Sunday, March 18, 2007

Dare to Begin!

I have a friend who has diabetes. She struggles with her weight and she believes that if she could control her weight her diabetes would improve. But she won't seek support in her weight loss efforts. She won't join an exercise class because she's embarrassed to be in a class with people who are more fit. Consequently, her fitness doesn't improve. She won't join Weight Watchers or Nutrisystems or some other supportive organization because she's afraid others might lose more rapidly than she will or that friends will think she is weak for needing the extra help. So, she tries to diet alone but she won't tell her friends. They would of course want to encourage her, but she's afraid she'll fail and then they will judge her harshly for not sticking with it. Her fears keep her from making important efforts that could prove beneficial. And, the weight remains; the diabetes rages, and she remains stuck in a situation that leaves her unhappy.

I'm not picking on my friend. Many of us struggle with weight or health or other life issues. I'm sympathetic to her plight. The point in bringing up her situation is that fear of failure keeps her from trying things, and the refusal to try limits her opportunities for success.

After I finished my Bachelor's degree, I pursued ordination. My denomination did not at the time require a Master's degree and after taking classes from an unaccredited institution and doing an extensive internship, I was ordained. But I always regretted not having a master's degree. After seven years, I finally enrolled in seminary.

Fear that others would judge me for not doing it sooner and fear that as a working adult I wouldn't be able to be a good student had kept me from trying. And as long as I didn't try, I continued to be without a graduate degree. Finally, with the encouragement of a counselor, I took one class and then another. I left seminary to pursue a secular Master of Arts degree (and loved every minute of it), and then, returned to seminary to finish a Master of Divinity degree. I now have two masters' degrees and I'm pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree. If I hadn't wasted 7 years being afraid, I might have that doctorate already. But fear sabotaged my goals until I risked failure and thereby enjoyed success.

When we imagine the worst case scenario without also imagining more promising possibilities, we limit our options. When we are so afraid of failure that we won't try to succeed, we can't succeed. When in the name of being safe we wind up doing nothing, nothing winds up being our reward. I've seen it. I've lived it. I know.

Fears pop up. They seem to have a life of their own sometimes, but how we respond to them is where we find or lose our power. Enroll in that one class. Show up that first day at the Weight Watchers office. Take that first step. It may not be easy, it may not even work out. But how is not taking the step working out for you? The status quo is risky too. By doing nothing we risk stagnation, decline, boredom, regret...Why not do the thing that has the possibility of paying off? And if it doesn't, wasn't it an exciting adventure to try?

I have two friends who tried to be dancers in New York. The City was frenetic, of course, and living conditions were harsh for the struggling artists. Competition for jobs in their field was fierce. After a difficult time, both left, one for Arkansas, the other for Texas.

The one who went to Texas taught dance in a studio and danced with a local professional company. She wound up living her dream even though New York didn't work out. She always had her stories about her days in New York, and she had her success as a dancer in Texas.

The dancer who settled in Arkansas also started teaching, both in a studio and in a university. She, too, had great stories about her New York adventure, and she, too, lived her dream of dancing, teaching and choreographing professionally. Both dancers "tried" to "make it" in New York. They didn't do especially well in New York, but because they tried they went on to do very well in other places...and they got to be proud of their bold effort in New York as well.

Whatever the goal or the dream is, no matter how difficult it is or how long it may take to achieve, dare to try. There is power in the effort and where it will lead may be amazing. At least effort will lead somewhere, whereas refusing to try leads nowhere. Let's dare to begin!

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