Leap of Faith

Last month, I lined up for the Boston Marathon, running on behalf of the Run For Research Team (thank you to all those who kindly donated). What amazes me is that even though I’ve run this race before and have completed dozens of other marathons in the past, still, there is always that tiny seed of doubt right before the gun goes off. Some little part of me that does not fully believe I can finish the distance ahead of me. Sure, it says, maybe you crossed the finish line before, but what have you got today?

I believe all worthwhile endeavors are like this.

And the more important that challenge is to you, the greater the doubt and risk of failure will be. The Wright Brothers did not know for certain that manned flight was possible before they actually did it. A series of near fatal disasters and financial setbacks preceded their eventual success. But on the morning of December 17th 1903, with a few jerky movements, Orville Wright finally coaxed the ungainly Wright Flying Machine into the air. It was a courageous leap of faith that lasted all of twelve seconds, covering a distance of only 120 feet. But it changed forever the course of history.

Anyone who has ever climbed a mountain, started a company or entered a marriage will probably tell you the same thing – you go on faith. Nothing is guaranteed. Sure you may do your homework, develop a brilliant business plan and do background checks, but in the end – you still have to launch that old jalopy into the sky on just a wing and a prayer.

I believe that most people who fail, do so because their leap of faith is underpowered. Nothing is as crippling to human enterprise as this tendency to doubt in our own abilities. If you vacillate for even a second or look down mid-leap, you end up like Wile E. Coyote as he’s suspended over the edge of the canyon, legs pumping, before plummeting straight to earth.

How many times have you had a brilliant idea, only to dismiss it out of hand because you’re sure someone else has dreamt of it already? Then, after mulling over it for a full year, you see your idea perfectly executed by that someone else. Or how about the attractive stranger across the room you’re thinking about approaching? So you stall and bide your time, waiting for just the right moment. And before you know it, that moment – and the mysterious stranger have both vanished. Whether you’re embarking on a new relationship, looking for a job, or starting a new business, remember this: The leap comes first. Belief comes second.

To ensure your leap of faith is not underpowered…

Know What You Want
You really can get there from here, but only if you know where there is. What is it that you really want for yourself in this lifetime? Not what your parents want for you, or your friends, or what you think you should want. Only you know the answer to this. Hard to hit the target if it’s moving. Nearly impossible if you don’t even know what it is.

Know Why You Want It
More important than the what, is the why. What is the feeling that you would have if you were to finally make that leap? Is it confidence? Self-respect? Sovereignty? Freedom? Focusing on your why is more powerful than willpower, coercion or any drill sergeant yelling in your ear. It means your actions are in line with your deepest held values. This is your why.

See It Done
I do a lot of work with clients on visualization, because it’s powerful and it works. Writing a vision statement opens the door for new possibilities to enter. When making a leap, it’s important to focus on the outcome that you want, not the outcome you don’t want. Using the leap analogy, it means looking to where you’re going to land, not down below into the gaping void.

One of my favorite books from childhood was (and still remains) The Little Engine That Could. When all the other “bigger” engines are asked to pull the train, and all for various reasons refuse – it is the Little Blue Engine who takes up the challenge. The Little Engine does not know it can do this, but by repeating its mantra of “I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can” the Engine eventually succeeds in getting the toys over the mountain, congratulating itself on the way down with “I-thought-I-could, I thought-I-could.”

It’s alright to be fearful and doubtful. But courage begets more courage. Once you commit and stop hesitating, providence often moves in. And little steps become bigger steps. That’s how you finish the Boston Marathon. And that, my friends…is how you get the toys over the mountain.