I phoned a good friend (I’ll call her Mary) last night and we caught a 7:00 movie, then talked till midnight. I love Mary because she is bright, audacious and genuine.

“I’m going to start acting like a mindless flirt,” she suddenly announced.

“No you’re not,” I countered. I knew she could never stand to play that part. She put on a saucy little shallowness act that turned my stomach and confirmed my confidence in her integrity.

“Why would you even consider that?” I asked, and Mary described to me what she saw going on in our ward and all around her. The flirty girls got all the dates, even with the intelligent, mature guys who, following Mary’s reasoning, ought to go for some of the highly accomlished but less flirty women standing around. We speculated on the reasons for a while and came up with only one valid theory: comfort zones.

First, flirty girls are easier to ask out. They’re practically begging to be asked out. They put the guys at ease by making a few first moves toward them. Then there’s no need for sweaty palms and a rapid pulse when the guy pops a little question like asking them out to dinner or some activity.

“There must be other ways to do that,” Mary complained.

“There must be,” I agreed. “Find them.”

Second, it’s a lot easier to be scared of someone you like than someone you don’t care so much about. Why? Because it matters if you fail!

What if you were walking next to the ugliest, most obnoxious jerk imaginable and you tripped. They might make fun of you but so what? Now you’re with a friend and you tell a dumb joke that no one gets. Oh, well, they’ll eventually forgive you.

But stand in line behind someone you’d really like to get to know – you know, the person that catches your eye from the far side of the football stadium. The one who seems so fascinating even though you’ve only ever exchanged brief greetings in passing. You find yourself daydreaming about this person long after they’re gone, but you have never asked them out because if you so much as burped or said one wrong thing or wore the wrong shoes or didn’t make just the right impression, you could ruin your chances at something worth wanting.

See where this is going? Your fear can guide you in two ways – one productive and one not.

Most people let their fear guide them unproductively. They obey their fear. When the terror says “Run!”, they turn tail and find something easy and comfortable to slow their heart rate and boost their confidence. This will never get you what you most want.

If you’ve already caught on, then you’ve realized that fear just might be a barometer for your desires. Your racing heart might be the physiological equivalent to the beeps emitted by a metal detector just as it hovers over the buried treasure chest.

If you thought that far, then maybe you’re also thinking about the situations that scare you most and searching for clues as to what you really want from those situations. If you’re brave, you’ve already committed to doing something about it, to asking for a date (or at least making yourself available to be asked) with the person you’d really like to be with and not just the ones that are easy to approach.

Here’s a thought to boost your confidence: you’re not the only person who’s intimidated. These people just might be waiting around and wishing more people would ask them out and wondering what’s wrong with them that no one does. They might not know, the way you do, how great they really are. They might not be so terrifying after all.

If you’ve ever faced a fear before, then you know that fears can be overcome. You know that when you stretch your comfort zone, it never snaps back to the same size again. And when you stretch it often, it grows limber and no longer has the power to stand in your way.

So let fear be your guide; and once it has led you to your treasure, knock that guide down and walk all over it.