“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”
― Frank Herbert, “Dune”
So much gets in the way of the “I” that remains after you’ve done something that truly, deeply scares you.
If you don’t grapple with actual-factual fear very often, there’s a chance that you’ve lost the knack for it. We all used to be little badasses, after all; in youth, we tackled the scary stuff head-on all the time. We stood up on the weird stilts attached to the bottoms of our torsos and figured out how to use them to get to mom, crouched several feet away with an encouraging look on her face. We showed up to the first day of school. We sat next to the grumpy old guy from the DMV and parallel-parked. We went for the kiss. We earned bar after bar; stripe after stripe in the war against No-You-Can’t.
But it was hard. Fighting that war is tough, tiring stuff. So when we got to adulthood and could build a little fortress to hide from fear, we damn well did it. Right? You control the variables. You rest.
Resting ain’t good for you. Not for long.
A lot of people, when they frame up the idea of skydiving, bubble up with a nervous laugh and talk about how “they could never do that.” When you press a little to see what they’re afraid of, they’ll usually tell you that they’re afraid of dying…but in a world where making a skydive is a heck of a lot less risky than driving to work in the morning, that statement doesn’t really hold up.
Dig deeper. “Fear is the mind-killer,” after all, and this is a spiritual problem that leans on the intellectual side. Why are you afraid? Keep tapping away at the question, and you start to get it out of your system: you’re afraid of unfulfilled potential; you’re afraid of trashing your reputation if people find out about it and think you’re reckless; you’re afraid you won’t be able to get yourself to leave the plane. You’re not afraid of death. You’re afraid of failure.
This might spoil the surprise, but here it is: You’re not going to fail. If you get on that plane, you’re going to, unequivocally, win.
Skydiving is such a powerful tool for personal development that we meet therapists all the time who would love to prescribe it. Tandem skydiving, after all, mixes two elements that almost nothing else on the planet does: it’s scary, but it’s also–from the statistical point of view—very safe. Making a skydive reaps all the benefits of pushing practically pretty much every fear button in your body without the much-more-significant danger presented by other activities.
Doing things you’re afraid of–like skydiving–will pull you from that comfortable rut you’ve built for yourself and inspire you to keep moving. You’ll start making plans to do other things that leave you vulnerable but present a reward for their risk. Over time and repetition, your comfort zone will grow. It won’t be long before you’re regularly doing things you never thought yourself capable of doing.
So, to go back to the original question: Why should you do things you’re afraid of? Well: When you “turn your inner eye to see its path,” as Frank Herbert sagely notes, you’ll see that the path your fear leaves behind leads straight to your best self.