Why do we, as adults, abandon the dreams of our youth? At first, there might seem like a lot of reasons for this. But if we boil all of these answers down, we will end up with one answer, one word: fear. Why does fear play such a huge roll in whom we become or what we attempt to do in this life? And more importantly, what exactly do we fear?
Charles Cooley would tell us that our self-image was formed between the ages of 0 and 5 years old. A self image formed from the actions and reactions of the authority figures around us, primarily our parents.
Dr. Albert Bandura would say that it was formed from the feedback of our environment—parents, peers, the world around us. From the time we are born, we are encouraged to play it safe. Don't take risks. Failing is to be avoided. We learn to tell ourselves “You’re not good enough,” or “I am too ______ to do that.” We need to be accepted. Rejection is lonely, we should avoid it at all costs. We should sell our souls to feel accepted. Do whatever we must not to be rejected.
Yet we can hear our own screams for validation and acknowledgement behind the dark and cold walls of our loneliness. I used to think I was the only one doing this. But I'm not, am I? So how do you get people to risk rejection beyond pretense? How do we validate another human being’s fear in such a way that they choose risk?
You love them through their fear. You accept them for who they are at all cost. You see them, validate them, embrace them. You allow them to borrow some of your courage, if needed.
“It might be bigger than you, and it might be bigger than me, but it is not bigger than us.”
Sure, the outdoor adventures I lead include some scary stuff, but that is not what’s stopping people from living, is it? That is not what is stealing our dreams away, is it? No, the only thing I have witnessed that moves us past pretense and into greatness is what we call unconditional love. Putting people into a unique environment that causes fear and creates disequilibrium, then loving on them and watching them achieve something amazing.
I get to be in the front row to see “I cant’s” turn into “I can’s” And I know the “I can’s” grow into acts of greatness.
Mark is a Marine and a 23 year veteran of the LA County Sheriff's Department. He has been recognized by the State Senate, US Congress and the Governor of California for his work in juvenile intervention.