Many years ago, at a turning point in my life, I found myself in a dark forest, being stalked by a mountain lion. I sat there before my campfire, frozen in fear, as the distant cat like growls rose above the crackling of the burning wood. Any minute now it could pounce from the shadows and drag me off to its den, never to be seen again by a living soul.
What was I going to do? Why couldn’t I move? When would the end come and take me from my misery?
I had been hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, a wilderness trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada, some 2650 miles of uninterrupted wilderness. I was a couple of weeks in and had become overwhelmed by the difficulty of the task. What had I gotten myself into? How was I ever going to go on?
Overwhelmed with doubt and depression I had decided to rest for a few days in a beautiful spot in a little forest, surrounded by flowering planes and a little creek, the source of life, flowing into to my camp.
A few days ago on the trail I had come across a man who had a huge knife strapped to his chest. When I asked him why he had it, he told me that the other day he had stumbled upon a mountain lion. Being as surprised as each other, both him and the lion had bolted and ran away, but the experience had scared him so much he bought the knife in the next town he came across and was never without it.
He told me that there had been stories of mountain lions in the area jumping on people and dragging them off to eat them. They had found several people mauled and piles of bones where lion dens had been discovered in the past. When we parted ways I was left with an anxious feeling about being hunted and killed by a cougar that only added to the weight of my depression.
And so I was sitting by my campfire in a dark forest, when I heard a cat like growling in the distance. Every muscle in my body tightened and I froze, thinking that at any moment a mountain lion would pounce from the dark bushes and eat me. For what seemed like an eternity I sat there, motionless, listening to the distant growling, frozen in fear.
But then something clicked inside my head…
If the lion wanted to kill me, I wouldn’t even hear it. It would simply pounce on me from the shadows before I even knew it was there. It was testing me. That’s when I realised that I had a choice.
“I could either sit there frozen in fear until it came to get me, or I could act first.”
I had hiked for hundreds of miles to find this spot, through blood, sweat and a lot of tears. This was it, this was why I had come here. This was my moment.
There was only one thing to do…
I would have to assert my dominance and stake my claim to the land.
The fight response triggered in me and a rush of sudden power flowed through me. I knew what I had to do…
I rose from the ground like an uprooting tree, picked up the biggest flaming branch from the fire I could wield and took my knife in my other hand.
I felt like the fire was flowing into me and I strode out into the open plain under the starlight and stood on a boulder. Brandishing the flaming torch in the air I made myself as big and powerful as I could possibly manage and I roared as loud as my lungs would allow into the night.
It felt like there was a storm coming out of my chest and my whole body shook with the force of it. The cold night air on my skin, the hot glow of the flaming branch in my hand and the feeling of my warm breath curling up my face was electrifying. I felt like Conan the Barbarian.
For a few pounding heartbeats I listened, but there was silence all around. The energy rose in me again and I roared once more, bathed in the orange glow of my fire, silhouetted against the night, challenging the beast to come near me, but only my echoes answered me.
I stared out into the night panting, my heart in my throat, my body tingling all over: I had never felt so alive.
“In that moment I was absolutely ready to die.”
I had given my everything, banished all fear and challenged death itself, and I had been answered. I was alive…
As the electricity flowed back out of me into the night I lowered my torch and I laughed a crazed, nervous laugh.
What had just happened? What was that energy I had felt? Where had it come from? How had I just done that? It seemed impossible now…
Then the laugh turned into an uncontrollable, fully bellied cackle. This was true strength.
You see your fight or flight response is the key to unlocking the true power that exists inside you. That surge of energy, that power overwhelming that I had felt, that had torn my feet from the ground, grabbed the flaming branch and roared in the face of a lion, had come from inside of me…
It was always there, watching, waiting, burning to be released, I just didn’t know it.
Because you see, it lives on the other side of fear. Fear is not the enemy, fear is the key. The lion was dangerous, no doubt, but the power it gave me was so much more. It was priceless…
There will be times in your life when it seems like everything is crumbling around you, like a lion is stalking you, about to pounce. Fear will grip you, freeze you, root you to the spot…
But there is always a choice.
You can chose to allow your emotions to rule you, to allow the universe to conspire against you, or you can chose to unlock that power, release your inner fire and become invincible.
“You need to understand that though danger is real, fear is a choice.”
You can chose to allow it to haunt you, to eat away at you, or you can face, turn the key and unlock the boundless energy of the universe.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing you cannot do if you put your mind to it. There is no such thing as impossible, only levels of effort you are willing to give, levels of belief. And every time you face your fears you turn the key a little bit more, become a little bit stronger, a little bit bolder, until fear is no longer an enemy to you, it is a weapon.
Then and only then will you have power overwhelming.
Now I know that most of you don’t have lions in your back garden, but there are things you can do every day to prepare you for the challenges of life. You must face fear every day and conquer it, so that when these challenges present themselves, you are ready.
There is an exercise I do every morning to overcome fear. I run a cold bath and I get in it…
Every day my body tells me that I don’t want to do it and my mind tries to come up with reasons why I shouldn’t, but every day I lie in that bath and I laugh at the ceiling. I don’t know what it is, but it brings me so much joy and energy I just have to smile, and every time I laugh I think of the lion and the dark forest and how I overcame it.
“If you can overcome just that little bit of fear, to know that you can do one impossible thing each morning, then you will be on the path to believing that you are invincible.”
Belief is a powerful thing. Belief is what allows people to walk across fire, to balance on spears, for mothers to lift cars off their trapped babies.
Once you have belief, things which hurt before will seem insignificant, because you have learned to deal with pain. You know that actually it’s not so bad.
I want you to have this feeling every day. I want to give this to you. I want you to own it. It will be hard at first, and you don’t have to do it all at once.
On the first day have a shower, but for the last three seconds turn the cold tap on and stand under it. Don’t panic, don’t run away, just stand there and breath. All you have to do is not move.
Control your breathing and relax your muscles. The feeling will rush over you, but it will only last a few seconds, after this a funny thing will happen: you’ll realise that it doesn’t really hurt at all…
It’s just your body’s auto-response to want to run away. Control it. Say no. Survive until the feeling fades. Feel the strength welling up inside you. Know that you can do it. Know that it is possible after all. Then turn the tap off and warm yourself up.
I want to you to notice how you feel as your hand reaches for the cold tap. Notice the thoughts, the rationalisations, the fear you experience before the action. This is the false fear, this is your auto self-preservation response. Over time this will shorten, until you barely have any fear at all. Your brain will learn that everything will be ok, to not fear, to know that the outcome will be positive.
You must learn that only through hardship will you become stronger, and in time you will see the profound effect this has on the rest of your life. You will feel that everything seems more possible, less difficult. Challenges will start to seem like fun.
“Problems will seem trivial, because you’ve trained your mind to accept hardship, to accept pain in exchange for strength.”
Your confidence is like a muscle and each time you test it is like a rep. The more reps you do the stronger you will become and eventually you will be lying in a cold bath laughing at the ceiling and thanking me.
Once you have done this you’ll find that you want more danger, more power, and you will seek the lion, hunt the lion and unlock the power within.
Where to find power
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