Earlier today, a friend on Facebook tagged me in an old Competitor article discussing the risk of long-distance running. I’m intentionally not linking the article because, quite frankly, it pisses me off. It’s not that I don’t care about heart health… I really do. My father died of a heart attack at an all-too-young age. I take this shit seriously. However…
As a society, we’ve come to believe that we can seemingly live forever if only we lead really, really boring lives.
We seem to believe the key to happiness is to mitigate all possible risk so we can theoretically tack on a few more years at the end of our lives. It seems like a good strategy on the surface. “Look both ways” and “stop, drop, and roll” will probably help you live longer.
The problem- we use that same logic to avoid things that could greatly enhance our lives, provide amazing learning experiences, help us find out who we really are, or create the kind of memories you’ll warmly recall on your death bed.
- Don’t run an ultra; it’s bad for your heart.
- Don’t quit that job you hate; you need that fat and a 401k.
- Don’t eat bacon; it will clog your arteries.
- Don’t buy that motorcycle; you might crash.
- Don’t travel internationally; you might catch a weird virus.
Here’s the deal: You’re going to die some day. I’m going to die some day, too. Hell, it may be today.
Let that sink in for a moment.
No matter what choices we make in life, we can never predict when our time is up. You have X number of days left. No matter what you do, you’ll never be able to solve for X.
I used to go through life being excessively afraid. I stopped playing baseball in third grade because I was afraid of getting beaned. I didn’t take Spanish because I was afraid it would be too hard to learn. I didn’t tell a crush I really liked her because I was afraid of rejection. I became a history major in college because I was afraid of studying something more difficult. I married my first wife despite having little in common because I was afraid of hurting her feelings. I continued teaching after I realized our school system was probably doing more harm than good because I was afraid to lose financial security.
In short, I let fear dominate my decision-making process.
To most Americans, it probably seemed like I was living the dream. Based on how militant we are about averting risk, I should have lived a long, unfulfilled, miserable life.
Thankfully, a series of mostly unrelated events conspired to force me to understand I was allowing fear to justify my decision to live a lame-ass life that I didn’t enjoy. It wasn’t an overnight epiphany. It was a process that, to date, has taken years.
My challenge to you is exceedingly simple- do something risky that will create a lasting memory. That’s it.
If and when the fear creeps in, explore it. Embrace it. Learn from it. Eventually you’ll find it gets easier. You begin to embrace the fear. It’s the sign you’re really living.
If this post resonates with you, please share it. I, for one, am getting sick of the plethora of fear-mongering posts continually spread via social media. It’s time a few of us start a “live life to the fullest” revolution. Better yet, find three social media friends that post a “fear-mongering” link today and respond with a link to this blog post.