Well, Autcraft, my Minecraft server for children with autism and their families has been receiving some media coverage in recent weeks and there was one question that I got from everyone that really stands out as very important and thus, would make for the perfect New Years resolution: “What is it about Autcraft that is helping these kids to make friends, to talk to other people, to learn to read/write faster and to make such great progress in such little time?”
The answer? Be less afraid.
On the server, we remove the risk of bullying but it’s more than that. The children there all have a lot of similarities and know what it feels like to be judged or bullied or hurt, so they don’t do that to each other. They welcome each other’s obsessions and ideas and if they do disagree, they do it in a way so as to not upset each other. This allows them all to feel unafraid to express themselves and even make mistakes.
I’d like to break this down into a New Years Resolution sort of way to look at it.
Be less afraid to be embarrassed
One of the biggest fears many of us have is the fear of embarrassment. We don’t want anyone to laugh at us or to think we’re stupid and so we either take the safest path or just do nothing at all in order to avoid that risk. However, when you watch some of the greatest comedians ever, their greatest asset is… embarrassment! They get as silly as they need to be in order to entertain us and to laugh… not to laugh at them, but to laugh because they want us to laugh.
So how do you be less afraid to be embarrassed? You own it. If you slip and fall or make a mistake, you laugh first and then you tell others about the crazy thing you did. When you own it, it’s your joke and it’s your tool to do with as you wish. How can anyone ever make fun of you when you own the tool they’re trying to use? That’s what the comedians did. They took something that they should have been afraid of and they took ownership of it. Once you do that, you’ll be less afraid to do it in the future.
Be less afraid to be yourself
This is the hard one because everyone likely wants you to do what they consider normal or what society expects of you. Now granted, if killing everyone is how you think you are, then this doesn’t apply to you. But thinking differently from the rest of the world is how great inventors change the world or how scientists make sense of the universe. If you stick to the previous point (less afraid to be embarrassed) than this should actually be an easy one for you. Being yourself, as wacky or silly or quiet or what ever you want to be might not be huge world changers but it will change your world. It will change for the absolute better.
When you be yourself and others are able to be themselves, that’s when you truly do find people that you have a lot in common with. That’s when you start making real friends because now you’re being open and honest with someone. Many friendships that I see are based on lies or huge compromises and even sometimes, I wouldn’t really call them friends. But if you are yourself and your friend is too and you like each other, there’s no greater friendship than that because you are both being honest with each other and yourselves.
Be less afraid to hurt yourself
I admit it, I really don’t want to hurt myself. Pain, it’s no fun. But when I think about the athletes at the Olympics or sports professionals, I know that they’ve done their fair share of hurting. In fact, when they say that they’ve been working at their sport every day of their life to get better, that’s not true. Because you can be absolutely certain that every single one of them has had some down time due to an injury.
They aren’t afraid to hurt themselves because they know that it’s one of those things that has to happen if they’re going to be the best some day. No one gets through life without some scratches and scrapes so you might as well stop trying to avoid it. Luckily though, our wondrous and amazing bodies are remarkably capable of healing. So unless you really do some damage, you’ll likely be back up and at it pretty quick.
Yes, no one wants to be hurt and that’s why we do everything in our power to ensure that doesn’t happen but it also should not be a reason to stop us. Take the safety precautions, think of everything that could go wrong and take measure to prevent them… and then do it. Yeah, you still might get hurt but then again, you still might end up being the best some day.
Be less afraid to hurt
No, this isn’t the same as the last point. Pain and hurting are often two different things. For example, many people, when they hurt themselves, they feel both pain and hurt… the pain from injury but also the hurt from the failure.
Hurt comes in many forms such as disappointment, depression, anger and then there are others such as when you lose a friend. But if we’re so afraid of these things that we avoid them then that means that we avoid doing things that could disappoint us or depress us or anger us… it means avoiding friendships. There’s a lot that we really should not be missing out on and certainly not because they might hurt.
Like all things, it’s going to happen but also, they’re going to require practice. No one knows how to be a great friend at first and no one knows how to do everything so perfect that they never get angry or disappoint themselves. You have to work at all these things and push through the hurt before you can conquer these things. And chances are, if you want them that bad, they’re worth it.
Also, the biggest difference between hurting yourself and feeling hurt is that one, anyone can do to you and the other you can only do to yourself.
Be less afraid to tell someone that you appreciate them
So often I am reminded that a job well done proceeds quietly, it’s only when everyone wants to contact you that you realize something is wrong.
What we really need more of in this world is for people to simply say, “you did a great job!” But this is something that many of us fear. For what ever reason, between these two emotions, it’s far easier to be angry with someone directly to their face than to be proud of them and tell them they did well. I suspect it has something to do with those awkward feelings from back in high school where, as teens, we were afraid to tell the other kid that we liked them. Something from that sticks with us and, as adults, we become afraid to tell someone we like what they did. Or maybe we just feel it’s unimportant because they’re doing their job.. what more do they need?
I don’t really know why it is but I see people actually shying away and saying no when others tell them that they should commend someone for a job well done. They are quite literally afraid to do it even though they would love for someone else to do that for them when ever they do a good job themselves.
All the other points are for you but for this one, do it for others. Be less afraid to give someone a pat on the back if they deserve it. It could really change that person’s who day… maybe even life. That’s pretty cool, right?
Be less afraid to take risks
Yes, this last one is rather cliche by now. We’ve all heard it. But the truth is that life really is short, only we don’t tend to realize that until later in life when we look back with regret. We think of all the times we didn’t do that we really wanted to do because we were afraid. It’s at this point we lower our eyes to the ground and realize that it was foolish to be so afraid. It was foolish to miss that opportunity for nothing because by the time we recognize all this… it’s too late.
We don’t have time machines and no one will truly be able to describe this feeling to you accurately while you’re young but there has to be some way to convince yourself that if you don’t take that risk now to do what you really want to do, one day it’ll be too late. You’ll have that regret to live with.
While that fear feels all too real right now, while right now, it paralyzes you and controls you… one day a much older you will think that it was nothing. You froze, for nothing. And you missed your chance, for nothing. And you’ll never get it back.
Don’t let fear rob you of moments. Those moments add up to your life. If you miss too many of them…
Like the children on that Minecraft server, be less afraid and you too will be amazed at the progress that comes from it.