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Recently, one of my dear friends told me an incredible story.

One Saturday not too long ago, her five-year old son said to her, “Mommy, my throat hurts. I’m sick. I can’t go to swimming class today.”

My friend looked him over. He seemed alert and content. She checked him for fever; his forehead was cool.

“Well, let’s see how things go over the next hour or so, and then we will decide,” she told him.

About twenty minutes later, racing toy cars with his sister in the dining room, he piped up, “My leg is hurting.” Then, a bit later, “I definitely can’t go – my arms hurt.” All the while, he played around the house happily.

The symptoms were suspicious. “Sweetie, is there a reason you don’t want to go to swimming class today?” she asked.

With a little digging, the truth came out out: “We have to go across the whole pool in free stroke, and it’s way too scary,” he finally said.

My friend replied, “Ah, ok. But honey, not going to swimming at all today seems like too big of a solution for the problem. How about we talk to your teacher and see if you can go half-way for that part?”

His eyes lit up, and he agreed to go. And get this – once he was in the pool for free stroke, he suddenly felt he could swim the whole way across – and he did!

I love this little parable. It’s a story of being your kid’s ally in a moment when it would be easy to be pulled to conform instead.

It’s a story about how knowing we don’t have to do something sometimes gives us enough emotional safety to stretch ourselves.

It’s a story about how yes, sometimes we might need to push through a fear, but other times we need to come up with accommodations for ourselves so that we can keep getting into scary waters – whatever those waters are for each of us.

But none of those lessons, precious as they are, are what I love most in this story.

What I love most is that particular amazing line, “That is too big a solution for this problem.”

That is exactly what fear does to us. A thousand times fear has made me come up with too big a solution to the problem. Intimidated of the equipment and the idea of “iTunes Charts,” so no podcast at all. Fearful of a possible rejection note, so not pitching the op-ed piece at all. Fearful no one will come, so not throwing the party at all.

Fear makes us come up with a solution that is way bigger than the problem – a solution that is too big for the problem.

We need to find solutions as small and as particular as the fear.

What pool of life or work are you not swimming in because of a fear?

Where has fear caused you to come up with too big a solution for a small problem?

What would a smaller, more particular solution be? The strategy for dealing with an uncomfortable feeling, or a gap in knowledge, so that you don’t have to throw out all the good stuff too?

Love to you today,

Tara

Photo by Anna Sullivan

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