“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the water-slide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” – Tina Fey
Do you think change is hard? Scary? That it takes courage? What if it didn’t?
What if we understood change doesn’t take courage, it takes clarity? What if we realized COURAGE is not an absence of fear; it’s simply CLARITY about what really matters?
Here’s an example of what I mean.
A woman named Beverly raised her hand in a workshop and said, “I’ve been to conferences like this before. I go home all fired up, ready to change things up, then life intervenes and two weeks later everything is back to same old, same old. Any ideas on how I can keep my promises to myself to try new things and do things differently?”
I told her, “The way to SEE change differently is to have a pretend S.E.E. It’s the quickest way to give yourself a sense of clarity about what really matters.”
“What’s an S.E.E.?”
“It’s a Significant Emotional Event. Unfortunately, most are dramatic or traumatic. We get fired, divorced, have a heart attack or lose a loved one which forces us to re-evaluate the way we’re living. We realize the clock is ticking which motivates us to act on what’s truly important because we realize we may not get a second chance.
The way I see it, instead of waiting until we have an actual S.E.E. – why not have an imaginary one so we can get the epiphany without the pain?”
She asked, “How do we have a pretend S.E.E.?”
“Just ask yourself, ‘If I only had a week left to live, what would I do differently?’”
“You’re asking us to imagine we’re going to croak in a week? Isn’t that a bit morbid?”
I smiled, “Thinking about our mortality isn’t morbid; it’s motivating. Sometimes it’s just the incentive we need to stop taking our life, health and relationsips for granted, Sometimes it is just the mental ‘kick in the but’ (BUT I’m busy, BUT I’m afraid) we need to change our life – for good.”
She said, “Okay, I’ll play along. If I only had a week to live, I would stop letting fear rule my life and start doing things that scare me.”
“Like going into the ocean. I watched JAWS when I was a kid. Big mistake. Here I am in Hawaii and I haven’t even gone into the water.”
I said, “Okay, let’s hack that fear to give yourself courage and clarity. One way to hack fears is to realize they don’t prevent things from going WRONG; they prevent things from going RIGHT. Another way to hack a fear is to reduce the perceived risk so it’s not so scary.”
“How can I do that?”
“Well, do you know about the Natatorium in Waikiki where Duke Kahanamoku used to swim? It’s an ocean pool that’s only three feet deep so there’s no way you can get in over your head, and there’s only one small opening in the sea wall so the surf can’t get in and neither can the sharks.
Now, the key to holding yourself accountable for making this change instead of promising yourself you’ll do it SOMEDAY and never getting around to it – is to schedule a date on the calendar so you don’t wiggle out of your intentions. When are you leaving the islands?”
“We fly out in two days.”
“Then tomorrow is the day. Schedule a 6 a.m. wake-up call. When the alarm goes off and you’re tempted to roll over and go back to sleep, ask yourself, ‘What will matter a year from now? That I got an extra hour of sleep? Or that I got up, got outside and had a one-of-a-kind experience I’ll always be grateful for?”
“It’s worth a try. But why 6 am?”
“Because sunrise is at 6:30 am and you want to be at water’s edge, ready to step into the ocean the moment the sun rises over Diamond Head. It will be what Hawaiians call a ‘chicken skin’ experience. Experiences are more meaningful when they’re metaphors. You’re not just stepping into the ocean, you’re stepping into a new way of life where you remember your mortality and make the most of your life now, not later.”
I added, “Here’s my card with my number. Text me and let me know how it goes, okay?”
The next day I got a text from Beverly with a big smily emoji that said, “I DID IT!”
What is a change you want to make – something you would be sure to do if you only had a week left to live? Instead of vaguely promising you’ll do it someday, could you figure out how to bring that into your life starting today?
As Tina Fey points out, we can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide never going down the chute of life. All we have to do is remind ourselves that courage is just clarity about what’s important. When we’re crystal clear about what truly matters – we’re intrinsically motivated to honor it and act on it.
Ask yourself, “How can I reduce the perceived risk of this fear? What will matter a year from now? Will I regret passing up this opportunity, forgoing this experience – or will I be grateful I went in and made the most of my life?”
You can give yourself a SEA CHANGE (defined as a a “striking alteration or transformation, often for the better”) if you change the way you S.E.E. change.
I promise, you will never regret initiating activities that make you happier, healthier, more fulfilled. You will only regret playing it safe, letting fear win, and taking yourself out of the game of life.
Someday is not a day in the week. Do what matters now.
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Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency, is on a mission to help people create the life, work and relationships of their dreams. Her TEDx talks and work have been featured in NY Times, on NPR, and presented to Intel, Capital One, NASA, Boeing, YPO,Nationwide, Cisco. This is excerpted from Sam’s newest book SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week.