I was going through some of our old family pictures the other night and came across one that made me laugh out loud at the memory. My then-three year old was standing in front of this lovely rock wall with water cascading down. With all the restraint that a three-year old could muster, she waited a whopping three seconds or so to plunge her hand into the water to see what would happen. I’d taken the picture before the result of her decision so didn’t have the version that showed her shocked, and drenched, by the water explosion that ensued. But that visual was etched clearly in my mind.
Now, at ten, she’d be far more thoughtful before literally taking the plunge. What might happen? What could go wrong? Will I get in trouble? And in all likelihood, she’ll decide against it. Is that a good thing? In some cases yes. But this caution can equally work against us when working up the courage to try something new.
It reminded me of someone I’d been recently introduced to, Mel Robbins. Her 5 Second Rule is worth spending well more than than the amount of time the title suggests. Her message: “Our minds are designed to stop you at all costs from anything that might hurt you…We aren’t designed to do things that are scary or difficult … but in order to change…and do everything you want with your life…you’re going to have to do things that are difficult, uncertain, or scary. Which sets up a problem.” Since your mind is trying to prevent you from getting hurt, you have about 5 seconds to move from idea to action before your brain stops you.
‘What’s the worst that could happen?’
During a recent Journeous coaching discussion, one of our students talked about wanting to try something new but was scared to put herself out there, worrying what others would think of her. The coach’s question, ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ helped this talented young woman realize three things:
- She’d be hard pressed to achieve her goals if she didn’t try something new
- The worst case scenario wasn’t really so bad
- The upside could be pretty amazing
Even the simple act of pausing to weigh the risks versus benefits can prevent this automatic idea rejection from kicking in so we maintain the ability to keep moving forward.
What we won’t be doing at the dinner table tonight is retrain our kids to act on every impulse. It goes without saying this protection mechanism can come in quite handy. Stepping out of our comfort zone and trying something new with an uncertain outcome can be scary. Yet even if it doesn’t turn out the way we want, the value of trying can be immeasurable. And when we’re trying for different results, or to achieve a goal that seems out of reach, neither are possible without doing exactly this.
As I looked back at the picture, it struck me that maybe being young at heart has more benefits than any of us realize – the freedom to take the plunge without fear.