I Was Afraid…Until I Wasn’t

Fear can be paralyzing.

Recently I have taken up Cross Fit as a means of exercise. As I pour through Cross Fit routines, there are some workouts that scare me to death. How could I do that? There is no way I can do this workout in the time given. I started slow and began choosing workouts that just covered the basics; sit-ups, push-ups, squats & pull-ups. As my confidence grew, I was prepared to take on the more challenging workouts. Even with an increased confidence, there was one workout I was still afraid of. Take a look at the following image to see the cause of my fear. I did muster up the courage to attempt this workout once or twice over the next couple of months, improving the time it took me with each opportunity. It was not until last weekend, when I entered the gym with this workout on my mind that I realized I was afraid…until I wasn’t. I shaved an additional four minutes off my time and have an even higher level of confidence.

My son Cooper is currently experiencing a similar situation. For the last four weeks now, Cooper has been desperately avoiding the reality that one of his two front teeth needs to fall out. It could not be more loose without falling out at this point. He is scared to death. Completely afraid. Afraid it will hurt. Afraid he will swallow it. Just down right afraid. I have seen a change in him though over the last several weeks. On the night he discovered his tooth was loose he cried. He screamed. He would let me or his mom even look at it. In the following days, it was more of the same, We soon had a breakthrough. He began to realize we could look at it without causing him pain and eventually he realized he could even wiggle his tooth with his finger and tongue. He was afraid…until he wasn’t. Now, almost four weeks later, the tooth remains in his mouth, but our routine every night before he goes to bed includes wiggling his tooth just a bit making a little more loose each night. (Man, I hope that tooth falls out soon!)

I cannot keep all of this fear to myself, so it would only be right if I shared my fear with others. Yes, I am writing this and sharing it with you, but that is not what I was referring to. Each spring, as hiring season comes, I find myself placing fear in the hearts and minds of some teachers in my building as we discuss growth opportunities for the upcoming school year. I don’t set out to intentionally scare teachers, but I do want to challenge them and help them grow with new opportunities. Recently in a discussion with one staff member the topic of fear came up as we discussed a potential change for next year. It made me realize just how paralyzing fear can be. If we allow it to, it can stop us dead in our tracks. Fear can prevent us from moving forward. It can stop us from growing. Fear can keep us in our comfort zone…if we allow it to.

Connection to Innovation

Doing what we know as familiar is comfortable. Whether its going to the gym and completing a familiar workout each time, refusing to pullout a tooth or staying in a position professionally each can provide a certain level of comfort. You know what else is comfortable? Choosing not to be innovative. Innovation is a word that can make educators afraid. Trying things that are new in an effort to make something better takes a level of risk we are not all comfortable which, hence the fear. The fear of the unknown outcome. The fear of being judge by others. The fear of not having all the answers. The fear of not getting it right the first time. While all of these fears may be legit, I have learned a two things about being afraid as I have been processing this post.

  1. Unless you are talking about my fear of heights and snakes, being afraid is something that can be minimized over time. Taking the risk just once, may not help you over come your fear, but being innovative repeatedly over time makes it less of a “thing” and more of a mindset, leading to you overcoming your fear.
  2. Surrounding oneself with accountability helps overcome fear. My #fitleaders family has been a great support group in helping me push my fitness and take on challenges in the gym I would otherwise not have the courage to try. Cooper has the support of his parents, which slowly but surely is making him more brave. Even tonight he said, “I don’t do this anymore.” (Referring to a head gesture he would make when someone would go to wiggle his tooth) Even the teachers who are fearful of making a change at work will find support among their colleagues, teachers who have made a change similar or through continue conversations with administrators as the decision to make the move becomes more clear.

Educators find themselves at a unique time and place. Educators can be afraid or they cannot. Educators can choose to remain status quo, paralyzed by the fear and do what they have always done, getting the results they have always got or they can take the risks knowing they have surrounded themselves with accountability and support. Doing that latter ensures we may have once been afraid, but soon we will not.