It’s amazing how often you hear the words “I’d love to….”. But you know that person will never do the thing they’d love to do, even though there’s absolutely nothing stopping them.
I most commonly hear it in relation to my playing Roller Derby. When I tell people I play they’ve either never heard of it, or they become immediately animated. They’ve seen Whip It, they went to see a game once, they’d LOVE to give it a go, but……
And there’s always a but. They’re too old, they can’t skate, they’re really clumsy, they’re really unfit, they’re not very aggressive. And you know that person will never get out there and try it, but they’ll always wish they had.
I’ve been playing Roller Derby now for over 4 years. When I started I was in my early 30s. I ran, but not very fast, and I certainly wasn’t a gym bunny. I hadn’t been on a pair of roller skates since I was about 8 years old, and even then what I mostly did on them was roll down hill. 10 years previously in my early 20s I owned a pair of rollerblades which I used twice to skate awkwardly up and down the sea front, till I realised that the south coast wasn’t California and it kind of sucked. I don’t know where they are now.
I once threw my back out walking up stairs, and when I was little my Mum & Dad wouldn’t take me ice skating because I couldn’t be trusted not to fall over my own feet.
So yeah, I have all those excuses too.
So what’s the real reason those people never take up Roller Derby?
Specifically fear of failure.
It doesn’t have to be Roller Derby. It could be learning to knit, it could be going back to college and getting your degree, or it could be entering a 10k run.
Whenever we start something new, or commit to something, we make ourselves vulnerable. All the times we say “I’d love to….”, and never do, we leave the door open. We can dream that if only we were younger, richer, fitter or less clumsy we would totally be AWESOME AT THE THING. But we don’t have to find out that we’re not. We don’t have to commit to the work it takes to achieve something, and we never have to give it up because we discover it’s not for us.
But if you never try, you never learn anything. You never take those first steps and discover anything new about yourself.
Starting Roller Derby was a huge learning curve for me. I’ve quit lots of things that I wasn’t any good at immediately (there’s a reason I can’t drive!). Roller Derby taught me I wasn’t as mentally tough as I thought I was, that actually I was a big baby, afraid to fail and never trying. It taught me that actually I COULD, if I tried, and tried, and tried. It taught me that the key to success is failing.
It also taught me that I have strengths. That reliability and consistency are valuable and you don’t always have to be the star to make a difference. It taught me that I could be mentally tough, but that I needed to work on it, and it taught me to keep trying and that success felt even better after hard work.
If I hadn’t stepped up, got over the fear that I’d look a bit stupid, and gone to that first session, I wouldn’t be the same person now.
Fear is a funny thing. We’re conditioned to avoid situations that make us afraid. Fight or Flight is a real thing. It’s designed to help us stay alive, to fight for our lives, or run away and live to fight another day. But the fear of looking a bit silly? Well, lets face it, that doesn’t really serve any purpose at all.
Learning to knit or signing up for a 10k are far more likely to be experiences that change your life for the better than cause you harm (though knitting needles do look darn scary), but we let the fear that we might not be good at it, the fear that other people might think we’re silly for trying, stop us doing something that could change our lives forever.
Or it might not. You might sign up for that 10k, learn that actually you really hate running, especially long distances, decide not to bother and just go to the pub. Your life will continue along as it always has. Except now you know that running is NOT the sport for you, and maybe you’ll have a hilarious anecdote about that time you spent £20 signing up for a race and then went to the pub instead (you might have to work hard to make it a hilarious anecdote, but you can do it, a career as a stand up comedian might beckon. See, that 10k did change your life after all.)
Is there something that you would really love to try? Not something that you think you should do (I finally figured out I wasn’t learning to knit because I don’t want to, so ner.), but something that you would LOVE to do?
There’s valid reasons not to do stuff, money, things that happen on nights you already have commitments, actual physical and mental disabilities. But if we’ve excluded all of those, are you sure you’re just not scared to fail?
You’re probably not going to get less scared. So sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it anyway. The first time I went to the free weights section of the Gym on my own I lurked behind a pillar for 10 minutes waiting for a rack to become free because I was scared to ask how long the person using it would be. These days I just stride right up and say “How many sets do you have left?”, well, I do most days, and as long as they don’t look scary.
This Autumn, I dare you to pick something you’ve always wanted to do, and just go do it.