The F Word

Last week I wrote about how just over a year ago, I started to find my way again after being stuck in a rut, for far too long. I cannot express enough how much reconnecting with what I love to do has had such a positive effect on my life, but even with all the progress I’ve made, there’s one thing that still has had a tendency to hold me back. Fear.

I don’t like change. I generally stick to my routine, I drink my coffee out of the same mug every morning, I usually carry the same fishing tackle exclusively, I carry the same two weapons when out hunting, and it took me two months to pick out a new office chair. I’d like to think that it’s because I simply like being in my comfort zone, but I started wondering if I am just scared and intimidated at the thought of trying new things. How could this be? I write these posts about how I want to educate myself, try new things, and encourage people to try hunting and fishing, and I’m over here acting like a scaredy cat? I realized I had to step back and take my own damn advice.

The biggest hurdle that I have had throughout this process is facing that fear. The fear that I won’t be good at something. The fear that I will embarrass myself. Most of all, the fear of failure. Failure, in my mind, has always been the ultimate F word. I have always worked very hard to avoid it by any means possible. Practicing as much as I can, working hard, keeping my nose to the grind, and ultimately staying in my comfort zone whenever possible. The more I thought about how to tackle this fear, the more I came to the brutal realization that there is literally nobody on this planet holding me back other than myself.

One night, as I jotted some things down on a notepad in front of a fire, I really focused on this concept. My revelation made me sick to my stomach. I’m here trying to promote education and exploration, but I am letting a little fear over failing stop me? If I fail, the only one who really is going to care is me. Who else is going to know? Who is going to criticize me more than myself? I worried that if I didn’t break this cycle of fearing new things and the unknown, there was a good possibility of me ending up back where I was before: stuck in that dreaded rut.

Ironically, not long after, a friend of mine just so happened to invite me at random to go shoot skeet. I said yes without hesitation, but the more I thought about it, a huge knot formed in the pit of my stomach. I had no clue what to expect, not ever having done this before, and more so I wasn’t sure what kind of people I would encounter. I was also nervous about shooting a gun that I was unfamiliar with. I had already agreed to go, so I just kept telling myself this is what you need. You need to face the fear, and step out of your comfort zone. Just suck it up and do it. The next day on my way there, I blasted music in my car at full volume, trying not to focus on what I had gotten myself into. Of course, it didn’t work. I could not shut off my mind: What if this is a mistake? What if I am a total screw up? What if I miss every single clay that’s thrown out in front of me? What if, what if, what if?!

Once I arrived, I watched a round that was finishing up. I was then handed a vest, gun, a box of shells, and told “ok let’s go.” Well guess what? I shot pretty well for a beginner, I met some great people, and I had a ton of fun. Imagine that! Now did I continuously get frustrated with myself? Yep, sure did. Did I want to stop shooting mid way through the first round because I felt like I was going to throw up from all the nerves? Yep, sure did. Did I turn a bright, blotchy crimson color because I was so angry at myself for missing clays? Yep, sure did. I pushed through all of that and I made it through, even held my own. It wasn’t so bad!

On the drive home all my anxiety was gone. Poof! Vanished as if someone had waved a magic wand over my head. I was full of the same confidence that I find when I hunt and fish, but this time it came from trying something new. I was baffled. I never thought this could be possible. I had almost let the fear of “what ifs” stop me from going in the first place, and here I was a few hours later just beaming, wanting to do it again. Amongst all of the anxiety I had leading up to this new experience, I never once allowed myself to even consider the possibility that the outcome could be a positive one. I was focused solely on the negative. I was focused on the fear. It had never occured to me to consider that I might actually have fun. I have been back for more since then, now hopelessly addicted to this game of skeet.

Try something new. Step out of the box. Break out of your comfort zone. Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back. Once you experience that rush of confidence after tackling something that you thought was next to impossible, everything else you want to try will seem that much more attainable. It’s never going to be perfect, especially the first time around. But if you never try, how will you know? Don’t miss out on new things in life because you are trying to dodge the “what ifs.”

What new things would you try if you knew you wouldn’t fail? Make a list and do them anyway. Odds are, you’ll be more successful than you could ever imagine.

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