I had a major brain shift when I glimpsed another lifestyle while attending a yoga conference halfway around the world.
Ever think about our road signs? Well, on that trip, I did. Yes, I was in the paradise of Ubud, Bali and, of all things, it was the road signs that caught my eye (okay, also the hundreds of temples, beautiful people, art and geography). Here in the United States, we have a multitude of road signs screaming at us in bright yellow that there is danger ahead or that we need to be cautious. It made me wonder– how do these messages affect the way we live?
As a man drove me around the roads of Bali, Indonesia, I noticed one of their road signs. It was still bright yellow, but what was on the sign didn’t make me fear or feel as though it was screaming at me. Instead, I saw the sign and began to feel curious. The sign had a big, fat black exclamation point on it, almost like one you’d write at the end of a congratulatory card. Instead of making me think “caution,” the sign made me smile and wonder if there was something exciting up ahead!
Sometimes it takes “de-tribalizing” (a word I use to describe getting out of my own little tribal bubble– my midwest, suburban, middle class world) to get perspective on how other people and places in the world operate, think, and see that are different from mine.
Drivers in Bali did seem influenced by these road signs, whether or not they interpreted the sign as I did. The primary mode of transportation for families was a motorbike, and every single family member seemed to be squeezed onto just one bike. On one, I saw a little boy hanging off his mother’s back, waving to the other drivers. Another motorcycle had a baby, draped over the front of the motorcycle, fast asleep! (I guess car seat regulations are not a thing there…)
After my wave of panic–that this tiny baby might fall off the bike or the fear that NO STOP LIGHTS might lead to disaster–had passed, I realized that we in America live by fear (or at least, I do). And it’s not just fear for the safety of our children. Open your news app, and you’ll find headlines ranging from the Russians hacking into our presidential election to what eating moldy fruit does to your body. And don’t get me started on the numerous caution “signs” we see all around us. If you don’t want skin cancer, slap on the caution sign of sunscreen. Did you know that the makeup you’re using could also give you skin cancer? Want to prevent your kids from getting thyroid disease and dying young? Caution: don’t feed them microwave popcorn! Have you heard about all the diseases you can get from ticks? Maybe you just shouldn’t go outside anymore.
WAIT. Are we really living if we’re living by fear? If we tape up everything around us with a big yellow strip, we are limiting ourselves. Yes, our fears are valid. But, perhaps they’re not as likely to occur as we think. When we look closer, most of the fears we have will never actually become a reality. In fact, studies show that 85% of what we worry about will never happen! 85%! The same study even showed that, of the 15% of fears that did occur, the majority of people found that they could handle the situation better than imaginable and/or learned a valuable lesson from it.
We tend to fear the “what ifs” of the future whether it is about our health, our safety, or otherwise. We see the sign up ahead that reads “CAUTION” and want to either slow down, turn around and take a different route, or even stop and wait for the sign to go away. But, what if we looked at those signs and read instead “possibility,” “opportunity,” or “something exciting?” The unknown can be scary. Even scarier, though, is looking back and wishing we’d lived differently. You don’t have to be a slave to fear. Drive on into the exciting future of the rest of your life, trusting that even if your fears do become a reality, you will become a stronger, braver person as a result.
Did you know that 195 million Dollars worth of hand sanitizer was sold in 2016 yet less than 1% of bacteria carries diseases?
Did you know that your odds of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 11 million and that your odds of being hit by falling plane debris is 1 in 10 million?
Did you know vending machines kill 2 ½ times as many people per year as sharks? (Vending machines: 13 and Sharks: 5)
We are programmed to believe some things without having all the facts. Isn’t it interesting that knowledge of the truth can set us free from our fears? We can find freedom by facing our fears head on, like this woman did.
I’d love to hear from you…what have you learned about your fears that set you free, or how have you faced them?