I remember as a kid my “friends” saying to me, “I dare you to…” Maybe it was shooting a spitball at the teacher or another student, jumping off the ledge, smoking this, kissing that girl, or whatever. Sometimes I did it. Sometimes I didn’t. I loved the excitement of the challenge. I didn’t like, however, the predicament of having to “prove” myself or being vulnerable to possible failure (although I can’t say I thought of it like that as a kid). Sometimes I made a fool of myself. And sometimes I made a champion of myself. There was of course a lot of ego-centered childish thinking!

In many ways I’m glad I was “dared.” It showed me some of my limitations and some of my skills. More than anything, however, it was a motivator to try new things (albeit good or bad). It motivated me to step out of my comfort zone, and trust myself.

Well, years have passed and I’m now an adult. Sometimes I wonder where my “dares” are in life. Where are those edges that I seemed to find excuses to avoid? Where are those “ledges” from which I step back and maybe conveniently forget about? What are those places deep in my gut to which I get queasy or nervous, let alone move toward? Maybe for you it’s finding a new job, i.e. one that fulfills and excites you. Or maybe it’s speaking up to your wife or girlfriend about something important to you. Or maybe it’s taking on a new project that you know will stretch your abilities. Or maybe it’s being vulnerable to your friends and loved ones. Or maybe trying something that you’ve secretly always wanted to do. Whatever it is, it involves RISK!

Risking is scary… at first. It’s scary because we don’t know the outcome. Once we know the outcome, or can imagine a possible outcome, the fear subsides, and there is no more “risk.” That’s all well and good, you say. I agree! The problem with this kind of thinking, i.e. my fear is minimized by getting to know the outcome somehow prior to the risk, is that it relies solely on the external measurements and circumstances around you. It’s all contingent on what’s outside of you to somehow give you a degree of confidence.

I agree that there’s some truth in that. I mean, yes, if I’m going to buy a car, you bet I will do my research. I would read comments from other buyers, read the Consumer reports, etc. In essence, I’ll make 90% of my decision based on what I understand and what seems right for the value. The last 10%, however, is the most important. And every car salesperson knows this. He or she knows that if you’ve gotten to the point of “liking” it, and then drive the car, the chances jump exponentially that you will buy the car! In other words, there is an instinctual decision-making process, the “feel,” if you will. This instinct is what I want to highlight.

As men, we tend to rely more on externals to make decisions. In the context of this article, I would say that we tend to look at what we can rely on outside before we step into our “dares.” In other words, it’s easy to look at logical probability, statistical analysis, comparisons and the like before we step off ledges.

I do understand that everybody is different. We all carry an array of internal processes of decision-making. We tend to use that same process when it comes to courage. This, I believe, doesn’t serve us in stepping out onto the ledges of life. Yes, we need to take in our surroundings. We need to make wise decisions. We shouldn’t “cast our pearls before swines.” But we do need to step out and experience that 10%, i.e. out of our comfort zones into danger zones.

What keeps us from stepping out? The simple answer is fear. We all have latent fears hidden behind old dusty curtains of our past. On a global level, for example, why are there wars in the world? It’s not because of political disputes or land stealing. In my opinion, it’s because we are afraid… afraid to listen, negotiate, relinquish, approve, look weak, etc. On a national and personal level, why is there still racism (overt or institutional). Simply put, it’s because we are afraid of differences. We need to embrace and honor differences, thus eliminating fear and increasing love and respect among neighbors and countries. Okay, I’ll step down off my soapbox now.

To engage the world, to live in courage, to be strong men for the people who want to love and trust us, we need to face our fears. I’m not talking about fear of snakes or spiders (phobias), those that’s important. I’m more speaking of those life decisions, large or small, that keep us small and ineffectual to those around us.

I want to challenge you today. If you are any bit as strong as you say you are, then put your “ledge” where your mouth is. Take one idea that you’ve had, an idea that’s been stirring around inside you for a while, or something you instinctually know you need to step into it, and go for it today. Get accountability by telling someone else you are doing it. Track your progress. And remember, the success of it is not accomplishing it! The goal is to step out and try! Your loved ones and friends will be inspired you did.

I can’t wait to hear of your journey! Call me or email me also if I can be of help to you along the way.

Kevin Barwick, LCPC