In medieval times, little was known about the ocean. It was deep, dark and often treacherous. And, with a lack of information about the sea, uneducated sailors told greatly exaggerated tales of sea monsters, serpents and dragons! Tales of eerie sights and sounds and even of whales attacking their ships.
How to Slay a Dragon
In the early 15th and 16th centuries, map makers would frequently draw maps that included vivid artistic creations of sea serpents wrapped around ships or fierce dragons battling the waves in the sea. Even whales were drawn in scary contrast to what we know to be one of the gentlest creatures on the face of the earth. Along with these depictions, in the uncharted corners of the maps, were the words “Here be dragons!” This was an attempt by the cartographers to warn people away from dangerous areas where they truly believed dragons and sea monsters existed.
So why the history lesson about dragons? We know there are no such things as dragons now. Maybe not, but we do have our own modern-day dragons. These dragons are the fears that keep us from doing what we intend to do. The phrase “Here be dragons!” represents the things that we fear. We all have something that scares us whether it be fear of heights, flying, insects and animals or even things like fear of starting a business or writing a book.
One of the best ways to slay the fear-dragon, is to first identify the fear and then decide that we want to overcome it. This starts with a good map that identifies our goals. A map that lays out our journey, plots where we want to go, and has a defined destination. A good map can get you anywhere if you know how to follow it.
One of my fears was public speaking. I knew it was something that I wanted to overcome so I joined a Toastmasters group. On my map to achieve this goal, I knew that there would be several dragons that I would need to slay. Namely, the fear of being embarrassed or rejected, forgetting speech content and the fear of failing.
I remember going to my first meeting where I tried very hard to be invisible. Eventually, the more I showed up, the more I realized that my fear of public speaking was greatly exaggerated. I watched as other members struggled with the same fear but kept on going. I realized that I was not alone and that public speaking was simply a fear that I needed to face. A dragon that needed to be slayed. So I made a commitment to myself and to the public speaking process. With each speech I delivered, I got progressively more willing and able to speak in front of others.
Soon, the confidence I gained in that meeting room began to spill over into other areas of my life. I joined a writing club where I could put my writing into the hands of others, share opinions and provide support. I started to lead video conference calls with new confidence. I spoke at company functions and pushed myself beyond my self-imposed boundaries. As I gained experience and knowledge, the fear began to fall away. In essence, once I proved to myself that my fears were unfounded, I could let them go. I could remove those dragons from my map.
We slay our fears by facing them head on. By looking at them through the lens of truth rather than blowing them out of proportion. And by renaming them. I like to call them opportunities instead.
When I look back, I can see that my dragons, just like the ones on the maps so long ago, were greatly exaggerated. These fears were truly opportunities for growth. When we face our fears with a sense of purpose it makes us stronger and puts us in control of that fear. We learn that we are more resilient than we think. We cannot let our fear stop us from doing the things we long to do. Instead, let fear fuel us to become who we were meant to be.
Sometime around the beginning of the 17th century, people started to learn more about the sea. They discovered the truths behind the myths that they had believed for so long. They found out that there were no real dragons and, eventually, the depictions were taken off the maps entirely.
So, what map are you following? What is your destination? And where do your dragons lie? Maybe now is a good time to take a closer look at those fear-dragons and see if they have been exaggerated. Look at them as opportunities for growth. Maybe it's time to delve deeper into yourself and become the very best version of you. Just remember, no matter what, never let a dragon stop you on your path.
Photo courtesy Pixabay/12019