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You Can’t Reach Every Star

We are all afraid of something. I believe it’s ok to give in to your fears and turn around when it doesn’t feel right or comfortable to move ahead. I was in Florence, Italy my family and I purchased tickets to climb the famous, historic Duomo Dome. I have a fear of heights and I thought I could face it and overcome it just like the many stories I have read and heard. I climbed up 200 steps and there were two hundred to go, when we walked the hall inside the church dome I could not look out into the church below.  I was terrified, my heart was pumping and my body was shaking. I was numb, unable to think or comprehend what my wife and family were trying to say to me. The stress reduction breathing techniques went out the window and so did the laughter.  It was obvious to me that my fear had taken over my mind and body and the only thing that was working was my fight/flight senses telling me to get out of there.

When I came upon a break in the steps with an opportunity to exit and give up, I did. My wife felt bad and wanted to come down with me. I remember telling her to keep going. “Don’t give up because of me, just go!”

Going down the winding steps were even more terrifying. Slowly step by step I made my way down. No rails just walls to try to hold on to. You may be thinking that I am being dramatic, but for me this was one of the worst feelings I have experienced in my life. When I finally got to the bottom dizzy and still shaking I thought to myself I don’t care if I gave up it was my decision and it was the right decision for me.

From this experience I am reminded that we all get stressed out about different things; some we can easily handle and work through, other things we can’t. Others may push you to move on or offer their opinions but the final decision depends on you. Only you know what is good or bad for you and how much you can take before you lose it. Only you know whether or not it is worth it to move forward or to turn back.

Many years ago I talked to an autoworker who was taking advantage of the UAW/Ford Motor Company’s college Management program. He received his Master’s degree and was working toward his Doctorate. I was impressed with his willingness to want to learn and move forward in the company. He said he was offered his dream management position and after eleven months he realized he hated the job.  He explained that the books and tests never prepared him for the amount of stress he had experienced. He said the demands, long hours and paperwork was over-whelming.  He tried everything from meditation, breathing and even laughter but his fears took him over. He was stressed and getting sick all the time. He said, I remember one of my old co-workers telling me, “piece of mind is worth something.”  That’s when he made the decision to go back to his former position, pay cut and all.

Some may say he gave up but I say at least he tried. At least he knew how to monitor himself to figure out what is best his own wellbeing. Getting back to my Florence, Italy experience, did I get to the top and see what others describe as an awesome view?  No, but I made it up and down from 200 stairs and that works for me. Did my auto worker friend make it to the top or to a higher position in the company?  No, but at least he tried it out and realized it wasn’t for him.

From this experience as a speaker who promotes stress reduction and laughter I now realize you can practice your breathing techniques, your laughter and meditation, but if your inner fears take over your thought patterns the only logical thing to do is to follow your instinct and get the hell out.

Like my autoworker friend, take the steps go for it and when you get there if it’s too overwhelming follow your instinct move in another direction that fits you.  The point is, you may not be able to win at everything or get or hit every star, but at least you can say, “I gave it my all and did my best”.

I believe it’s so much better to try then not try at all or you will never find out what fits for you.


Richard Paul

Copyright Richard Paul 2014