Do One Thing that Scares the Pee Out of You
One autumn, I visited northern Idaho with friends and family. While there, I had a chance to do something I’d never done before: ziplining. I piled in the back of a van with a bunch of friends, rode up a windy mountain “road” (think “goat trail”), got hooked to a metal trolley on the zipline that extended over a canyon between two mountain ridges, “sat” back in a harness, took a breath, and… let go. Away I zipped. Six times—on lines ranging from 325 to 1800 feet long.
To say I was apprehensive going in to it is a bit of an understatement. I was pretty sure I would pee my pants. Plus, you have to catch an orange rope at the end while speeding through the air. As someone who has less coordination than a newborn colt, this caused me great anxiety. I was pretty sure I would pee my pants AND pass out from hyperventilating.
But guess what. As soon as I let go, I was fine. It was really nothing more than a fun ride (tons of fun! highly recommend it!) amidst gorgeous scenery. Not scary at all.
Often, in life, that’s the case. We make mountains out of molehills and the things we worry about either aren’t so bad or never even happen.
Then again, the opposite can be true, too: We can get blindsided by something we expected to be simple. I experienced that, also, on the same trip. We spent an afternoon at a “family fun park” with the kids which boasted several attractions including a rock climbing wall. I had always wanted to try one. I decided to warm up on the “medium” difficulty side and then move on to the hard side. But after my first reach upward I realized “medium” was going to be WAY harder than I’d expected. I almost immediately gave up, because who wants to look like an idiot struggling against a fake rock in front of their friends? But instead, I gave myself a pep talk, took a deep breath, and… climbed to the top.
In either case, I had to do something physical in order to get my mental state under control: breathe. Deep breathing releases muscular tension, clears your system of stress hormones, and allows you to think clearly. When you consciously breathe well, you are communicating—not only to the people around you, but to your own mind and body—that you are confident, competent, and in control of yourself.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Why? Because every time you face a fear you build strength, courage, and confidence.
What is scaring you today?
Let me reword that: What is causing you stress and anxiety? Are you facing a high-stakes negotiation? Do you have to give a big presentation? Maybe you have to fire someone or you have a deadline looming. Or maybe you just can’t find your keys.
The root of all those stresses is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of inadequacy.
So, you’re scared. Courage means doing what you need to do even when it’s scary. How do you access your courage? Breathe.
Breathing won’t change or fix your fears. But breathing will get your muscles, your hormones, and most importantly your brain working for you instead of against you. Breathing can calm you and those around you. And breathing sends this message: I can.
So take a look at your stresses and anxieties and fears. Face them. Then take a deep breath and enjoy the ride!