“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” ~Marcus Aurelius.
How many times have you been paralyzed by your own self-doubts? You put off trying something new, looking for a new job, beginning a challenging task because you don’t believe in your own ability to do something. I have previously described myself as a procrastinator, putting things off till the last possible moment. But sometimes we set ourselves up, giving ourselves the opportunity to fail with a built in excuse: if I had started earlier…
Teaching provides an opportunity to study character, to identify those traits which may predict success or failure. For some it is not the ability or native talents that guarantee accomplishment of goals, but the inner drive and self-belief. I have watched students with enormous talent allow fear and insecurity to block their capacity to learn. In teaching basic math for dosage calculations, I have seen students whose brain freezes at just the mention of the word ‘math’. I frequently hold a ‘guided imagery’ session of progressive relaxation prior to big exams, to try to break the cycle of anxiety, that fight or flight response that works well if you are facing wild animals in the jungle, but which causes students to underperform when stressed.
Then there are those who self-sabotage, as if failure is something familiar and comforting. It is almost as if the achievement of a long desired goal is more than they deserve. Somewhere life has taught them that they are not worthy, not valued and not deserving. In between lessons on the nursing care of the patient with diabetes mellitus there have to be little life lessons: points about caring for self and believing in your own ability to realize your goals.
If you spend any time around little kids, you can see that we are not born with doubts and fears. We often come with an innate belief in our own ability to do anything. Toddlers climb, run, jump, tackle tasks with self-assurance, incapable of recognizing the lurking dangers. How can parents foster that poise and courage without encouraging crazy risk-taking? How do you temper that fearless optimism with sensible foresight?
As we develop life teaches us to be cautious, to look for the negatives. Over time we become timid, gradually settling for what we know and are comfortable with. We accept difficult or even painful relationships; stay in unsatisfying and non-challenging careers because it is easier than trying to make a change. We assume responsibility for the happiness of others because we do not believe we have the right to our own happiness.
Or is it that we don’t push ourselves, we don’t demand growth and transcendence? Is it because we have never tested what we are truly capable of? Have we allowed fear to dictate our path, accepting less, never taking that next step? I heard recently that we are all capable of greatness, but if you don’t look within you may never find it.
How often do we hesitate before tasks or events, not really wanting to do something, or go somewhere? Maybe duty has demanded that we attend some function and we would much rather stay home and chill. And yet once you get up and get out, you have a great time! And you forget that you really didn’t want to go. I recently heard someone describe death like that. She has to travel a lot for her job, and often she would much rather stay home than jump on another airplane. And yet once she arrived at her destination she had a really good time. Death, she said, will probably be like that. None of us want to go, yet we may find that once this life is over, the next destination is so wonderful; we wish we had gone there sooner! I guess we’ll have to wait and see for that one!
This Friday morning I hope you are enjoying the pleasures of our life and facing the future with a fearless optimism. Let us confront our fears and discover the steel in our core, that inner strength that has carried us through so many challenges. Let us believe in our own abilities and try new things, you never know what you can do if you don’t try!
I hope to see Clarendon College alumni in droves turn out to the New York Alumni’s ball this weekend, to celebrate the life of Michael Anthony Pickersgill and to contribute to the growth and development of current students at CC. It is action which talks (not a bag of mouth as Buju says); through giving to others we receive blessings.
One Love Family!