To Conquer Your Fears, You Have To Face Them

Driving is stressful and enjoyable for me. This may sound like a strange statement to make, but there is a reason behind it.

The stress comes from driving around places I am unfamiliar with. Driving in a new city, with no idea where I am going is not fun. I worry about taking a wrong turn, constantly wonder whether I am in the right lane or not. It’s a lot of mental labour!

The enjoyable part comes in when I am driving somewhere I am familiar with, or when I am doing a long drive that doesn’t require constant thought. This is when I find driving enjoyable and get the same sort of satisfaction that I get from cycling.

It’s fair to say I have a love/hate relationship with driving. Sometimes, it’s something I enjoy doing, other times the thought of driving makes me feel ill.

However, the times that I don’t want to drive are exactly the times that I should be driving. It is a test of my character, these moments challenge me to overcome any irrational fears and limitations I place upon myself and better myself.

It is in these moments that you find out who you truly are.

Do What You Hate, Not What You Love

I am currently travelling around Europe by car with two of my friends. We have travelled from England to the south of Spain so far, covering thousands of miles in the process.

The other day my two friends headed back to England to attend a party for their friend who will get married later in the year. This meant that I would be alone with the car for a while. After I dropped them off at the airport, I had to drive into a busy city and park up.

On this trip, I have done the majority of my driving on motorways. As I mentioned before, I find this style of driving more enjoyable and stress-free, then driving through a busy city I am unfamiliar with.

However, on this day I had no choice. I would be driving into a busy city whether I liked it or not!

This was coupled with the fact that the GPS on my phone does not work properly. The drive would have to be done with a little guidance from my phone, but with no basic idea of where I was going to park the car.

This was my idea of hell!

I set off from the airport with a feeling of trepidation in my stomach. Within five minutes, I had already made a wrong turn and ventured into the wrong part of town. Google Maps declined to reroute me, so I was left to drive around and try and find my way back to the correct route.

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Photo by james on Reshot

Eventually, I got back on the road I was supposed to and made my way to my destination. As I was doing so, I noticed something about myself. Even though I wasn’t enjoying the experience, I wasn’t overwhelmed by it either.

I was simply getting on with the task at hand. I may not have been enjoying it, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Yes, it was still stressful trying to navigate a new city on the wrong side of the road, but it was manageable. I could do this. Drive into the city, find the car park and park the car up for a few days.

It wasn’t that bad!

When I broke the task down like this, it suddenly seemed a lot more manageable. My thoughts of this is going to be horrible were replaced with it’s not that bad.

Once I got to the car park, parked the car and made my way to my hostel I felt a lot calmer, but there was no wave of calm washing over me.

There was an acceptance that I had done a task which in reality isn’t that difficult. It only seemed difficult because I thought it would be difficult.

The Takeaway

While I’m not claiming driving a car into a new city is a sign of dealing with adversity, for me, it’s not an enjoyable experience. It’s something I would prefer not to do.

However, pushing myself out of my comfort zone and doing the task at hand taught me a valuable lesson. Your mind can either be your biggest strength, or it can be your biggest weakness.

Michael Jordan, widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, alluded to this during his career. He stated:

“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

Mental strength is an important tool in life, but all too often our minds let us down when we need them the most. We place obstacles in our way that do not exist in reality. We have to learn how to overcome them and prosper.

Jordan’s statement would echo the thoughts of the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. It was he who stated that instead of running from the obstacles we face, we should embrace them.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Life is not all plain sailing. There will come times when we have to do things that make us uncomfortable, that we dread. However, to turn away from them is to neglect our duty.

You must face up to those things that you fear. You cannot run from everything in life. It is in these moments, moments of internal strife and uncertainty that we find out what we are capable of.

These are the moments we realise we are stronger than we imagined, and the only limits we face are the ones we place on ourselves.

I still don’t like driving in new and busy cities, but I no longer dread it like I used to. I see as it a challenge, instead of a sword dangling over me.

To spend your life running from the things that scare you is no life at all. Embrace your fears and those things that scare you, because one day, you will look back and realise they were nothing to be afraid of.

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