When was the last time you did something that scared you?
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
A few weeks ago I did both of these things in one day. We were hiking with some friends to a couple different waterfalls in Tennessee when we heard about a swimming hole nearby, so we headed that direction. We found the place and all jumped in off some short (less than 10 ft high) cliffs into the cold water of the river. After a few jumps we heard of another place just up the river that had bigger cliffs and a bigger waterfall, so we headed that direction.
The hike was a little rough. There was a wall you had to scale and a shallow stream you had to walk through with only moss-covered rocks to hold you steady. We arrived at the cliff and it was taller than I expected. At least 30 feet. I had no intention of jumping off it despite the crowd of cheering people who supported each jumper. But my friend Jeremy decided that he had to do it. So I thought to myself “Am I going to regret not doing this? Which story would I rather tell: The one where I almost jumped off a 30ft cliff? Or the one where I jumped of a 30ft cliff?” The answer was definitely yes. And I chose the better story.
With some motivation from Jen Creed, who knew I would regret not doing it, I approached the ledge with the company of my friend Jeremy who was already set for round two. It was even taller as I looked over to the crashing waterfall below. I was scared. The longer I thought about it, the more every inch of my body rejected the idea. As I stood there, about to back out, I heard a voice from a girl standing next to where I was planning to jump say, “You’re thinking about it too much. Just jump.” So I took a couple of steps back, ran, and jumped.
The rush was unbelievable. There’s a feeling you get from something like this that you just can’t explain. You know you shouldn’t be flying through the air and you know that you’ll soon be met by the fairly hard surface of the water. Those facts are not lost on you. But for some reason all you can do is feel alive. The threat of something going wrong is not on your mind in that moment. Survival is all there is. And once I surfaced and looked up at the cliff I just jumped off of and felt the spray of the waterfall on my face, there was no fear at all. And I was glad I had jumped. But sometimes, the jump isn’t the scariest part.
After you jump there are two paths you can take. (I’ll admit, if I had known about the other way, I would have taken it) One way was to swim to the other side and hike back to the top of the cliff. The other was a path led you under a smaller falls, then onto a slippery rock, and then on to scale the face of the cliff with only the support of a single 10 inch wide foot hold and a stick that was tied the cliff with old piece of string. Oh, and there was a space between the slippery rock and the cliff wall of about 3 feet. Underneath that space… a 10 foot drop to a much harder surface than water.
After seeing several people make the climb, I knew it could be done and that I had to do it. I stretched out my shaky leg, reached for the stick with shaky hands, and pulled myself up. It was seriously the scariest part of the whole experience. But I did it. I don’t regret it. It was awesome and it taught me a lesson: Sometimes the jump isn’t the scariest part.
Sometimes there’s more. But when the next thing comes, you just have to look at it, understand that the fear is real it’s important but also understand it’s also keeping you stuck on the rock. You already made the jump, don’t forget that. Use the jump as a reminder that the energy you have is not meant for fear but for survival. Then you can face what’s next.
So where do you stand? Is the fear driving you to action or are you still stuck on the rock? Or maybe on the cliff? You don’t have to literally jump of a cliff (though maybe you should) but are you doing things regularly for the first time? Things that scare you? I want to challenge you to find something this week to do that you have never done before or that scares you and do it. Because the more we can face these things, the more we can learn to use the fear energy not to cripple us, but to cause us to take action, to move forward.
You have to jump. Then climb up and then jump again.