You know that feeling you get at the pit of your stomach… that knot that ties up your insides?! Your heart is racing. Your hands are clammy. You seriously feel like you’re going to be ill… It’s hard to tell, sometimes, if that feeling is anxiety and fear, or anticipation and excitement. Perhaps it’s a little of both.
I was preparing for a solo exhibition of my mobile photography, Space – part of the Head On Photo Festival in Sydney – and the launch of my book Now & Then, a journey into mobile photography, and that knot in my stomach was getting tighter by the day.
But, I realised as I pushed through the list of things I needed to do, that knot was a good thing. It was an indication that I was doing something significant. I was taking a risk; a step into the unknown. I was setting myself up for a challenge and putting myself – and in this case my photos – ‘out there’ in a different format for others to judge.
Know what I’m talking about? Of course you do! We all experience it to varying degrees – before a major exam or graduation, starting (or leaving) a job, seeing that first patient, before presenting at a seminar, before opening a new practice. Even the anticipation of watching your favourite sports team can bring it on!
…that knot is a good thing. It is an indication that I’m doing something significant
Adrenalin, as we all know, is responsible for that ‘flight or fight’ response. It gets our heart pumping, our muscles twitching for action and causes our mouth to go dry. It’s addictive. It’s why people jump out of planes (I did once… they say the second time is worse). Or surf. Or climb mountains. Similarly, in small doses, the other stress hormone, cortisol, can lead to sudden increases in energy and heightened memory.
Obviously, high levels of stress over a prolonged period can be extremely debilitating, as can living in a state of constant anxiety (i.e. thinking that you’re going to have to take that second jump out of the plane). And we all acknowledge that there are times in life when the status quo is just what is needed. A plan is in place, and the right and proper course is to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, to give that plan/that business idea/that stage of life some time to grow; to breathe.
Sometimes, however, we need to step out of our comfort zone. Sometimes we need to take a step into the unknown; to challenge ourselves to take our personal or professional lives in a new, exciting direction… a direction that can temporarily tie our stomach in knots.
Sure, we could avoid the knot. Stay safe. Keep doing the same thing that we did yesterday… and the day before yesterday.
We could do that or we could weigh up the risks, take a deep breath, acknowledge the knot and just dive in anyway.