Fear is something that we all deal with. Anybody who says otherwise is full of crap. Everyone experiences fear, whether they’ll admit it or not. This isn’t always a bad thing–a healthy amount of fear may just be our body’s way of telling us to be careful. Fear of heights keeps people away from dangerous cliffs. Fear of snakes keeps people from getting bit. Fear of high speeds keep people from getting killed in car accidents. In a way, fear can be like our body’s natural defense mechanism that keeps us from doing stupid stuff.

The problem is that so many people fixate on their fear. They let their fear take over their lives, and it makes them miserable. They constantly focus on what might happen: The plane might crash. The boat might sink. They focus on these negative thoughts, and that’s all they can see. When we decided to go skydiving last year, several of our coworkers were terrified for us, and felt the need to remind us constantly what a mistake we were making. What if our parachutes didn’t open? What if we crashed and burned? What music would we like played at our funerals?

You know what? This is a terrible attitude to have. No, skydiving is not the safest activity in the world, and people are killed doing it. It happens. So yes, our parachutes could have failed to open, and we could have been among the 16 skydiving fatalities in 2009. But to focus on the slim possibility of death, rather than the MUCH more likely possibility (considering that the total number of jumps last year is estimated in the hundreds of thousands) that we may have an indescribable experience that we would all remember for the rest of our lives (that’s what happened, by the way) is sheer insanity. Okay, skydiving may be a bad example here–who doesn’t think about the risk when they’re jumping out of a freakin airplane? But so many people (myself included, way too often) take that attitude about everything, and they miss out on so many opportunities to be happy because they let their fear–be it fear of death, rejection, heartbreak, whatever–control them. I’m not saying that anyone should irresponsibly turn a blind eye to the risk of injury or death… but sometimes a little calculated risk is what makes life worth living.

The fact is that our lives aren’t going to be perfect. We’re all going to get hurt, both physically and emotionally, and eventually we’re all going to die. The mortality rate for extreme thrill-seekers is no different than the mortality rate for people who never leave their houses because they’re scared of all the things that could kill them outside. Not one of us is guaranteed another day, or even another minute of life. The important thing isn’t how and when you meet death–it’s what you do with the life you’ve got before you get there. One of my favorite quotes in the world is credited to an 80 year old woman named Mavis Leyrer:

Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting “Holy shit, what a ride!”

I think Mavis nailed it. We can either live our lives in fear of what might happen, dwelling on the fact that death could be lurking around every corner, or we can live every day to the fullest, experiencing everything we ever wanted to experience. We only get one go-around in this life, and it would be a terrible shame to waste it.

Look, I’m not suggesting that everybody should go become extreme thrill-seekers, or start taking unnecessary risks. All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t let fear keep us from living life the way it was meant to be lived.

By the way, I hope I haven’t come across as arrogant or anything here… I’m writing this at myself more than anything.