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Even in the darkness, my feet will find somewhere to land

Even in the darkness, my feet will find somewhere to land

What I’ve learned about daring to take leaps into the great unknown.

I’ve learnt that worry is not preparation. I give myself endless pep talks, reminding myself that I always have what I need to make a leap.

A leap of faith requires only a few things. A measure of self-belief, for starters. Enough faith to make the leap, but not enough to guarantee success. That’s why it’s a leap.

There’s a significant gap between here and there, and a calculation needs to take place. We think we can make it. But we’re not sure. That’s why we give it everything we have.  

Or are we pressurised? Is it a leap too far? As the Chinese proverb has it, two leaps per chasm is fatal. Doubt creeps in. Then there’s the landing to consider. Will I lose my footing? Get hurt? 

Lastly, a sense of direction can be very useful. Right now, I am standing on the precipice. It’s a familiar place. I look down at my feet on the edge of the void. Nothing is certain. But then, nothing ever was.

This situation feels like home, even if the daily illusion of safe certainty is persuasive. Putting my feet on the floor in the morning starts an unpredictable chain of events. I do not take anything for granted.

Pretty much everything has an element of risk in it. Perhaps this is why I yearn to be safe, and quiet and still, but also recoil at how boring, how deathly that might be if it was like that forever. Life is movement and movement is often risky. It makes me feel vulnerable.   

The awful truth is that some of my leaping abilities seem to be on the wane. If my body is an index of my flexibility, things don’t look that good. How’s my mind?

This is where most leaps are made, I suspect. I discover it’s pretty agile. I can rearrange my thinking. I’m consoled by having made some admirable leaps in my time.

Looking back, from one landing place to another, like peaks in my life, I can say I’ve leapt about a fair bit in this existence.  

Giving up school teaching to write a novel. Muddled my way through plotless potholes for months while holding down 17 odd jobs. Novel never happened, but I was no longer in school.

Studying to be a teacher, before that, was also a leap of faith. I had no idea what I wanted to be, in truth. Hitchhiking 1200 km to work on a farm in the Canadian wilderness for a year.

Starting an industrial theatre company, seemingly overnight. A calculated risk. Later, becoming an improvising performer, and stepping into the unknown with every show, supported by my fellow cast members, who knew where the invisible ropes were.

These were the big leap of faith lessons. Then there was making a podcast about death, because it felt like a good thing to do. Every act was a leap of faith, all paying off in different, unexpected ways. 

What I’m trying to say is that you never know where you’ll land. It’s the leaping that’s the thing.

For example, I recently conducted an experiment, sharing a story on social media every morning for three months, about a product I’d made, a pack of cards for the recovery community.

The next thing I knew, a paying client was sitting beside me, having heard an online share, and we were discussing the challenges she was facing.

Here was this living, breathing, laughing person, sharing life with me. I could not have predicted it. I leapt, and landed in a different place.    

So what have I learnt, that I can use now? One thing I know is that the more I carry, the more likely I am to plummet. The weight of the world on my shoulders is not ideal for leaping with.

Perhaps expectation is part of this weight. While hope is handy, expectation weighs me down. Uncertainty, likewise, is like jumping in shoes of steel.   

I’ve also learnt that worry is not preparation. I give myself endless pep talks, reminding myself that I always have what I need to make a leap.

And that even if there is darkness below, my feet will find somewhere to land. It just might not be the place I thought it was.

Sean O'Connor

Change expert, Sean O'Connor, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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