May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. – Nelson Mandela
What do your choices reflect? I was thinking about that the other day as I canceled my midday chiropractic appointment and decided not to go to the evening aqua aerobics class. My choice not to drive on snowy roads reflected a pretty standard amount of caution, I think, but also my fear of being in another spinout accident. The spinout I experienced about four years ago was scary enough to color all my winter driving experiences ever after. I wish I could leave the fear behind and just forge ahead, but I have less and less confidence in my ability to drive in snow, and my lack of confidence probably does affect my actual driving ability.
If winter driving were my only bugaboo, I guess I wouldn’t be too concerned, but I suspect that fear has kept me from a lot more than just getting out on snowy days. What else has fear kept me from? How many chances for a relationship have I dismissed out of hand because of fear? How many chances have I lost to earn more money or learn something new? How many times have I failed to take a chance to grow spiritually?
What’s the difference between simple caution and limiting fear, anyway? I suspect that there may be as many answers as there are people. They are certainly points along the same continuum. But think of the expression “proceed with caution.” The key word is proceed, go ahead, don’t stop. You can exercise caution but still go ahead and do something. Fear, meanwhile has the effect of immobilizing us, so that we get stuck in one place and we cannot move ahead.
One person on the web defined caution as the “continuous exercise of discretion,” so that you stay in control as you move ahead. I like that. In many ways, fear is a loss of control, because when we are fearful, we let circumstances dictate our actions.
Another person wrote that caution is something we need to pay attention to, whereas fear is something we need to ignore, because fear leads us to avoiding risk, which limits our growth. Fear means keeping the status quo, simply because it is a known quantity.
Caution requires us to exercise discernment. It requires us to find our “edge.” In Yoga, the term “edge” has a specific meaning. Dr. Melissa West, a yoga instructor, says that edge refers to a spectrum of “expansive experience from the subtle to the more intense that informs my self-awareness in a way that is supportive and not destructive.” From this, I can conclude that caution means accepting experiences that will contribute to our growth and self-awareness, while rejecting experiences that are clearly destructive. That makes sense.
If you’re interested in yoga, you may wish to visit this page on Dr. West’s site to find links to several free video lessons – one on discernment, one on fear, one on edge, one on courage, and one on “Facing our Fears in Winter.” That sounds like it’s right up my alley! There is also a link to her blog post on the concept of “edge.”
Here is another nugget of wisdom from an unknown source: “Caution is knowing and understanding the risks associated with a particular situation. Fear is allowing yourself to be limited by them. Faith is not throwing caution to the wind, but rather proceeding in spite of caution because you have directions from a higher Authority to override it and keep moving.” I like the part about having “directions from a higher Authority.” That’s a good reminder that if I really believe that I am in the presence of God at all times, and if I am open to direction and messages from God at all times, I will be kept safe from harm. It’s also a good idea to remember that when we do get into trouble, when we sustain injury or suffer damage to our possessions, it is a way for our karmic balance sheet to be adjusted. Paying back a loan is painful, sometimes, but it must be done, and we are always in a better place once we have paid our debts.
Justin Mazza, a personal growth blogger, gives another way to define caution, as”the announcement of a clear choice to avoid outcomes we do not want , and which do not represent who we are and who we choose to be.” He says that fears are “a reaction to something that you believe to be true. You don’t have a feeling about anything unless you have a belief or a definition about the situation.” We all know that our beliefs don’t always match up with reality. It would seem, then, that if caution is seeing a situation for what it really is and acknowledging the dangers, then adapting our behavior accordingly, fear is believing a danger exists when it really doesn’t, or believing that the danger something that we will never be able to overcome, and choosing to stay where we are rather than move ahead because of our beliefs.
Let’s look at the other side of the coin, for a moment. How do your choices reflect your hopes? Let’s define hope as an intention for a positive future outcome. I see people starting a course of study or pounding the pavement with resume in hand, looking for a job, people starting new businesses and getting married. All of these activities reflect our hopes and intentions for a brighter future. I think that my decision to write two blogs this year reflected my intention to be a writer by getting up each day and writing. Forcing myself to publish two pieces each day has been challenging, but ultimately very rewarding. I now know that I can write thousands of words per day, and that I am capable of cultivating an interest in and exploring all kinds of subjects. I know that I can express thoughts clearly and concisely. I know that I can write on demand and meet deadlines. Deciding to write daily blogs has been one of my better decisions in this life, and I now know that this is so because the decision reflected my hope rather than my fear. 🙂