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Nearly 40, Feeling Trapped & Unhappy

How I practice courage, by walking through fear, to step into greater happiness and life fulfillment.

"Even though following your heart often requires courage, there's nothing safer you can do". Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash
"Even though following your heart often requires courage, there's nothing safer you can do". Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Does this sound at all familiar to you? It’s another Monday. You’re on your way to work and instead of feeling excited or anything that resembles bliss, you’re thinking about how much you dread the week ahead. Maybe you ask yourself, “What do I have to get done this week until it’s the weekend again? Or, how many weeks until my next vacation?”

Or, perhaps when it comes to work, you’re simply resigned. You find that your joy in life is being with your partner, kids or friends. A hobby or interest you have that’s outside of work fulfills you in some way. You have long given up on the idea that bliss and work go hand-in-hand. The idea of passion via a paycheck left your consciousness a while ago.

This was me. After years in one high-powered job after another, I had become burnt out and totally disillusioned. It took me being near 40 to finally decide enough was enough; that it was time to find my happiness rather than dreaming about it. So many people around me seemed genuinely fulfilled by their lives. Why couldn’t I, didn’t I, have this? What was I doing wrong? In essence, I had become completely aligned to fear.

If you can relate, then read on.

For me, I was so worried about making it and being successful, that my sole focus was on the ladder; climbing it and making sure I reached the top. Upon reflection, I realize I had approached life from a state of survival (which is fear). Even though, I grew up in an upper middle-class lifestyle, I approached major decisions anchored in a belief that life is about hardship and struggle. In pretty much everything, I was more closely aligned with fear, than not; most of it insidious.

How does fear shape your life?

Making Fear-Based Decisions

While it likely started early on, in terms of major life decisions, college is where I first saw clear evidence. My decision-making followed a practical, albeit, fear-based approach. What could I study that would set me up to make a lot of money, that I was good at, that would ensure I was taken care of (by me, not someone else)? Fear, fear, fear. Oh yeah, and, hopefully it was something I liked? Sure… but that wasn’t the real priority.

What I’ve come to learn is that truly thriving and being fulfilled in life, requires following your heart; as risky as it might seem to do at times. Doing the opposite of what fear tells you to do is how to become heart-aligned. We usually call it courage. But is there anything safer you can do than following your heart? When did following the heart become the scary choice?

Walking Through the Fear

So I began to ask myself, how did I learn that I can’t do what I love and make money? Or that success equals hard work and is difficult to come by? Or that, I needed to limit what I truly wanted so that I could be more competitive?

Here’s the answer: Through a set of fear-based illusions that I believed were the truth. When in fact, they’re not.

These limiting belief systems, of which so many of us subscribe, serve to keep us constrained in some way. They keep us from living our dreams, blocking us from following what’s in our heart. Can you think of any limiting beliefs you have that have shaped your reality, for the negative?

When we begin to learn the ways in which fear has played a role in our lives, only then can we loosen its grip. In my new book, Dare to Believe: 12 Lessons for Living Your Soul Purpose, I share the ways in which fear held a grip on my life, until I began to understand it, and choose differently.

What I realized is that because I wasn’t versed in following my heart, I created a life that I didn’t love; waking up close to 40 years-old, feeling completely trapped. I didn’t know a way out.

Practicing Courage

Now, in every choice, and as much as I can in every moment, I try to decipher what my heart is guiding me to do; and follow it. It’s not always easy, but as simple as it sounds, it’s the key to happiness.

To do so, I have to make courage a daily practice. It’s courageous to face your fears and not to be ruled by them. Even if in actuality, taking any action based on what your heart is telling you to do is the safest path. But because we are so anchored to the fear-based illusions that shape our reality, when you first start following your heart, it will require courage.

Here are some steps you can take to start practicing:

  • Become the observer of how fear plays out in your daily life. Watch the myriad of fear-based thoughts you have in a given day on just about anything. Awareness is key to making a change.
  • Become conscious of how your heart is guiding you. Usually the loudest, most dominant voice is fear; the quieter one is your heart. Practice deciphering between the two until you become clear.

  • Practice courage via following your heart in decision-making. Love is empowering and supportive, whereas, fear is doubtful and filled with worry. Follow the advice of your heart and see what unfolds.

When you truly breakthrough being ruled by fear, your life will look completely different. Know that most fear is insidious. So even if you think you’ve conquered most of it, there is likely more to be addressed.

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