There are times I look back on raising kids and wonder how on earth any of us survived, me or them. Take trick-or-treating on Halloween for example. Trying to keep both my boys who were seven years apart in my motherly sights with all their friends in tow was like herding hungry cats. One Halloween, having worked all day and feeling more than ready for a hot bath and bedtime, and after a couple hours of trick-or-treating the neighborhood, I had finally pronounced an end to the evening’s festivities, which was of course met with rounds of pleading and pouting by my little demons. After some relentless begging, I gave in to “just one more street” before we called it a night.
We turned the corner on a small cul-de-sac where every house was well-decorated and their porch lights blazed, signaling more candy to be had for costumed goblins … except for one. The house at the very end of the street stood dark and silent. Whoever lived there clearly did not want to be disturbed. The night was moonless and you would not have seen your hand in front of your face in the yard of that home.
Suddenly wondering where he was, I looked around for my oldest. Too late to stop him, I spotted him sneaking up the front walkway to knock on the door of the darkened house… an obvious dare from his buddies, judging by the snickering. To his surprise and ours, about halfway up the walk, motion-sensor lights snapped on, tripping a flood lamp along with strobe lights, ghoulish sounds, spooky music, and a grinning black witch menacingly beckoning him from the front porch, a big bowl of goodies in her lap. He never saw it coming. Being 12 years old and living for the ultimate scare… it was the hit of the evening!
Sometimes we take off running down a path in life, round a corner, and suddenly awaken a sleeping monster we never saw coming… and as bad as we may want to, we can’t get him back in the bottle. It’s a scary place to be. The big, new office we deemed a necessity, the business partnership we thought was perfect, the lucrative career we studied so hard for, the custom house for which we sacrificed, the man or woman of our dreams… sometimes just aren’t. What then? What now?
I say, cut yourself some slack. Just like little 12-year-old Hunter learned and grew from the experience of that unforeseen scare and finding himself suddenly in a much different place than he expected, so too do we. We only learn what we do want when we experience what we don’t. We only see more clearly the right path for us by taking some wrong ones. We develop the courage to pull the trigger faster on our intuition by taking way too long on past decisions only to discover it was us holding ourselves back all along. It all serves, it’s all perfect, and being faced with some scary decisions are all part of playing the big game of life.
And just like the spooky witch on the porch who turned out to be a not-so-scary parent playing a practical joke on the mischievous little buggers who were courageous enough to attempt a game of ding-dong ditching… the monsters we run into are usually not nearly as scary or as ominous as we make them out in our minds to be.
I find three things helpful when facing a scary decision in life:
- Timing. Be very careful when you make or even wrestle with big decisions. Never try to decide or solve anything when you are exhausted, overwhelmed, or not feeling well. EVERYTHING looks better in the morning after a good night’s sleep and a walk in the morning sun. EVERYTHING.
- Ask Powerful Questions.
* What is the worst that can happen? What is the best that can happen? What is most likely to happen?
* If my decision affected no one, what would I decide?
* If I don’t have an answer or see a way, who does?
(for a longer list of “Powerful Questions,” email us at email@example.com)
- One Small Step. Try just one small step to start and adjust as you go… because the truth is, it almost never quite goes the way we think it will anyway. We choke trying to figure out how to eat the elephant all in one bite. You don’t have to be great to start… but you do have to start to be great.
So, don’t be “scared to death”… much better to embrace it and be “scared to life!”
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear.”
~ Nelson Mandela