When you’re committed to overcoming fear, you’re signing up to challenge yourself and push past your comfort zone. This is no easy task. It comes with plenty of agonizing, trepidation, sweat, and possibly tears. However being in a constant state of stress as a by-product of facing fear is a recipe for burnout and not a good long-term plan.
This past Friday I was walking down the staircase of my NYC apartment in a bit of a funk. Now usually when I take the stairs I fervently wish not to run into anyone. It’s awkward, the staircase isn’t that wide and then I feel pressured by their tempo as they walk, do we have one flight between us? Two? Are they gaining on me? Etc…
So my initial reaction that morning as I was joined by a neighbor on the staircase was Ah! Another human. Wince. Are they going to talk to me?! Then I thought hey wouldn’t this be a good moment to practice facing fear and say hello?
I did and lucky for me this guy was in a GREAT mood. Picture an older Russian man with a light accent. I said hey, how are you? He said ‘good, Happy Friday!’ I said ‘yes, indeed!’ He went on to say the following as we made our way down to the lobby:
‘But every day is happy for me. You can do it. Happiness is a choice. It’s not easy, but you tell your mind what to think about. You can write a list of all the things that make you happy and then all the things that don’t, and cross off the things that don’t and you’re not allowed to think about those things. Only think of the good things. Be happy for your health, your beauty, your boyfriend. It’s not easy but you can do it. It’s the truth!’
What?! Is this guy real or a psychic angel dropped down to help me out in a moment of need? No, but seriously it was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment to lift me out of my self-absorbed (if not justified) funk. Plus I LOVE lists and I’m definitely going to try his suggestion.
I waited a moment in front of the building untangling my headphones to listen to a podcast as he walked away ahead of me. When I looked up again a few seconds later he had disappeared, but his words are burned into my memory.
It’s been four days since I had that conversation with him but since then when I feel down I remind myself in a slight Russian accent ‘happiness is a choice.’ Somehow remembering that makes it easier to shrug off unhappy thoughts and brightens the path towards facing my fears. Happiness is a choice, and when I choose it life gets a little less scary.