“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” – Henry Ford
Being human means being afraid. Sometimes these fears are minor and we learn to live with them, but sometimes they overcome our lives. What are your biggest fears? Do they rule your life?
How do we define fear?
Fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm” (Lexico, powered by Oxford). Interestingly, there are also 3 related sub-definitions that can help us think about this concept.
- (Fear for) “A feeling of anxiety concerning the outcome of something or the safety of someone.”
- “The likelihood of something unwelcome happening.”
- (Archaic) “A mixed feeling of dread and reverence.”
Fear can be tangible, and everyone experiences it differently. Your set of fears are largely based on your experiences in life, and no one has the exact same set of experiences!
Sometimes we fear small things, like spiders, but sometimes larger things are at stake. We feel anxious because we’re not moving toward our dreams. Or we feel that, even if we are moving toward a specific goal, the dream is too big. We question whether we will fail, whether the dream is even possible, and sometimes, we fear that if we get there, we won’t know what to do next.
“There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.”- Andre Gide
What are we afraid of?
Small things There are a lucky few who claim not to be afraid of anything. While I doubt this deeply, the rest of us have small fears that are an annoyance in our daily lives. Sometimes it’s things like roller coasters. We wait all year until the summer months to take a fun family weekend trip to the nearest theme park only to be daunted by a crippling fear of flying up and down those metal hills that everyone else seems to love so much.
Change Change is a universal fear. As humans, we really struggle with changes in our lives because we get stuck in our comfort zones. Change breeds fear of the unknown, and for many of us, that might be the biggest fear in our lives. What if the unknown is worse than our comfort zone? Or, what if the unknown is better and we’re too afraid to reach for it?
Failure Fear of failure can be immobilizing. We all reach a point in our lives at least once where we must make the decision to risk what we have to get where we want to be. Some people take the leap of faith and soar, while some people let their fear of failure keep them on the edge of wanting, and later regret.
When we reach a “turning point” like this, we always fight the “what-ifs.”
What if it doesn’t work out? What if I’m not good at this new job after all? What if this new relationship turns out just like the last?
Taking Action Even if we’ve decided to take a leap of faith, taking action is also a major fear! When we’ve decided to take action, it means that we have decided to make a change and are willing to risk what we have to make our situation better, or make our dream come true. We must figure out what steps to take to prevent failure, but that also allow us to grow and make the changes we’ve decided to make. That’s a lot of pressure!
“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” – Japanese Proverb
Why are we afraid?
Past Experience When we are young, we learn how to grow and adapt. For many of us, growth comes with pain. Many of us have had painful experiences that turned our previous excitement for something new into fear.
Perhaps you were in love with your high school sweetheart and got married young, only to realize during college that the relationship didn’t bring the joy it used to. You both drifted away, and ultimately made the decision to divorce. As a result of this pain, you now find yourself afraid to open yourself up to a new relationship.
Concept of Failure Throughout our lives, there is a lot of pressure to succeed, but is most evident when we are still in school. For some, the ultimate fear is of being a failure as a person. Not doing as well as expected might signal to them that they are failing as a whole. The problem is that fear isn’t a personality trait. Fear is a situation. It’s not a permanent state, but a facilitator of change in our lives.
I struggled with this for years! I used to tell myself things like:
This is a crazy dream. I’m going to fall flat on my face and my whole career will be gone. I’ll be a failure in front of everyone and there will be nothing I can do about it.
Attitudes & Preconceived Notions Have you heard the adage “Assuming makes an ass out of you and me”? Even if you haven’t, we’ve all see the truth of this, right? Fear is no different. Many of us see fear as a personality trait or something that is wrong with us. On occasion, I’ve heard friends say things like “What is wrong with me? Why am I afraid of this?”
Fear is a natural emotion. While we shouldn’t let it stop us from doing things we love, it’s there for a reason. We have these ideas of fear that tell us one story of what “being afraid” looks like.
We also have a related story of what “failure” looks like. You know the one: Confident, smart, and capable individual puts everything they have on the line and does their best only to have it fail spectacularly. The previously strong individual is now lonely and miserable for the rest of their life because of this one massive failure they can’t get past.
Not only is this not true in most cases, the idea is very harmful and creates fear where excitement should be.
Success is Scary Who here has been scared of their dream? We all have. If you haven’t, I encourage you to expand your dream and make it bigger! Doing the things that we love and having them succeed can be scary! We dream them up, and then keep our noses down while we work our butts off to get to that goal.
When we finally reach it and look around us, it might look a lot different than we imagined – in a good way – or it might be even better than expected. Either way, once you get to this point, fear can creep in with ideas like:
What do I do now?
If this is the best it’s going to be, what’s next?
This is so great! What happens if I lose everything and all of this goes away?
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” – Marie Curie
How do these fears present themselves in our lives?
Hesitation When we are afraid, we hesitate. We wait to make decisions, even if we know what we need to do. We worry we are rushing things even if we have been through our normal decision-making processes.
Anxiety When we are afraid, we worry about a lot of things. Not just whether we are rushing, but also things we never would have worried about before. We worry about things we can’t change, and what our reactions will be to hypothetical “worst-case” scenarios.
Indecisiveness When we are afraid, we take a long time to think about all the options, even if we’ve already looked at them. We add steps to the decision-making process to prolong actually making the decision and taking action. We go back and forth about options, even if one stands out as the best.
Excuses When we are afraid, we make excuses for ourselves and others. We put off decisions because things are not happening at the “right time” or there might be a better time to take action. We might say we are waiting on someone who is flaky (and who we know will not commit) to buy us more time to make a decision.
“Fear makes us feel our humanity.” — Benjamin Disraeli
Despite its reputation, fear is actually a good thing. Here’s why:
Natural Fear is a natural emotion! Back in the days before we had so much technology, people relied on their instincts and fear much more to keep themselves safe from danger and pain. Just because we have phones and alarms and all the other modern devices doesn’t mean we don’t need fear to help us be aware of things that could harm us.
Motivator Has anyone ever told you that you couldn’t do something? Which immediately triggered your desire to prove them wrong? Fear acts in a similar way. Fear tells us that we can’t do something, that we might fail, and therefore shouldn’t try. But, this can be an excellent motivator! In the same way we want to prove someone else wrong, we can work to prove our fear wrong by taking small steps to get where we want to go.
Encourages us to take action When we are using our fear to motivate ourselves, we are emboldened to take actions, even if they are small. This might mean we outline a plan to get to our dream with actual, achievable goals. This might even mean that we allow ourselves to think freely about what we want – maybe for the first time – and figure out how to get there.
Challenges assumptions We have our dreams, and we have our fears, but do we naturally think of them as allies? Fear might be the nagging worry that you will fail. It might be the showstopper that keeps you at a job you hate for many years. But, when we really stop to figure out and think about what those fears are, the results can be surprising.
We might assume we are afraid of leaving our job because we really like the people, when in reality, the fear is that we won’t make new friends or have a boss we trust at a new job that’s better for us in the long run. We might not have figured out what we are really afraid of if we weren’t aware and critical of our fear. Our assumptions often block us from the truth.
Forces us to thoughtfully consider our lives Have you ever had one of those days where you question everything? What you’re doing with your life, your decisions, maybe even what you had for lunch? Fear may be a nuisance most of the time, or so we think, but it also helps us think about our reality.
So you’re afraid to apply for the promotion at your company? Why? What would be the worst that could happen? Fear allows us a unique way to think about what we want and what would be best for us. We might be scared to apply because the job is a lot harder, but it might also be a great opportunity to grow into a career and better support ourselves and our families.
“Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out.” – Karl Augustus Menninger
What do we do when it seems like fear has paralyzed us?
Reflect on it. It’s awfully hard to face your fears when you can’t tell what they are. When something in your life seems so scary that it feels like you can’t do anything about it, you need to allow yourself time to reflect and find the real fear. It’s probably not what you assumed. Many times we think our fears are easy and tangible to identify, only to reflect and find that we’re actually scared of the idea behind something rather than the thing itself.
Get assistance. Sometimes we just need help, just like sometimes we are our own worst critic. If your fear is so paralyzing that you can’t even seem to identify what the real fear is, it might be time to get some counseling or coaching assistance. These are people who have been trained to listen and help you! They want to see you succeed, even when that nasty little fear voice in your head says you can’t.
Talk it out with a trusted confidant or in your journal. In order to have positivity and success in your life, you need to clear out some of the worry and fear that’s getting in the way. I strongly recommend writing in a journal, but if this isn’t a possibility for you, talk to a trusted confidant. I don’t necessarily mean only your parent(s) or spouse, but someone who you know will not judge or laugh at you. Someone who will actively listen and offer their opinion and assistance about things you are struggling with.
Make a plan Once you have figured out what you are afraid of, and what you really want to work toward, make a plan of how to get there! Set a few long-term goals (5 years), a few middle-term goals (about 1 year), and several short-term goals (less than 1 year). By having different lengths of goals, we allow ourselves to have time to face our fears and step into our new life rather than leaping in head-first and getting discouraged.
Take small steps You might be so afraid you don’t even know where to start. You might not have a 5 year plan, because you can’t picture 5 years from now. What you need to focus on at the beginning of facing your fears is to take baby steps out of your comfort zone. By all means, if you have the courage and means to take a big leap, do so! For most of us, though, that may not be feasible. We need to take tiny steps to gain the confidence to take those big leaps later on.
Accept change As hard as it is, we must accept that change is going to happen whether we want it to or not, and whether it’s for the good or bad. We don’t get a choice in the matter, so why waste so much of our time and energy trying to stop it? When you see a big change looming in the distance, reflect on your fear and lean into the change. You can’t stop change any more than you can stop a thunderstorm, but that doesn’t mean the thunderstorm doesn’t bring much needed rain and beautiful skies.
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” – Jack Canfield
What happens when you accept fear and let it motivate you?
Achieve your dream & positive life changes When you accept that fear is part of life and become open to the idea that it’s not always bad, you will notice that there are positive changes in your life. Maybe you worry less, or start being able to think about your dreams in a different light. You will probably even notice that your dream doesn’t seem quite so unachievable!
Feel more confident When you can look your fear in the face and say, “I see you, but you can’t control me,” you will have a whole new level of confidence in all aspects of your life. You will find that you are empowered to make decisions, walk a little taller, and maybe even introduce yourself differently in social situations.
Take positive risks you would have forgone before The best part about facing your fear is that you will be emboldened to take new risks. This doesn’t mean that you won’t still be afraid, or that all of the risks you take will work in your favor; but, at least you will be willing to take them. Perhaps you will be willing to invest a little money into your idea because you have a plan to make it grow. Or maybe you reach out to one of your role models on social media to connect and ask some questions about their work that inspires you so much.
I hope you find the courage to face your fears and work toward your big dreams!
If you would like to read further on how to make and accept change in your life, consider purchasing my book, Follow Your Heart to Discover Your Life Purpose. I would love to sign a copy for you! Click here for more details on how I can help you.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
If you need assistance or guidance on how to begin your journey, I also offer one-on-one coaching services at Embrace Your Life coaching. If I can be of any help to you, I would love to schedule a complimentary session to discuss your goals.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself” – Jalaluddin Mevlana Rumi
Change is inevitable. We can’t escape it, but we often resist it. Think about all the changes that have occurred in your life, both the good and the bad. Did you accept them willingly? Or did you fight them?
How do we define change?
To change is “to make or become different” (Cambridge Dictionary). There are changes all around us, all the time. For instance, the weather, the social climate, and the people. The changes in people are what we notice most, because our days are filled with interactions, both good and bad.
Change looks different for everyone because everyone is unique! There is no one else exactly like you, or exactly like me, even if we meet people who are shockingly similar.
Change plays a large role in our lives, and yet, most times we don’t initially know how to react or understand. Take a moment and contemplate the last time you underwent a major change in your life. What was your initial reaction? How did you cope with it? What was the outcome?
How do we feel about change & why do we feel that way?
We are afraid. Everyone has a comfort zone, and often this is the place we go to be completely free. It’s the place where we know exactly what to expect, and the place where we know it’s safe to be whatever version of ourselves we need at that moment.
If you’re a semi-permanent or permanent resident in your comfort zone, change is likely going to be a scary concept! You might think thinks like: What if I step out of the comfort zone and get hurt? What if I step out and fail at something meaningful to me? As humans, we innately question the unknown, so it makes sense that we are sometimes wary of unknown situations.
We are excited? Everyone has dreams, even if they seem impossible to reach. Do you want to travel the world? To create a comfortable and stable life with a loving partner where you’re not always concerned about money? Or, to see your name on a publication?
All of these ideas seem so distant if you’re alone in your comfort zone. But, your dreams do excite you, even if it’s the thrill of knowing that it’s something wild! The only way to get to these amazing dreams is to change our current lifestyle. We have to work toward those dreams somehow, right? They’re not just going to walk up to our front door and knock.
We assume change is hard. We learn how to grow and adapt to change when we are children, and when we are young, things almost always seem more dramatic than they actually are. Learning to grow and change becomes very dramatic because every time we get to a comfort zone, things change!
When we become adults, we have the mentality that change is hard. We get so ingrained into our daily routines of going to work, coming home, eating dinner, taking care of pets/spouses/children/parents/etc. that we automatically assume any changes that disrupt the status quo we’ve worked so hard to achieve will be another mountain to climb. Small things were hard to change when we learned how to do it, so why would they be different now?
We’ve gotten burned by changes before. We’ve all tried new things and failed. It’s part of being human, right? Like change, it’s inevitable that we will fail at some things during our lives; however, if you’ve tried to make a major change in your life and fallen flat, that’s definitely going to tamp your excitement about trying again.
Perhaps you tried to quit smoking and you were doing very well. You had cut yourself down to 1-2 cigarettes a day when you started at a pack and a half! And then a life crisis tumbled into your lap, leaving you miserable, stressed, and back to your old habits. This experience will certainly make it harder to succeed at quitting once and for all because you remember what it felt like to spiral back to where you started, even if it was because of something outside of your control.
We question whether it’s worthwhile. We all have things we know we should change, but for whatever reason, don’t. We know we could work on it little by little, but immediately question if it’s worth it.
We ask/tell ourselves things like:
Does eating an extra serving of vegetables every day really justify having to spend longer cooking dinner after a long day?
Will taking a 15-minute walk with my dog really be that beneficial when I have work to do on the house?
I know I should ask my partner/spouse/significant other about their day, but what if it was bad? I don’t have time to listen to all their complaints because we have to get x, y, z done before the in-laws come this weekend.
We know these small changes and details will benefit our lives, but how much will it actually do to implement them? Change takes a prolonged effort, and if we don’t perceive the worthiness of that effort, we hesitate to or reject committing to it.
We question whether we can do it. It is a great thing to have dreams, and everyone has them; however, because of our view from the comfort zone, they often seem out of reach for us. We have all had a moment, and maybe many, that caused us to think “Maybe this just isn’t for me.”
We may ask things like “How am I supposed to travel when I can barely pay the rent or mortgage payment?” or “How am I supposed to be able to picture having a family when I am single and have had a string of lousy dates?”
Thinking back to the major changes in your life, which of these emotions have you felt? Have you had any of these thoughts when you encountered change?
“All things are difficult before they are easy” – Thomas Fuller
We’ve identified the major emotions and the reasons we are resistant to change. But there’s change everywhere! What areas do we struggle the most with change?
Relationships The people we love, and who love us.
Career The job we do to contribute our talents to the world.
Health & Wellness The overall health of our body, mind, & spirit. The wellness of ourselves as a whole person.
“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living” – Gail Sheehy
What’s so different about these areas than the rest? Why are these areas hard to change?
These areas are personal. When we are in relationships with others, we make ourselves vulnerable. As friendships and romance develops, we allow the other person to see parts of us that aren’t immediately obvious to the rest of the world. This includes our health and wellness, as well as how we treat ourselves when we think no one is looking.
Our careers are what we are giving to the world. Many of us want to “make a difference” in the world but struggle in jobs we may or may not be passionate about. This is one role we are playing that the rest of the world sees us doing.
We don’t want to risk relationships with those we love and who love us. Have you ever held back a biting comment when you’re arguing because you didn’t want to hurt the person on the other end of the conversation? We often curtail our speech and actions around people we care about because we don’t want to risk losing the relationship. Adding changes to an already rocky relationship could be the final blow and end it, so we avoid it to hang on to those bonds we have built.
We make excuses and normalize them. Have you ever said “Oh, I’ll do that on Monday? This will be my last weekend…” or made a New Year’s resolution that’s promptly forgotten after the first of the new year? We use excuses to put off change, and those ideas gradually get built into our lives so much so that the change never actually occurs.
We feel trapped and don’t know how to get out. Remember your comfort zone? That place where you gaze longingly out at your dreams? This feels like a safe place to take refuge, but if we never leave, it becomes a trap. When we’ve been in the comfort zone for so long, we forget how to leave and take those risks that will make good changes in our life. We look around and realize we’re trapped there and we’re not sure what to do to get out.
“Any change, even for the better, is always accompanied by discomforts” – Arnold Bennett
We resist change, we try to avoid it, and sometimes downright run from it. The truth is, though, that change is part of life. No matter what you do, you will grow older, your health will change, your relationships will change, and your career will change.
Change is both good and necessary. Here’s why:
Change is healthy & natural. You wouldn’t want to be in a permanent state of sickness, would you? You want that state you’re in to change so you can be healthy again. We all have some things in our life that aren’t the best that act like a sickness.
Maybe it’s a stressful job or a broken relationship. We need these things to change so we can live without that constant weight on our shoulders. In the same vein, we don’t choose to age, it just happens. Change is a natural part of the human experience and it helps to keep us well.
Change is inevitable & unavoidable. We know change is part of life, right? We can’t run from it forever, so we should accept it and embrace it!
Change encourages growth. We have all experienced that painful moment of learning something the hard way. Maybe your mother told you repeatedly not to touch the hot pan of brownies, but in your childish mind, you couldn’t resist. You touched it, got burned, and immediately began to cry. After that moment, you knew not to touch the hot pan again.
Change isn’t always painful, but sometimes we learn things best and/or quickest by going against our better judgement. These actions are signs of growth! You change your behavior and learn to do or not do things, and as a result you are little better than you were before.
“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety” – Abraham Maslow
You might, at this point, be saying “That’s me! I did (or still do) that!” You might also be saying “What can I do about it, though?”
I am a firm believer that everyone has a gift to give to the world. Your dream is possible! In my book, Follow Your Heart to Discover Your Life Purpose, I define a 7-step program that allows you to do the hard work of making changes in your life in a safe space. Making changes to clarify what you want in life and how to get there is difficult, but worth it! We should be using our gifts and living our life purpose to help ourselves and the world, not peering at it sadly from our comfort zone.
Here are 7 concrete steps you can take to begin accepting change & taking action to move toward your life purpose. These steps will help you work toward discovering your life purpose and creating more authenticity in your life.
To preface these steps, I recommend implementing a few essential practices into your daily life that will help you work through changes and spiritually connect to God, Divinity, and the Universe.
These practices include: writing daily, yoga & meditation, walking in nature, and having accountability with someone. These practices will be essential as you work through the steps below. To begin the journey, find a pen & a journal to keep close.
Identify what you want to change. Before you make any changes, you must know what you want to change! In your journal, take some time to free write your ideas about each of these categories: Relationships, Career, and Health & Wellness. Remember, those are the hardest to change. Write down anything you feel is related to each area in your own life. Take a few minutes to breathe and listen to your mind, and then examine your beliefs about your own life. Consider your beliefs about success and failure. Are you ready to commit to change? When you are ready, consciously make the decision.
Create a picture of your life purpose. It’s great that you’ve committed to change! The next goal is to get clear on the details. To do this, you will create a vision board. You will need glue & scissors, as well as a Bristol board to create your vision board. Using a variety of magazines (get a creative variety!), find images of anything you want in your ideal life. It could be a place or career, or it could be something that represents a feeling you want to create in your life. When you have clipped everything you want, paste the images to your board. Make sure to position your vision board where you can see it every day.
Begin to live your life purpose. You have determined what you want to change and have a vision for where you want to be. Now it’s time to start the journey to get there. To begin striving toward those dreams on your vision board, create a sacred space in your home. Somewhere you can go where you can have quiet contemplation time. Fill your space with uplifting reminders you can use to lift yourself up when you get discouraged. Throughout the day, ask yourself, “Are my choices moving me closer or further away from what I want?” Above all, let your heart guide you. You know best what you need, and what makes you happy. Let this guide you on your journey.
Protect your ideal picture. You’re making great progress! You should be proud! You have started to make those changes to get out of your comfort zone and closer to your ideal life! As with all change, you will encounter some resistance. Some people, even loved ones, might not understand or support what you are doing. That is okay. Before you begin to have conversations, prepare yourself for the questions they might ask. Do not feel obligated to take unsolicited advice! Affirm your ideal picture by telling yourself “I am worth it, and I deserve to have what I want.” Do not let others discourage you from pursuing your ideal picture. After all, it’s not about them, it’s about you!
Celebrate the moment. You’re well on your way to living your life purpose and you’ve almost become a master of accepting change! Look at you go! It’s time to celebrate. Consider having a small get together with friends and family and make a short speech honoring the courage you’ve shown by implementing these changes. Have a glass of wine, or a piece of cake. You earned it! But don’t overindulge. After all, you worked very hard, and overindulging might create regret in the morning, which is certainly not the goal of your celebration.
Realign with your life purpose! You’ve probably noticed that you are getting attention. People are noticing your changes, and they are good! You probably also notice the changes in yourself! You’re a rock star! Take a few moments and reflect on how far you’ve come since you started this journey. As you look at where you are, doubt might creep in. When this happens, take a few mindful moments and observe what your body is actually doing instead of relying on old coping mechanisms like compulsive shopping or gambling. Remember: the situation is not permanent. As someone wise once said, this too shall pass.
Continue to evolve! Congratulations! You’ve made it! Way to go! You’re living your life purpose, and if it isn’t quite what you pictured, remember that what we want and what we need are not always quite the same. Continue adding to and creating new vision boards. Think long term and work backward to create an action plan. Think about 10 years, 5 years, 3 years, and 1 year from now. Where do you want to be? What are the steps you can take today, this week, this month to work on getting there?
“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar” – Raymond Lindquist
These are steps I’ve taken in my own life and have worked with clients to implement in their lives. I love helping others discover and run toward their life purpose! These changes can make such a big impact in your life, if you are courageous enough to take the steps.
Stop wanting something different & shift your path for the better. When we are trapped in our comfort zone, we aren’t living life to the fullest. These changes will help you make your big dreams come true! You won’t have to daydream about how much better life could be, because it will be your reality. Rather than stay on the path through your comfort zone, make the decision to choose the more fulfilling path.
Take your confidence & use it as a strength. Living your truth and your purpose is empowering! When you are sure of yourself and your path in life, you are confident and that is a strength that knows no bounds. Your decision to make your life better, on your terms, is powerful!
Achieve your goals & life purpose. When we realize that our dreams have become reality, or will in short order, we have shifted our path from idle wandering to achieving our goals. We aren’t in a constant state of wanting something different, so we can focus specifically on how to get to our goals and live our life purpose.
I wish you the best on your journey! I truly hope that you can make change in your life and live your unique life purpose.
If you would like to read further, consider purchasing my book, Follow Your Heart to Discover Your Life Purpose. I would love to sign a copy for you! Click here for more details on how I can help you.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
If you need assistance or guidance on how to begin your journey, I also offer one-on-one coaching services at Embrace Your Life coaching. If I can be of any help to you, I would love to schedule a complimentary session to discuss your goals.
“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional” – John Maxwell
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