Even though I can swim half a dozen strokes and tread water long enough to pass most water safety tests, I don't do well with canoes. My problems first began when I tried to get into a canoe when I was young. There I was with one foot in the canoe while the other foot remained on the dock. The canoe could provide a way for me to explore the lake, but I feared getting both feet into the rocking canoe. I struggled for what seemed like an eternity-until the obvious happened. I fell into the water.

In the years since that involuntary dunking, I have intentionally stayed away from canoes. However, the fear of making a commitment to leave the safety of the dock is a feeling that I often have about many of life's decisions. Haven't you felt like you wanted to do something, but it would mean having to leave the security of your life's dock?

This is a universal problem; I see it in my counseling practice. People attempt to stand with one foot on the relative safety of the dock while having their other foot in the canoe of change. They waste the time of their lives in fear of the unknown. The dock may not be what they want, but there is a security about knowing what life is like on the dock. No one knows what the canoe ride will be like. Canoeing is like life: scary, uncertain, and unsettling. However, if people want to explore the rivers and the lakes of their lives, they will have to use a canoe. Staying on the dock won't get them anywhere.

A client of mine had a rough life starting with her father and later with men with whom she had fallen in love. She always seemed to get hurt in these relationships. Finally, she met a man who truly loved her, and soon they married. However, things didn't go well for them. She found herself straddling the safety of her dock and the marital canoe in which she desired to explore life with this man. Fear kept her from putting both feet into the canoe. She worried about whether the man would leave her. We can all identify with her dilemma. Here are several suggestions to help you leave your fear behind.

1. Decide where you want to go in life. The dock is only a starting point; it is not the destination. Some like to explore the lakes of life, others want to go up or down the rivers of reality, and still others will want to carry the canoe overland and explore other bodies of water. You decide where you want to go; chart your course. Exploration is exciting.

2. Lift your foot from the dock, get into the canoe with your map, and start paddling toward your destination. Suppose you aren't really certain where you want to go? Then, what do you do? Start paddling toward the place you want more than the others. Try exploring the northern part of the lake. Once you get there, you may find that isn't where you feel you want to be. Then head toward another direction. Just don't stay on the dock, because you aren't absolutely sure where you want to venture. It is a lot easier to change course while your paddling then to change directions while standing on the dock filled with fear. Your canoe's momentum will enable you to change direction without much trouble. Midcourse corrections are only made while on a course not while you stand paralyzed at the point of departure.

3. Don't get wet waiting for fear to pass. When I was young, I fell into the water while waiting to overcome my fear. The same thing will happen to you unless you chart a course and start paddling. Remember, if you don't choose, you lose your chance to choose. Don't fall into the water by indecision; the water may be well over your head. It would be a shame to drown, because you were afraid that you might get hurt or lost while exploring the world in your canoe.