My “Un-Happy” Anniversary

My “Un-Happy” Anniversary

This week was not a “Happy Anniversary” for me. 

An “anniversary” is your opportunity to look back on a specific day or event that happened exactly a year or years earlier.  For the most part, anniversaries are usually to honor some positive event and the celebrations of those moments are carried out in many different ways like presents, parties or parades.

I think of an “anniversary” more like a milestone.  That helps because some of my anniversaries this week didn’t have me feeling like celebrating.  In fact, reflecting back on a couple of days left me less in a partying kind of mood and more with a knot in my stomach.

When most people think “anniversary” they think about wedding dates, when countries were founded or some significant event in world history.  Although this week didn’t mark my founding of a country or knocking down of a political wall, it did mark three significant events that helped me to break through walls that were holding back my life.

This week was an “emotional rollercoaster.” In the span of a few days, I experienced the anniversary of my highest of highs, lowest of lows and the most stressful time in my life. So what were these events?  This week marks the 19-year anniversary of my first date with my wife, Amanda, the 5-year anniversary of moving my entire family from New Jersey to North Carolina, and the 1-year anniversary of suffering a devastating leg injury that mandated my first major surgery. 

As you can imagine, when I reflected on these moments, I approached them with mixed emotions that ranged from hope and happiness to remorse and regret.  As I examined the events more thoroughly, however, I realized each one had something important in common. This “something” was not only common to those events, but also to every day of your life:

Every day you will be faced with “uncertainty.” 

Each one of those events was a huge moment of uncertainty in my life.  That first date was after a series of relationships that ended in heartbreak. The move forced me to not only leave behind friends and family, but also everything about the business and identity I had painstakingly built over a decade. That injury challenged me to question what really made me valuable to the world and my mortality as well. 

In those huge moments of uncertainty I was faced with a choice. I could have cancelled the date in the face of another rejection, but I didn’t. It would have been easier and more comfortable to stay in New Jersey, but I couldn’t. I could have given up on my daily knee rehab, but I stayed consistent.  Those choices were influenced by one thing: the place from which the I asked myself questions. 

During moments of uncertainty, you have a choice to operate in fear or faith.

When I use the word “faith” I am talking about having trust or confidence in someone or something that could lead to positive events even when you don’t have proof it is true.

When I use the word “fear” I am talking about having a negative emotion from someone or something that may cause danger even when you don’t have proof it is true.

So if you examine my two definitions, the two words are not very different.  The difference is all in your interpretation!  And as you will read further, that difference is all in your head.  As I looked back and examined how I responded during my moments of uncertainty, I was given a master-key to succeeding in any time of self-doubt or hesitation: 

You must discover when to appropriately choose faith over fear!

How do you do that?  The first step is understanding what fear is really all about.  When I talk about fear, I am not talking about heights, spiders or public speaking (although these are common for us).  Here is my list of 8 common fears that could be holding you back:

Fear of loss
Fear of abandonment
Fear of poverty
Fear of change
Fear of failure
Fear of commitment
Fear of rejection
Fear of illness or death

Even though fear existed (I was actually terrified!) the actions I took in the first week of May 19, 5, and 1 year ago were not influenced by that fear. I instead challenged myself in those tumultuous times to operate from a place of faith. Sounds easy right? Well it’s not that easy to undo fear from our brain’s long-time development. 

Humans crave safety. Current brain research continues to discover that our brains and nervous systems are actually set to keep us alive, keep us safe and free from danger. For millennia, just like any animal, fear was hard-wired into you to keep you out of danger. This most powerful motivator has been ingrained into the primitive portion of your brain.  The problem is not that your brains operates like this. The problem is the “dangers” of our current world have changed.  We are no longer required to scurry in fear or face the same physical threats long ago. Fight or flight (which is all based on fear and still occasionally necessary) is buried deep within us and can hold you back from realizing your dreams.

You might see it as bad news being programmed to fear danger and compelled to seek safety and comfort, because it can allow fear to keep you from taking action.  Now the good news: Just like our bigger, more evolved brains give us the ingenuity to rule this rock called Earth, they can also give you faith in your moments of uncertainty.  How are you able to employ faith instead of fear?  When I looked back on my anniversaries this week, I realized you simply have to ask questions with both of your brains, not just one of them. 

Your life will be a result of the questions you ask.  Choose wisely.

Each day, you are going to have moments of uncertainty.  You will constantly be faced with going into the “unknown.”  Like me, you will be scared.  You will find it easier to stay “comfortable” with where you are.  But if you ask all the questions below, you may figure out the true fear should be of doing nothing or staying the same.   Here is a sample list of fear-based and faith-based questions you need to answer in your next moment of doubt:

5 Fearful Questions
1.  What can I lose?
2.  How much will it cost?
3.  Will I be strong enough?
4.  Will I get hurt?
5.  What if I fail?
5 Faithful Questions
1.  What can I gain?
2.  Can I afford not to do it?
3.  What strength will it take?
4.  How will it help?
5.  What if I succeed?

In uncertain circumstances, fear or faith is all you have. In order to make the correct choice, make sure you ask both sets of questions.  If you primitively stop at just the first set, then those answers will probably stop you.  By involving your “higher mind” in the process you will be better able to weigh-in on which way to go.  And by practicing questions from the list above, you will improve your odds of coming up with the best and most appropriate answer.  And in many cases, faith will hopefully replace fear.

Next time you are afraid of something, ask yourself both sets of questions above and see if there is really anything to fear.  Will your next anniversary be operated from fear or faith? The best news is now you know it is up to you!  The biggest lesson from my 3 anniversaries this week?  

Faith leaves you with a lot more to celebrate than fear.   

Have faith,

Martin