I have noticed lately that I’m living with less and less fear. Maybe that’s what happens as we grow old. We experience some scary events as we grow older, we learn from those events, and then we move on. If something like that happens again, we remember what we learned the last time and we deal with the scary stuff and move on.
Yes, the pandemic is scary. I read the news, I see the charts, and I lay low. I stay indoors mostly because it’s chilly outside. I read I write, I work from home and I pay the bills. I admit to some uncertainty at work. I think everyone has that. But I don’t live in a constant state of fear about current events. I just have respect for the current state of affairs.
I know that as long as I keep doing what I’m doing at work, that is making customers happy, I will have a job. I also know that even if I don’t have a job, I’ll still find a way to make money. My family is resourceful that way. But I don’t dwell on what I need to do if I lose my job. I think about what I can do to make myself more valuable to my employer.
This bias, where I think about what I can do to make things better, more secure, rather than to think about what could go wrong, is a relatively recent development for me. I’m not sure, but I think it came to me around the time that I got married. I didn’t get married until close to middle age because I was afraid of relationships, afraid of failure in relationships, and afraid of success in relationships. Why, if I’m successful, I might actually have to commit to someone and I would be held accountable. What if I made a commitment I could not keep?
Since then, I’ve noticed a sort of relationship between the level of fear that I have and the level of commitment that I have to just living. The greater my level of commitment, the lesser my fear. It’s kind of neat, maybe even a bit uncanny.
I think the change also came with doing exercises where I would consider a venture of some sort, and write down the worst possible things that could happen if the venture went south. When I say “venture” I mean venturing beyond my zone of comfort.
I didn’t know what I was doing when I got married, but I knew for sure that was beyond my comfort zone. I didn’t know what I was doing when, after being fired from my job in California, my wife and I moved to Utah, and that was beyond my comfort zone. Same thing when I bought a house. And another house by exchanging my first house for the second one. Or when I got the day job that I have now. Or when we started having kids.
As I look back on all the time that I have spent with my wife, I can see clearly that with every commitment I made, the fear subsided. The more committed I became to any goal, any venture, the less fear I had. The commitments I made sort of pushed out the fear. But I noticed something else.
Whenever I made a commitment to a thing, a goal, or to someone else, numerous other forces came into view and play that I could not have anticipated before I made that commitment. It’s like as soon as I made a commitment to a thing, goal, or person, the universe moved with me. It seems to me that the universe moves with me as I move. I am reminded of this passage I read so long ago:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth — ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:
That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A
whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and imagination in it. Begin it now.
Long ago, long before I got married, a friend of mine printed out a page with that text on it for me. That page is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. I think that passage did more to assuage my fears and moved me more towards commitment than anything else that I have ever read. I feel fortunate to have found it when I did because I have been watching that hidden hand in my life since then. I have seen that hand moving things in my life, over and over again. And with each contact with that hidden hand, the one that helps me when I’m in need, I lose a little more fear of life.
Now we could have a debate about whether or not Goethe really wrote all that. I researched that passage and the best sources I have found say that only the text in bold can be attributed to Goethe. The rest is probably just embellishment from some really thoughtful people. What matters to me here is not the source, but the message. Does the message correspond with reality?
So I tested it. I found that every time I made a commitment to something, I thought that the moment I committed to doing something, that the resources I needed to keep that commitment would come to me. And they did. Every single time. I can’t think of an exception where the universe did not move with me upon my commitments. I’m beginning to think that I live in an uncanny valley because it’s kind of eery and neat that all of this stuff in my life has happened the way it did.
And with each passing day, week, month, or year, my convictions about my relationship with the universe become stronger. So I see the people struggling out there, in the news, on TV, in print, in social media. But I’m here, at peace with myself. I’m here, writing this to let you, dear reader, know about this thing that I found. I want you to know about this weird and beautiful relationship between commitment and fear exists. I want you to know that there is an even more interesting relationship between the way the universe moves and my commitments to it and that it could work for you, too.
With each commitment that I make, to myself, my life, my wife, my kids, my job, and any ventures that I seek to undertake, I lose my fear. I still have respect for these things, but my fear of them declines proportionately to my level of commitment to them. It is a strange yet comforting feeling. It’s almost as if, when I increase my determination to be committed, my fear declines in equal measure. This is the bargain that the universe offers to all of us.