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Stop being paralyzed by fear

Train Rounding a Bend in the Tracks at Sunset

“A Buena Park man who was sitting on railroad tracks with a friend was killed after he refused to heed a train conductor’s warning to get off the tracks, Fullerton police said Friday.”


True story from the archives of the L.A. Times. In April 1990, two guys were sitting on the tracks, the engineer of a Santa Fe Railroad freight train sounded the horn and tried to brake, one guy moved and survived, and the other didn’t and died.

And why should I care? you ask.

Well, we’re not all that different from the guys on the tracks. When bad things start bearing down on us, some of us take action and survive while others remain transfixed by fear and wind up taking much harder hits than we should have.

So how can you encourage yourself to snap out of your fear-induced paralysis and try to improve your situation? Try these suggestions:

• Listen to the warnings. According to the Times story, alcohol may have slowed the reflexes of the man on the railroad tracks. The rest of us usually just stick our heads in the sand and pretend we don’t hear the horns sounding around us. Trouble often lets us know it’s on the way. Spouses and partners show subtle signs of discontent, employers start pinching pennies or prioritizing projects, children become withdrawn, you begin to experience fatigue or aches that let you know something isn’t quite right with your body. But rather than addressing potential problems in their early stages, most of us prefer to pretend we didn’t notice the signs and hope the problem never actually materializes.

• Examine issues frankly. If you’re going to acknowledge issues, it does no good to sugarcoat them. You don’t have to panic and start screaming that the sky is falling, but you do need to look at what’s happening with a clear focus. Decide what’s in your interests. Is this a problem you need to or want to fix—or will you be better off cutting your losses? If you decide you need to work the problem, then think about seeking out a trusted friend or colleague with whom you can brainstorm a course of action. Encourage your friend to be honest in helping you come up with solutions.

• Skip the rhetoric. Don’t worry about being “gung ho!” or being one of the tough to get going because the going is getting tougher. Here’s another cliché: Talk is cheap. The guy on the tracks might have been thinking up any number of catchphrases like, say, “He who hesitates is lost.” But since he never moved, we’ll never know.


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