The following has been excerpted from The Bravest You: Five Steps to Fight Your Biggest Fears, Find Your Passion, and Unlock Your Extraordinary Life, in which life coach Adam Smith aims to simplify the process of overcoming fear in order to help readers achieve their goals.

“The car’s on top of him!”

The Bravest You front cover, bigger version - Time to take actionOne rainy night, as my family and I were driving home, we heard a horrible car wreck happen directly to the left of us. I saw it out of the corner of my eye and knew it had to be bad. We pulled over in a nearby gas station parking lot so we could assist with the situation, because obviously these people needed help. We could see that two cars were involved in the accident, but all other details were unknown at that time.

As I began moving quickly toward the accident, trying not to get hit by oncoming traffic, a female driver came running toward me asking, “What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?” in a very panicked voice.

The only response I could come up with was, “You have to remain calm,” followed by, “Has someone dialed 911?”

She replied, “Yes, the man over there is dialing 911.”

I quickly asked, “Do you need to call anyone?” She did, so I gave her my phone to make the calls she needed to.

As she was dialing her Dad, she hysterically said, “The man, the man in the other car … he was ejected … the car’s on top of him. What do I do?”

I thought, “What?!” and then quickly made my way over to the scene of the crash. It was horrific.

The fragility of human life

The cars had spun around and were facing completely different directions. Glass from their windows littered the streets, and bumpers were lying there as if they’d been plucked off like twigs. Human life is fragile, but until that moment I had never quite seen, up close, how fragile it could be.

It looked as if the female’s car had slid on the slick roads and T-boned the male driver’s car, which then forced him to slide and hit a concrete pole head-on. Concrete poles don’t budge, but cars sure do. The impact from the crash ejected him out of his car, and left him lying facedown on the sidewalk, with his car on top of him, pinning his limp body to this solid concrete pole.

I’m not built for this kind of bloody work, and I sure do respect paramedics who have the stomachs for it. As I stood there, paralyzed by what I saw, I felt like crying and vomiting all at the same time, but I somehow held my composure together.

At first we debated whether it was best to get the car off him or if moving the car would hurt him more. My first instinct was to get the car off him, because I thought it would provide some relief, but somewhere along the way I remembered hearing that you shouldn’t move a person who was severely injured, so I was uncertain about what to do.

About a minute later, a man ran up to us screaming, “Get the car off him!” He sounded pretty sure that we should move the car, so we did, and I’m glad we followed his advice. The paramedics showed up about two minutes later, and they were able to quickly rush the injured man to the emergency room since the car had already been lifted off him.

Man on stretcher being transported to emergency room - The bravest you

Uncertainty can dictate outcomes

Surprisingly, the man who was pinned underneath his car survived, but the whole situation made me realize what uncertainty can do. When I arrived on the scene, I had no idea what I should do or how I could help. Uncertainty can dictate outcomes, for better or for worse.

In this scenario, my actions were extremely important, but in other situations my words were more important to the outcome. In the past, there have been times when my words haven’t matched up with what I was doing. What I was saying might have sounded brave, but the uncertainty shown in my actions definitely didn’t reflect bravery. In these moments, fear would arise and immobilize me so I didn’t know which way to go or what to do next. I mistakenly decided that opportunities would have to find me if they wanted to happen, when I should have been going and finding them.

The state of inaction is the very worst place to find ourselves, but uncertainty loves making us stall out. It’s during these times that we begin to question our own abilities, and many times people can talk themselves out of moving forward because they’ve allowed their uncertainty to grow too large.

Start with just a single step

One of the biggest problems in this world is that people don’t follow through on their original intentions with action. Good intentions are great and all, but it takes more than good intentions to make things happen. Results require action. Without action, lives don’t change. The truth is that fear diminishes when we’re familiar with what’s happening, and the only way to become more familiar with the uncertain is to take a first step.

The fear of uncertainty has shown up many times in my life, leaving me to think about all the possible outcomes. This fear was founded in not being able to fully see the results of my actions beforehand. In these moments I experienced fear in proportion to my ignorance.

Maybe for you it’s taking the next step within your career or finally sitting down long enough to put words on a page to start forming your new book, or maybe it’s finally sitting down to have that much-needed conversation with a friend, or even a current foe, or maybe you simply need to finish what you began. Whatever it may be, know that you already have enough within you to accomplish your wildest dreams. You are worthy of certainty. You are enough.

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Adam Smith is an entrepreneur, life coach, consultant and motivational speaker. His popular blog, asmithblog.com, has more than 70,000 unique monthly readers and offers insights on leadership, bravery and life purpose, among other topics. Named one of the most influential people of 2014 by The American Genius, Smith has written for Entrepreneur and SUCCESS Magazine, among others, and has been featured in Newsday and other media. He has more than 275,000 Twitter followers and growing followings on Instagram and other social media outlets.


The Bravest You front cover - Time to take actionExcerpted from The Bravest You: Five Steps to Fight Your Biggest Fears, Find Your Passion, and Unlock Your Extraordinary Life by Adam Kirk Smith, published by TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Adam Kirk Smith.
image 1: Oregon Department of Transportation via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons BY); image 2: Alex Proimos via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons BY)