I have learned a lot about my fears over the past 8 months as I’ve studied Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Fear quotes used to feel quite cliche and even a little overly-contrived:
Face your fears
Your fears are holding you back from happiness
Your fear dissipates when you confront it
I could quote more, but up until really the last two years they were nothing but sayings. I believe it was because I wasn’t really actively confronting my fears. For me personally, this has changed significantly over the past two years, for three main reasons:
- I quit a career (law) that had no meaning to me, to build a home based business with my wife that I care about;
- I started actively writing: this blog, my first book (which I’ve finished and will be published shortly), and a new book (which has been started); and
- I started to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Each one of these have forced me to confront various fears.
In our business I’ve had to confront the fear of criticism from my former colleagues, since some view law as prestigious and secure, and direct sales as “below them”. I’ve had to confront the fear of failure, and I’ve had to confront the fear of being wrong about what I think our business potential could be.
In writing I’ve had to confront the fear of “putting myself out there”, the fear of rejection, the fear of not having anything meaningful to say or contribute to others, the fear of not being good enough, and the fear of putting in effort that may not be rewarded.
I think I’ve learned the most about fear through Jiu-Jitsu, because jiu-jitsu forces me to confront a primal fear: the fear of pain and literal physical confrontation. Jiu-Jitsu is a submission art, where skills are learned and refined through actual fighting. You cannot “only drill” or take instructions, you have to grapple, you have to fight, you have to learn what it feels like to be submitted before you can learn the skills necessary to submit. This involves temporary pain. There is no way around it.
But here is the first incredible lesson that I’ve learned about fear from doing Jiu-Jitsu:
Fear is triggered every time an unfamiliar situation comes up; however, when you experience that situation (thereby changing the unfamiliar to familiar) the fear dissipates. If that situation comes up again you are no longer scared. Fear will return however if a new, unfamiliar, situation presents itself.
I can see this plainly manifest. On my first class it was scary to even show up (because I didn’t know what to expect). That soon went away by just showing up lots. Then, it was scary when I first “experienced” the various submissions applied on me for the first time. That fear went away after “feeling” those experiences. Then, when I started rolling with other white belts, it was scary at first. But then that fear went away after rolling for a little while. Then it became scary when I first started rolling with coloured belts, but after rolling with several of them, that fear went away as well.
This leads me to the second incredible lesson I’ve learned about fear from doing Jiu-jitsu:
When I actually experience what I am scared of, I come out of the experience feeling really good about myself. I have a sense of internal fulfillment that is unlike almost anything I’ve previously felt.
I can see this manifest in all three of my “scary” pursuits. Confronting my fears relating to our business has led to a business that I really intrinsically enjoy, and that has created amazing life freedom. Confronting my fears relating to writing has triggered an absolute passion that I intend to work on for the rest of my life. Confronting my fears of physical pain and confrontation has led to a real interest in a sport that I didn’t know anything about until I was 33 years old. And now it is something that I am really motivated to continue to work at and learn.
When you experience your fears, you realize it isn’t cliche: Fulfillment really is on the other side of fear
I experienced this second principle again today on the mats. After rolling with some white belts, a highly skilled, and experienced purple belt asked me if I wanted to roll. There was a tinge of initial fear, but I moved forward anyway, and although I was submitted, I had a great experience. I learned a whole bunch of lessons that I can now add to my game, and I made a friend who I will be comfortable with rolling in the future.
I believe that fulfillment is on the other side of fear because when we walk through our fears we become more complex as individuals. We are forced to grow, and with this growth comes confidence and happiness. When we become more complex, as individuals, we are internally satisfied. Our confidence grows, and so does our happiness.
So when I experience fear (which I know I will as I encounter new situations) I know that it is just a signal, letting me know that there is an opportunity at my door for growth, and ultimately for more happiness and fulfillment.