Friday, April 1, 2011

Lesson #25: Do What Scares You

This is one of the most important lessons that has guided my wisest decisions all my adult life.  I seem to have developed an innate instinct which leads me to do the thing that scares me the most.  Because of it I have been able to learn new ideas, take chances, meet fascinating people, and have fun and strange experiences I never would have had otherwise.

For example, in 1993, I had the idea of getting in my car alone for a week and driving with no particular destination.  My gut reaction was terror, so I did it anyway.  I ended up driving through Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Boulder, and loving the calm peace that came from riding through vast open road and never ending plains.  I loved it so much I did again by myself, driving to Vancouver in 1994, New Orleans in 1995, and Chicago in 1996.  I will cherish those adventures on the road and the people I met for the rest of my life. 

In 2002, I had the crazy idea of leaving everything "safe" in California and moving to New York City.  My cautious mind said, "No way can you do that."  My heart sped up, I felt flush, and that's how I knew it was exactly the right thing to do.  It took awhile to get there, but relocating to the East Coast has been one of the smartest and most gratifying decisions I have ever made.

In 2006, I wrote "Absolutely Should-less."  I was terrified to take on that challenge, and even more horrified at the idea of having anyone actually read it.  Yet, once again, it was that shot of electric fear through my veins that instructed me to sit down and write it, and to get it published for the world to see.

Even now, I still have nervousness and anxiety about approaching soap stars for interviews.  Just the other day when seeing Susan Lucci at a book signing, I experienced a half-second of complete and utter panic. I have met her and interviewed her for We Love Soaps TV before but that voice in my head said, "Come ON, this is Susan F----n Lucci!" I used that distress to move right toward her, and ended up being the first press member to interview her at the event. 

I have learned that it is far more gratifying to react to fear with defiant action than compliant shame.  From asking someone out on a date, to moving in with my partner, to jumping out of airplanes, to starting my own private practice, I am proud that I have spent a great deal of these forty years facing fears and challenges with adrenaline-fueled terror and stubborn determination.  What scares you?

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

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