2011-02-02

Groundhog Day 2011

It's hard to agree that Spring has arrived when the temperature is currently -20°C (4°F) in my town of Fort Collins, Colorado, but today both fact and tradition say it is so. Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow today which confirms the fact that today is a cross-quarter day1 and therefore the start of Spring.

This year, I encourage you to shed the burden of your fears and journey forward toward your goals in the adventure of Life. We often weigh ourselves down with trepidation about the decisions we make. Today, challenge the root of those fears, whether they are minor doubts or massive phobias.

Don't expect yourself to overcome fear with one thought or intention; recognize the challenge that you must face every time you feel the angst set in. Slowly, every time you "face your demon", the fear will dissipate.

Now, let me offer you some tools with which to defy your misgivings:
- Introspection: Identify the root fear(s). The root fear is the one on which you should focus your attention.
Is it truly a fear of heights (vertigo) or the fear of falling? What, specifically, does and doesn't scare you about spiders? What causes the nervousness you feel in front of "crowds"?

- Acceptance: Once you identify the root fear, teach yourself to accept and acknowledge that you currently have this fear. Do not give power to the fear by pretending it doesn't exist. We all have fears, true strength will come from owning yours.

- Understanding: Delve into the root fear. During (or after) an experience causing fear, feel the symptoms of the fear on your mind. Understand what happens to you when your fear takes hold. (e.g. tightness of the chest, dizziness, weak knees, sweaty palms, blurred vision, etc.)

- Treat the symptoms: Begin by counter-acting the symptoms. For example: take a deep breath when you feel your chest tighten (recognize you can breath); steady yourself on a stationary object (get your balance); bend your knees slightly and straighten your spine (acknowledge your posture); dry your hands with a cloth or chalk; close your eyes briefly and think of the next object you will look at.

- Knowledge: Learn all you can about your fear; study the facts, determine the reality. Knowing the truth will completely eliminate in fears based on false or misunderstood concerns.

- Anticipate: Take steps to prevent any cause of the root fear; "safety first". For example, if you fear falling, secure your footing, grip, or attach yourself to safety rigging (harness, ropes, etc.). Double check your prevention, to put your mind at ease; show yourself that "it works".

- Trust: Have faith in the steps you have taken to protect yourself from your fear. (Self-doubt is sometimes attributed to "[c]hildhood experiences, these traditions maintain, [and] can plant doubt about one's abilities and even about one's very identity." ["Doubt" - Wikipedia].)

- Engage: Actively address your fear when you experience it. Using all that you have learned and the precautions you have taken, directly challenge your fear. Mentally process and counter any thoughts with the facts you have learned. Treat any symptoms and assure yourself of your safety.
It is natural to feel fear, but some fears are unnatural. Set your goals, challenge your world-view, but respect your limits.


1 Reference "Cross-quarter day" [wikipedia], previously discussed on "Groundhog Day 2008" [INDY Blog].
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