I was perspiring even though it was bitterly cold. I locked my gaze down the long slope and was stunned by the difference in perspective. From the base of the mountain, the run looked shallow and manageable. But, from this vantage point, it seemed nothing short of treacherous.
Falling and breaking a leg, or worse, were the thoughts coursing through my mind.
I took a breath, dug in my ski poles and pushed off. Just as in my lessons, I moved cautiously, slaloming from side to side, enjoying the experience. The bright sun, blue sky and white powder created a picturesque and perfect moment. A smile played across my face. I was in Vail, Colorado, and somewhat gracefully enjoying a picturesque moment, balanced perfectly on top of my skis.
Then it hit me. I’m inexperienced and potentially in a dangerous situation. I felt the downward momentum increasing. My heart raced. A picture in my mind replaced the beauty before me. As though it was real, I could see the ski patrol in their bright orange clothing, placing me in their stretcher and pulling me down to the base of the mountain to the waiting helicopter and the short flight to the local trauma center.
I visualized the danger so vividly I began scanning the snow ahead, searching for a place of my choosing to execute a controlled fall and I did.
I laid on the ground as other skiers whisked by, enjoying their day. I took inventory of my limbs and found everything was in working order. I was not paralyzed. Nothing was broken except my confidence and pride. I removed my skis and spent the next few hours walking down the access road from an 11,000-foot peak.
I never put skis on my feet again.
Fear is a natural emotion that is ingrained into our DNA and can be useful in some situations, but can also be an irrational response to events that are unreal and only imagined. Fear may someday save your life, but more often, this strong emotion will limit your experiences, success and fun.
The late great Zig Ziglar taught us that FEAR is nothing more than False Evidence Appearing Real. A perceived danger amplified in our minds that pushes us to have an irrational response.
I’d taken ski lessons every year, while visiting slopes in Wisconsin and Michigan. Tall hills to be sure, but nothing like the ski resorts of the Rocky Mountains. I mastered the Midwestern slopes with ease and felt assured that I was ready for Vail. Physically and technically I was prepared. Mentally, well, not so much.
I allowed doubt in my experience and ability to seize control over my thoughts and destroy my ski trip. I suddenly found myself expecting to fall and did so.
What if I would have expected to make it the bottom of the mountain, safe and sound and feeling the exhilaration of accomplishment and success?
My vacation was sabotaged. Not by an enemy that decided to steal my enjoyment, but by the voice in my head telling me all the ways I was going to be hurt. The only voice in my head is mine.
Skiing isn’t an essential part of my life, but how many important life events or opportunities are destroyed with the same negative self-talk?
My skiing experience was almost 30 years ago. Life has taught me many lessons since then. If I were atop Vail mountain today, looking down that breath-taking slope, I wouldn’t listen to the voice of fear.
What is the voice telling you not to try? What job opportunity is the voice telling you that you are not qualified to take? What risk are you restricting yourself from taking that may be positively life changing?
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The voice of truth.
You have the power within you to achieve greatness. Why should others enjoy the fruits of risk-reward? Why shouldn’t the thrill of victory be experienced by you? Do you really believe the best of life is reserved for others or is it possible that the only person keeping you from living your dreams is you?
The best of life is only found on the other side of your fear.
Let me share the words of one of my favorite songs by a group called Casting Crowns:
Oh, what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With only a sling and a stone.
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors shaking in their armor
Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand.
But the giants calling out my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me time and time again
“Boy you’ll never win! You’ll never win!”
But the voice of truth tells me a different story.
The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid.”
A beautiful song. Wise words.
Where is your mountain? Who or what is your giant? Will you stand or will you run? Now, put down this newspaper and pick up your sling and stone.