Many years ago while I was still a midshipman at the Naval Academy I had the fortune of spending part of my summer training at the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School (OCS), and The Basic School (TBS) learning how to become a Marine Corps officer.
Although I ultimately decided to accept my commission in the Navy and not the Marines, I learned a great deal from my OCS and TBS experiences. First, and foremost I learned that I could actually do far more than I thought I was capable of. Part of this lesson was learning about the things that hold many people back from achieving their potential. And, one of the main culprits is fear.
This lesson was reinforced one early morning when we were navigating the Tarzan Assault Course at OCS. To get a perspective on the value of the lesson, its useful to understand the nature of the Tarzan Course. It is a series of rope obstacles suspended about 10-20 feet above the ground in trees. At various points you jump, crawl, slide, or walk along these ropes, and (at least when we did it) there was no safety net or lanyards. You pretty much navigated the course or fell to the deck.
I recall one particular part of the course where we were required to slide backwards down a rope without using our hands. We simply had to lay on the rope, which was about 2” diameter, hook one foot over it, push off, and let go with our hands, and slide. This was the scariest part of the course for me, probably because it felt like I had given up all control. I remember getting on the rope, heart pounding, and hearing the drill instructor shout up at me “FEAR WILL GET YOU HURT!”… along with a few other things I cannot repeat on the blog.
So, deciding I was more afraid of the drill instructor, and the embarrassment of not completing the course, than I was of falling, I pushed off and let go. And I made it. The lesson for me was that sometimes thing seem a lot scarier than they are, and with courage and determination, any obstacle can be overcome. I also learned that fear is a state of mind that can undermine people’s efforts, and keep them from achieving their potential.
This is not to say that fear never serves a useful purpose. It does. Fear is a survival mechanism that may keep us alive at times. However, when fear becomes paralyzing, or begins to generate irrational limiting beliefs in us, it becomes a barrier to our success and happiness. The trick is not to be fearless, but to understand the nature of our fears, and to master them.
Think about the things that you are afraid of, and really assess how rational some of these fears are, and how they may be holding you back. You may find that many of your fears really don’t serve a constructive or useful purpose.