We’ve all heard the acronym F.E.A.R. (false-evidence-appearing-real). It is a simple truth that the vast majority of the things we fear never come to pass. It is even more basic that the things we fret over on a continual basis are largely fears of the unknown.
This simple little concept (of heading into uncharted waters) is not only our nemesis, it is also what we yearn for. Yes, that’s right, we yearn for uncharted territory because we yearn for adventure. It’s why Star Trek is such a phenomenon—“To boldly go where no man [or woman] has gone before.” We love Indiana Jones, Huck Finn, Jack London, and all our beloved adventure stories and storytellers. It’s because we secretly yearn for adventure. Yet, when we find ourselves in the midst of a real bonafide ‘unknown,’ our common reaction is fear and restraint.
We fear the unknown so much so that many of us tend to go to extreme measures to create predictability. We seek a secure job and then purchase extra disability insurance just in case. We work so hard for so many years to build for a comfortable retirement without fully enjoying life along the way. We stress over the big picture and the details alike, strategizing and planning, never at peace until we feel we have it all covered.
There are a number of important metaphors that come from nature that relate to the unknown. Nature is continuously evolving, changing, and adapting. With each new season we see new cycles of birth and renewal, death and decay. Yet, with each trip around the sun we are always back where we started. Summer gives way to fall, then winter, then spring, and then summer again, and in all these cycles there is one constant, and that is that nature is massively abundant. Nature provides everything we need for food, shelter, clothing, warmth, beauty, fun, relaxation, and fulfillment.
The indigenous people have always looked to nature as their learning ground. It is a big reason why indigenous cultures the world over are so similar in their value systems. They teach their young ones to pay attention to the messages inherent in nature and to apply them to their lives.
Each creature in nature has a vocation, just as each of us do. We are unique though in that we tend to strive continuously to create predictability and constancy in an ever-changing world. In organizations, rigid systems create stagnation. For individuals, the more we strive for predictability the less adventure we have, which means we are at risk of living stagnant and unfulfilled lives. We can always settle for the familiar in place of feeling the fear of the unknown, or we can venture into the abyss of our deepest passions and desires.
[Tweet “When we embrace the unknown as an exciting adventure we open the door to greater creativity.”]
We don’t have to cast off our cloak of safety and don the Indiana Jones hat in one fell swoop, we can simply begin by endeavoring to venture into small forays. The more we do it, the more exhilarated we will feel and the more we will develop the strength to venture to ever more challenging landscapes. When we embrace the unknown as an exciting adventure we open the door to greater creativity and innovation, we move from being a cog to being a visionary, and from stagnation to change.
Tip of the Week
Think of one little thing you’ve always wanted to do, but have never given yourself the permission to do. Not a big thing like launching a business or writing a book, but a little thing, like climbing a local mountain, or going dancing and really letting your hair down, or taking a road trip without booking a hotel room. Try something new this week and see how good it feels. It’s just a step, but a step in the direction of greatness.