I hold workshops called Finding Your Path to Purpose: How to Create a Life You Love and one of the topics we cover is how we hold ourselves back from living the life we dream of living.
When I first started the workshops we’d talk about the behaviors like numbing through overconsumption of things like substances (booze, drugs, food) or media (like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Netflix, Amazon, etc.) or keeping yourself so busy you don’t have time to reflect and think. But as I’ve talked to more and more people one of the things that they bring up is not the HOW but the WHY we hold ourselves back.
And 99.9% of the time that why is FEAR.
Let’s unpack and shed light on each of these fears but not go too deep because I think you’ll recognize them immediately.
What if I put myself out there are I fail? What if it doesn’t work out the way I want?
What are people going to think of me if I try this? What will they think of me if I fail? What if I succeed? Will those closest to me support me or will they criticize my efforts to change?
What if I go after what I want, achieve it, and then realize it’s not really what I wanted? What if I succeed and it isn’t what I expected?
How will my life change if I go after what I want? What other things will I need to change?
What if succeeding or changing means that those around me won’t feel the same about me? If I change will my loved ones no longer accept or love me?
Now let’s spend more time on some ways of thinking about or conquering these fears.
Here are 10 different ideas or things to think about when you’re going after what you want in life and feeling fear
Ask yourself if it will be more painful – changing or staying the same. If you’re contemplating a change in your life it’s most likely because you’re unhappy, unfulfilled, or in some sort of pain. Reflect on those feelings and really try to be honest with yourself.
Being proactive and intentional. Fear leads to paralysis which leads to either stagnation or being reactive instead of proactive (i.e. letting things happen to you versus being intentional about your life). I’d be lying if I said that we have complete control over our lives but I do believe that we have the ability to chose how we think and act. Being proactive can set us up for being better prepared for changes and help us to be more resilient.
Examining outcomes and alternatives. Ask yourself what is the worst that can happen and think through what you’d do. Say you quit your job because you want to try out another career or industry. What if you don’t like it or if it isn’t at all what you expected? Most likely you could go back to your previous career or pivot to something else. If it makes you feel more comfortable with a change try to work through the possible outcomes. Word of caution though, don’t use this as an excuse to get into analysis paralysis and stay stuck. The same thing applies with polling everyone you know to give you advice on a change, it’s just another form of staying safe.
Getting comfortable with small changes and stepping out of your comfort zone. Think about this-a sailboat doesn’t get from point A to point B by going in a straight line, it takes into account forces around it and tacks or makes small corrections all the time to get where it wants to go. You can do this with changes too. What’s one small change you can make today that will get you closer to where you want to be.
Practicing self-compassion. What advice would you give a friend who was facing these fears? I think that for a lot of us we can be hard on ourselves and let our internal voice say things to us that we’d never say to our loved ones. Would you ever say these things to your BFF “Wow, that is a ridiculous dream! Who do you think you are? You are NEVER going to make that happen. WTF is wrong with you? Everyone is going to laugh when you fail.”. Hell no! So don’t talk to yourself this way, talk to yourself like you were your own best friend.
Consider the example you’re setting. What kind of example do you want to set for those around you? Think about it, if you have children or people around you who look up to you do you want them to see you play it safe and not dream big and go after what you want? Consider the kind of message that sends? Wouldn’t it be better to inspire them with the idea that taking risks and not letting fear hold them back is okay?
Treat your actions as an experiment. By this I mean try something and if it doesn’t work, take what you learned and tweak your approach. Take the pressure off of thinking that this one thing you’re going after is the end all be all and have the attitude that this is one of many things you’ll try to get closer to where you want to be.
Catalog your successes. A lot of the time we tend to put emphasis on what didn’t go well and we focus on those things. We almost catalog all the times we tried and “failed” so that we can refer back to it when thinking about putting ourselves out there again. This catalog reminds us why we stay put and play small. Instead, create a catalog of all the times things did go right, of all the times you took a risk on a change, tried, and succeeded. Use this list to boost your confidence and pursue those changes.
Reflect on your eulogy. What would your eulogy look like? A little morbid but have you ever considered what might be written about you after you die? “That Leah, she was always so safe with her life and doing the right things all the time.” Um, no thank you! I’d rather be known for doing things for ME, being myself, and taking chances on myself than for doing things because I should do them or because that’s what’s expected of me. I want my eulogy to talk about the passion I had, the help I provided, and the way I went after what I wanted.
Focus on your why. You probably hear this one all the time but it’s so helpful and relevant. When we’re making big changes in our lives and trying a different path, it can be easy to get distracted or wrapped up in the process and tasks and lose sight of why you wanted to do something in the first place. Remind yourself why you wanted to do something, how you wanted to feel, and who you wanted to be. Come back to that when you feel down, frustrated, or you’re considering quitting.
These are just a few options for helping conquer your fears when pursing your dreams. Remember: Fear is universal, how you deal with it defines your life!