I recently started a very interesting trial that should prove both challenging and rewarding. My trial is to do at least one thing I am currently afraid to do every day for the next thirty days. Although I have been doing this practice sporadically over the last several years, I really want to create the habit of taking down all those irrational fears that hold me back. This may seem like rather bizarre habit to install, so let me explain.
If you have been reading this blog for awhile you probably have heard me talk about vertical and lateral growth. As I believe that all human experiences are either those of growing or dying, I like to categorize all experiences of the former into vertical and lateral growth. Vertical growth is improvements in your effectiveness and all lateral growth are improvements in your understanding. I’m obviously summarizing a fairly complex topic here for brevity’s sake, but if you want to read more I have written this article  about vertical and lateral growth.
Having spent the past few years focusing my efforts almost exclusively on vertical growth, I recently decided to spend the next year or two focusing almost exclusively on my lateral growth while in University. This shift in myself has required me to alter my perceptions and procedures radically. Many of the habits and beliefs I established when I was working on vertical growth are actually counterproductive when focusing on lateral growth.
I believe the most important characteristic for vertical growth is self-discipline. Vertical growth generally requires stretching and pushing yourself. Whether it is working harder at your job to earn a promotion, exercising at the gym to get in shape or resisting temptations while you focus on your goals, vertical growth requires discipline.
If the major characteristic of vertical growth is discipline I would say the major characteristic of lateral growth is courage. Our past and a fear of the unknown keep us locked into a narrow experience of life. Lateral growth is all about expanding that experience from a narrow viewpoint to a broad one. Courage is the primary tool in expanding this barrier of fear and past experiences. Whether it is asking someone for a date, attempting public speaking or even trying a new food, courage, not discipline is the primary tool for creating results.
Tackling one of my fears every single day for the next thirty days is primarily a feat of courage, not discipline. It will take a lot of patience and emotional will to take on this challenge day after day. Because it is very easy to procrastinate things we are afraid of, I will have to act quickly to challenge my fears. If I wait for the perfect opportunity it may never come and I will have to start my trial over.
One of the most interesting aspects of this trial is that it requires such a different set of emotional abilities than my past trials did. Becoming a vegetarian, waking up early or exercising every day required a lot of discipline but they didn’t require much courage. A good comparison to make would be in a body builder who only lifts weights and then tries to run a marathon. Although both are forms of exercise, since they strain you in different ways, they are a completely different experience and require different training.
Like most of my first attempts with setting trials I wouldn’t be surprised if this one takes a few attempts to go a complete 30 days. During the first several months of setting trials I only successfully made it to thirty days on about half of them before something would stop me. The important thing is to continue working at it until you get used to the process. Just because you can’t finish a marathon on your first day of running is no reason to quit altogether.
What Are Some of My Fears?
To ensure I didn’t run out of fears, I made a small list of some of my current fears that I want to tackle in the next week or two. Some of these range from very moderate fears to paralyzing ones. I thought I’d give myself an easy first day by starting with a fairly moderate one, publicly posting some of my fears.
- Asking someone on a date in front of other people. Rejection and success somehow seem magnified when you have an audience.
- Telling old meat eating friends I’ve become a strict vegetarian. I can’t explain why I have some moderate fear for this one, but fear isn’t supposed to be rational.
- Introducing myself to a group of strangers. It always seems difficult to break yourself into a conversation with a group of complete strangers.
I have plenty of other ones, some are variations of the same theme. I suspect that as I conquer some fears others will reduce their intensity from extreme to moderate, so I am not planning this trial in advance.
Unlike most of my posts I am not bringing up this topic specifically to suggest a course of action. I have no idea how this trial will turn out, although I have high expectations. I am hoping that in the very least I will be able to move past a few of my fears. I may even be able to start a habit of breaking down irrational fears that will last a lifetime. Whatever the outcome is I hope it will be a positive one.
I’ll keep you updated on my progress with this trial and hopefully it can accelerate my lateral growth. The accumulation of many vertical growth habits I installed over the past few years gave me a lot of power to do things that would have been previously impossible. Although I am starting fairly fresh, I am optimistic that this will give me the same push in the right direction.