To overcome an irrational fear...

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To overcome an irrational fear...

replace it with a habit.

If you're afraid to write, write a little, every day. Start with an anonymous blog, start with a sentence. Every day, drip, drip, drip, a habit.

If you're afraid to speak up, speak up a little, every day. Not to the board of directors, but to someone. A little bit, every day.

Habits are more powerful than fears. 

Seth Godin


Seth’s blog for today (above) reminded me of a powerful story from my youth that I have not thought about for quite awhile, though I’ve told it to people from time to time over the years. The “drip, drip, drip” part is the part that is so powerful to me…


I nearly drowned when I was 7 years old. I was at a swimming lesson at a YMCA. I am serious. It was no one’s fault but my own, but the result was a deep-seated fear of the water that showed itself in some debilitating ways for years.


Oh, I learned to swim just fine after the incident. I could float, swim, dive, etc. perfectly well. I loved swimming in many ways, however, if I got into water over my head for more than a few seconds I would start to hyperventilate. Repeated attempts didn’t change this, but I kept trying. It didn’t help that my one-year-younger brother and all our friends also loved to swim, but without the hyperventilation part. The worst part was the nightmares.


Every time I went into any amount of water I could count on having nightmares that night. Repeated nightmares. The same one every time: I was being sucked down into a whirlpool and drowning. This happened every time I went swimming in any way or place for seven years.


There came a day when my brother and I, along with a couple of friends, were swimming at the local YMCA. Jim and the other two were diving off the springboard, and I was at the other end of the pool. And I couldn’t take it anymore.


I made my way out along the side of the pool to a depth up to my chin, and hung onto the side. I reached out as far as I could toward the deep end, and pulled myself that one arm length. Then, I shoved myself the few inches to the bottom and bounced back up, grabbing the side again. Then I did another arm length and another, until I reached the end of the pool. I never had that nightmare again.


There have been and are plenty of other things and reasons to fear in my life. Yours, too. I don’t really have to ask. Seth’s blog reminded me today that drip by drip, arm length by arm length, fear can be replaced by something new. Maybe you needed the reminder today, too.