"There is no greater illusion than fear."
Tao Te Ching
Some call me crazy. (I am.) On the first day of this year I celebrated the New Year by participating in a crazy annual Coeur d'Alene tradition: The Polar Bear Plunge! This is the seventh year in a row that I have gathered with about 400 other intrepid souls on a snow covered beach in subfreezing temperatures to dive into the icy waters of Lake Coeur d'Alene. Anyone who has ever done it will tell you that the experience is challenging but exhilirating. To me, stretching myself by moving beyond my fears and rising to such an intense challenge -- and having a lot of fun in the process -- sets the tone for a happy and successful year.
As I do every year, I invited a number of my friends to come and join me. Most called me crazy. One replied, and I'm quoting directly: "Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!" My own brother referred to it as "madness."
Five actually showed up. They ranged everwhere from nervous to freaking-out terrified. And I'll admit that every year as I'm watching my breath drift off over the near frozen lake and facing the prospect of stripping down to my swimsuit and taking the chilly dip, I always think, "Geez, I can't believe I'm doing this thing again!" Then afterwards I feel great and I know I'll be back next year.
Here's what my friends said after the plunge:
"My sister always said I was the stupid one and I think I just proved her right. But right now I know I'm having more fun than her. She's probably still sleeping."
"I thought I would turn into an iceberg...we have GOT to do this again next year, and I am bringing all my friends."
"I was terrified of doing this...can't wait to do this next year...I feel more alive, less fearful of the unknown, and more grounded in my skills to consciously handle my life."
Not bad for 30 seconds in an icy lake!
Remember, your fears are nothing but an illusion. Wonderful things await you beyond your fears.