I Wanted to Fly
The desire had been showing up for years in the form of videos people had made with Go-Pro cameras strapped to their heads while base jumping, then flying through the air with wing suits. Then there were Cirque du Soliel acrobats flying on the trapeze and others gliding from trampoline to trampoline. Image after image would excite me and lure me into spending what I’m sure was a mind blowing amount of time researching, investigating, watching videos and exploring what it would be like to be that free and unlimited. While I’d have to travel more than 600 miles for a trapeze school, it seemed the safest and most sane approach to satiate this urge.
Inconveniently, I also have an intense fear of heights. Or as my husband would say, it’s not so much about the heights, but about the potential falls. Over the years I’ve attempted to conquer my fear of potential falls in a variety of ways, and each time I worked my way through this uncomfortable process, I was deeply happy I did. It felt good afterward to have moved through the fear and arrive on the other side. In those situations when I couldn’t move beyond the fear, I learned acceptance and to glean understanding from the experience.
It wasn’t until I faced my most recent challenge about moving forward in my own business that I realized the correlation between my fear of potential falls and my fear of potential failure. I have similar body responses to both and the fear of potentially failing while putting myself ‘out there’ was just as visceral as standing at the top of a mountain with nothing to hold onto. Even so, this desire of mine to liberate a broader number of people from their perceived boundaries was so palpable, that it required a method to move beyond the discomfort.
From Shaking to Bliss
I looked to life for inspiration from what had worked with my fear of potential falls in the past and I remembered the flying trapeze experience at Santa Monica Pier.
Before going up to the trapeze platform, the students went through the physical motions and sequence of what we would do in the air. Our instructors had us review this again and again to prime our bodies and minds for what was going to happen. My fear of potential falls was fully present as I climbed each rung of the ladder, focusing on the very next step and then the next. My legs were like jelly shaking and the only way I could move through each step was to remember my bodily sensation of expansion, to breath and find gratitude for this experience. I reminded myself that there was a net, there were people to assist, lots of people have done this before me and I was going to be okay.
Once at the top of the 30 ft. platform, the rest of the pier stretched out into the Pacific Ocean. I found only a small handle to hold onto and that familiar shrinking feeling returned. To keep going, I checked back in with that feeling of expansion, gratitude and slowed my breath as I made room for the next person to share the tiny landing with me. When the instructor clipped the back of my belt, I panicked, realizing that I would have to let this person hold my entire body weight as I reached out to grab a hold of the bar. I’m fiercely independent and trusting others is something that takes conscious effort for me. Breathing again and moving forward, I leaned out to grab the bar and listened for the command. After another breath…
I wish you the experience one day of the sense of freedom that ensued. It was brief, but exquisite. After wrapping my legs around the bar and hanging upside down, I grasped the bar again and fell to the safety net below.
Each time I went up, it was barely easier to do, but eventually, the final moment arrived. As I lept off the platform and hung upside down with legs over the bar, I heard the “hup” signal from the instructor and with my hands outstretched, released my legs from the bar entirely mid-air.
What came next were extended moments of bliss… I was caught by the instructor fully, beautifully, and profoundly and as I swung out toward the ocean, I was filled with the most complete sense of freedom and elation that I have ever known. Down below, I could hear whistles and hoots! See the video for yourself!
Fear = Your Next Business Frog to Swallow
As I write this very piece for you, my heart is pounding, and I am applying the lessons I learned from this profound flying experience to push through my resistance and fear of failure, and I suppose rejection as well.
Fear is something that accompanies life, regardless of how experienced, confident or accomplished we become. As we expand outside of our comfort zones, we inevitably encounter fear or discomfort. The trick is leveraging a strategy that’s been proven to work for you so that you can transcend the fear of potential failure and continue to grow, expand and reach new heights.
My wish for you is that as you take your next steps, you will arrive at the platform of life with an expansive posture and a grateful heart, and a trusting presence knowing that many of us are out here cheering you on and ready to celebrate your courage, lessons and successes. There are thousands of us waiting down below to whistle and cheer for your progress, but in order to do so, we need you to let these words hold your weight for just a moment, for you to relax, take a hold of that bar, lean out and …
jump off the platform.
Strategic Liberation Method
(aka Flight Simulator)
You can use the method below to prime yourself for what it is that you want to accomplish. This is similar to visualization, but it differs in that it requires you to embody the feeling sense of your outcome, so you actually use your body to move around the room and experience what you imagine the outcome will feel like. See below for a link to the mp3 to make walking through this process easy!
1. Expansion – Prime your pump by imagining yourself in the act of doing what you want to do with the sense of expansion and growth that will follow the outcome. Move beyond your mind to embody the essence of what it would feel like having accomplished it, finished it, and experienced it. Close your eyes* and really get into the physicality of it. How would you walk? Would you jump up and down? High five someone? Squeal with delight? Just as if you were an actor playing a role, walk around the room and act out physically and verbally what you would do as if it were happening now. Choose a location on your body to touch to anchor in this feeling. Take a deep breath and let your entire body feel this sensation of satisfaction. As you move back to your daily life, when you feel your body or energy begin to contract, touch this same spot again and recall your bodily sense of expansiveness.
2. Gratitude – This is the secret sauce of life. It is said that fear and gratitude cannot be felt at the same time. Touch that spot on your body again to bring up your bodily sense of expansiveness, now close your eyes* and feel a deep sense of gratitude that this outcome has taken place. Breathe into that gratitude and let it wash over your body from head to toe. As you go about your daily life, when you encounter resistance, return to this sense of gratitude by touching this spot again.
3. Trust – There is no way around this one, it requires vulnerability and risk. One way to make this easier is to assume and embody the viewpoint that life is always happening FOR you, for your next step, next challenge, next growth opportunity that will lead you exactly where you need to be. Now close your eyes* and imagine that you are surrounded by people who are cheering you on and want to celebrate with you the small steps and the big ones. Sure, there are people out there who don’t really care, but there are plenty who do. Embody your outcome again, then add your gratitude, now add the cheering people who are celebrating with you. Let yourself feel relaxed in that support and encouragement. Again, touch that spot on your body and anchor in the trust of having support. You can return back to this during daily life when you feel your body contracting in fear by touching that spot and embodying once again the feeling of support and encouragement.
*If you’d prefer to have the audio version, it’s available here.
Rather than waiting for the perfect conditions to start, take immediate micro-actions toward your outcome with a playful, curious and experimental approach to feedback and progress. When you proceed like this with a sense of expansion and gratitude, you are likely to encounter people who will help catch you when you fall, encourage you to try again and celebrate with you when it’s time!