This past weekend, we were both presented with trying situations, instances where we had to make difficult choices or come to terms with reality. One situation was professionally focused, while the other revolved around supporting a friend with a difficult decision about a beloved pet. Both of these situations caused fear, uncertainty, and facing a negative outcome. Through it all, a quote kept passing through our minds.
A famous actor known for his bravery and heroism from classic Westerns said this: “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.” John Wayne was probably referring to the likely hundreds of horses he had to ride throughout his momentous career. No doubt there were animals that were less sturdy, sound, and safe than others. There may have even been times when he was staring up at a horse after being thrown from the saddle, shaking in his boots.
Riding horses can be considered as courageous by some. Not only when considering it takes muscle groups to physically stay on the horse that usually don’t work together at the same time, but from a mental standpoint. Thousands of people are scared of horses. Here is a thousand pound animal that scares at and makes sudden movements when it sees a chipmunk or a leaf move the wrong way. And yet, with a guiding human hand, these same beasts can dance to music, clear four to six foot fences, herd cattle and sheep over extreme acreage, and create bonds with humans in a way no other animal can. And yes, the inevitable will happen if you choose to learn how to ride, you are going to fall off. And when it does, one of the first lessons you learn is to get right back in the saddle. Don’t think, just do.
Yet, more often than not, not thinking and doing is one of the hardest and most courageous things that a person can do. We have all succumbed to overthinking at one point or another in this life. Is it right to keep a sick animal around longer for the sake of having them with us? Is it possible that this job isn’t going to get better and I have been ignoring the signs all along? Is it possible that my partner is in fact cheating on me considering we are in a strained relationship? Is it possible that my child is involved with the wrong crowd of friends even though they seem happier now than in the last six months?
These types of questions fill our minds with doubt, uncertainty, and fear. These questions can scare us and actually make us ignore the gravity and reality of a situation, opting to keep the status quo. But here’s the kicker, not acting, or not at least having an inner dialogue about doing the right thing, actually prolongs the problem at hand.
Fear does that, it has this crippling effect on us. It puts blinders on to the world, even when it is burning down around us. But we have the power to rip the blinders off and grab a hose to put the fire out. We have the ability to make it right, to make it better, to live a fuller and happier life. Sometimes we are the only ones that can do it for ourselves, and other occasions, it to be done for someone else. Being a listening ear and truly hearing can actually save lives. With all that went on this past week with the incredible losses of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, being there for someone is one of the most selfless things you can do.
So take John Wayne’s words to heart and show fear who’s boss. Get back in the saddle after a debilitating setback. Dust yourself off after a crushing loss. And saddle up when it is most courageous to do so. Because as they say, the ride is so much better than the destination.