Shibuya Crossing. Embrace the crowd!
My wife just shared an awesome experience on her blog today. Climbing. Obstacles. She talks about her recent experience going to a climbing gym and how scared and intimidated she was at first and almost didn’t go. She powered through her doubts and went for it, climbed some walls, learned some new skills, and gained a valuable life experience in the form of self worth and confidence.
Watching my wife go through a fantastic physical and mental transformative journey in this last year has been inspiring. After several setbacks and some self appraisal she realized that she wasn’t happy with her physical and mental health and became determined to kick fear in the head and start achieving her goals. She went from being embarrassed and afraid of working to bench pressing and squatting in gyms filled with combat veterans. She went from swearing that she hated the outdoors to becoming a dedicated hiker. Along her way she inspired me, got me going along, and helped me become a better more mindful and focused individual. Give her blog a read, I think it’s worth the effort.
The fear of failing, the fear of looking stupid, the embarrassment keeping her from going to the gym or going climbing is our worst enemy. We all face it 24/7. It’s the constant nagging voice in our heads that keep us from challenging ourselves and attaining our greatest potential. It’s the voice telling us to stay in and avoid social engagements. It’s the voice that tells us to not take the challenging position at work. It’s the nagging voice that we use to justify our lack of trying new food, new experiences, new environments. It’s what keeps us locked away in a safe comfort bubble. Afraid to branch out and adventure.
Steven Pressfield, in his magnificent book for writers and artists The War of Art, defines this self defeating fear as Resistance. The shadow lingering behind us, constantly whispering in our ear that we are nothing but failures. That we will embarrass ourselves that we will be laughed at. It creeps into our thought process like a parasite and disguises itself as reasonable doubt. It manifests in ideas like “I don’t know, it’s not a good day for working out I think I will have some ice cream and sit on the couch,” or “Ill finish this story next week, right now my internet is rather spotty and I can’t really research.” Resistance is the enemy of art and achievement.
Being an Sailor in Japan I see it first hand in my fellow servicemen and their families. Sailors who have lived in this beautiful and marvelous country for years who refuse to step outside the small local American bubble. During my first week here I was teaching myself how to ride the train. I was approached by another American asking for directions, he had no idea how to use his ticket. After I helped him out I asked him how long has he been in Japan. He floored me by answering three years. This man allowed resistance and his fear of change to lock him up in a small bubble.
“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.
Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Of course I am guilty of the same mindset. I often balk at going out with friends because I don’t want to step out of my comfort zone. I never finish my short stories because I’m afraid that once they are done they will be horrible. I make idiotic excuses about why I have to cancel my gym session or why I can’t go running today. But once I read Pressfields book I learned to recognize my biggest enemy. I learned to identify the trigger words and traps laid by resistance.
When I graduated IDC school several months ago I was handed a list of duty stations to chose from. My first gut reaction was to pick something comfortable. I could of stayed in California and gone back to work with the Marines. It would of been well within my comfort zone, I have been there and done that. But after several hours of soul searching with my wife I knew that the scariest choice on the list was the one we had to take. Japan.
I am not going to lie, it has been a challenge. Numerous times; while selling my cars, packing, dealing with the paperwork nightmare, having to be separated from my wife and dog, and living in a hotel room for two months, I have cursed myself for making this choice. Yet as soon as my mind clears and I refocus my perspective I realize what an amazing opportunity I have been given. In my short time here I have seen Mount Fuji, eaten Sushi in Japan, visited ancient Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples. I have the privilege of living in a magnificent country and experiencing a vastly different culture first hand. An unforgettable and life changing experience.
I promise myself to continue keeping an eye out for my insidious shadow of resistance. I know that it will be a life long struggle. I know that I will lose many more fights in this never ending war. But I will keep fighting.
But today I celebrate. After nearly two months of running around I was given keys to my new house. A amazing three bedroom house in a Japanese neighborhood. For the next three years I will be living in a foreign country amongst the local people. I expect it to be a challenge, from the language barrier to the cultural. Yet I will keep an eye out for my shadow and keep it out of my life.