Excuses experiment has been a success. I’ve definitely learned a lot about myself, and also gotten a lot done in the last month.

I want to share some of the lessons I learned, and also some of my most common excuses.

Part of the experiment involved keeping an “Excuses Journal.”

The Excuses Journal idea was pretty simple. Anytime I caught myself making an excuse (even if I just thought about making an excuse), I wrote it down, and wrote down what I was doing (or avoiding) at the time.

This was extremely helpful and eye-opening, and I wanted to share a bit about what I learned from my Excuses Journal.

At the beginning of the month, I had impulses to make a lot of excuses. As you’ll see, I didn’t let these excuses stop me from doing what I needed to do, but it was really interesting.

I’m going to share the first three days of my Excuses Journal, and some lessons learned. Forgive the harsh language (I swear a lot in my own head, and I’m still learning how to be nice to myself). 🙂 [Read more…]

The Odds Don’t Matter. The Score Does.

Even before the 1920 Olympic Games began, everyone knew that France was going to win the gold medal in rugby. They were the European champions and heavy favorites. Most other countries didn’t even bother sending a team, because it seemed pointless.

The United States scraped together a team and sent them anyway. The American team wasn’t made up of professional athletes though. They were amateurs, but they were strong, tough and athletic guys.

The French press called them “streetfighters and saloon brawlers.”

One of them was named John Muldoon, my great-grandfather. [Read more…]

February 2014: No Excuses!

Hey Monthly Experimenters!

Today is February 1st, and I’m really excited to announce a brand new experiment we’re going to be doing this month. I think it’s going to be one of our best experiments ever, and I hope you decide to join me. More on that in a minute.

You may have noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve written about my monthly experiments here. In fact, it’s been way too long! Since I last posted here, I have actually done a few experiments that I haven’t written about yet, and I’ll share them in the coming months. I’ve also been working on a few exciting side projects that I’ll share at some point.

In any case, not sharing my experiments here these last few months has made me feel lame. The truth is that I had to shift my priorities and take care of some things that were more important than this project. You could say that I had good reasons to spend my energy elsewhere, but I still don’t feel good about not following through on all the things I wanted to do.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had made a lot of plans and promises over the last few months that I simply didn’t live up to. For the first time in my life, I actually got into a habit of not following through on things. Instead, I let excuses and fear get in the way of doing the things I wanted to do. Pro-tip: don’t do that.

Of course, when you make excuses, you don’t get things done. It feels terrible to let yourself down, and to disappoint others. Excuses just hold you back. Honestly, I think that’s the worst habit I’ve ever gotten into.

So this month’s experiment is about changing that habit for good.

Our goal is to replace the habit of making excuses with the habit of taking action and following through. That’s a habit that leads to success and is essential in reaching your goals.

For a whole month, I’m not going to allow myself to make an excuse about anything at all.

No Excuses

My real goal for this experiment goes beyond doing something for just one month. I’m actually hoping to create a habit that will last long after the experiment is over. Whenever you want to change a habit, it helps to keep things as simple as possible.

So, here are the rules for this month’s experiment:

1. No excuses.

This rule is pretty simple. You’re not allowed to make excuses for a whole month. That means, if you plan to do something, you just do it. No matter what.

  • You’re not allowed to cancel lunch with a friend just because it’s raining.
  • You’re not allowed to skip your workout just because you’re tired.
  • You’re not allowed to cheat on your diet just because you’re really craving fast food.
  • You’re not allowed to miss a deadline because you get sick. (Unless it’s ebola or something.)
  • You’re not allowed to be “too busy” for the things you want to do.

You get the idea. It’s not a new concept. You’re already used to not making excuses about a lot of things in your life. You wouldn’t make excuses about driving drunk or punching old ladies or not paying your taxes. You just do what you’re supposed to do. This experiment is about expanding that habit to everything in your life and accelerating toward your goals.

2. Keep an “excuses journal.”

Living with no excuses for a month might sound like a great idea, but I also suspect it will be a tough challenge. We probably all make little excuses as we go about our days, and we might not even notice it.

One thing that is really helpful when changing your habits is to focus on increasing your awareness. If we start to notice our excuses more, we should be able to avoid giving in to them. So, I’m going to be keeping an informal “excuses journal” this month.

Anytime I catch myself making an excuse (even if I just think of making an excuse), I’m going to write it down, and write down what I was doing (or avoiding) at the time.

As an example, let’s say I plan to get some exercise on a given day, but 9pm rolls around and I still haven’t done my exercise. Maybe I’m feeling tired and I say to myself, “Ugh. I’m too tired to work out today. I’ll just do it tomorrow.” First, I’ll write that excuse down in my journal, AND then I’ll do my workout anyway.

The goal behind the journal is to increase your awareness, and start to recognize your habits and patterns so you can learn to avoid problems before they come up. I have no idea if the journal will help, but it seems like a cool idea, so I’m just going to roll with it. I’ll probably share some of my excuses and journal entries as the month goes on.

That’s it. Just two rules. No excuses for one month.

Want to join me?

What do you think about this experiment? Does it sound like something you’d benefit from?

Is there something in your life that you’ve been putting off or making excuses about? Some goal or task you want to accomplish that you could be making more progress on?

Whenever you give up your crutches, you get stronger. Anytime you cut something from your life (whether it’s sugar or coffee, negativity or excuses), you realize how big a role those thing play. At first, quitting something like this is jarring and uncomfortable. But if you push through that difficult phase, you can change your habits and “cure” yourself of those addictions. That makes you stronger and more independent.

I’m really excited to see what happens. I have a feeling it’s going to be one of the best experiments I’ve done for this project, right up with my Stop Working Late experiment that helped me stop being a workaholic.

If giving up ALL your excuses sounds too tough, you can always start by focusing on one area of your life at first. Maybe you want to stop making excuses about your work or your fitness or your relationships. It’s up to you. But I promise, if you join me and stick with it for a month, something good will happen.

I’ve got some posts and stories coming soon that I’m pretty excited about. So, stay tuned for that.

For now, if you want to join me, leave a comment below and let me know, or click here to tweet your commitment!

Let’s do this!