Photo by Jorge Fernández on Unsplash

The Magic of Following Your Fear

It’s simplistic to say we should do all the things that freak us out (i.e. don’t jump off a roof just because it’s terrifying). Yet, we need to embrace that fear is a natural part of seeking the change that matters to us.

This past week, I was catching up with a friend who just quit his 9 to 5. Me being the Abundance Coach and all, his sudden leap was fascinating to me.

Well, it was “sudden” for me, but it was something he had thought about for a long time. And by a long time, I mean about five years.

When I asked him what made him finally make the jump, he just looked at me and said he woke up one day and realized how fast time had passed him by. He turned 26, which was just a hair away from 30 (if you’re 30+, I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes), and realized he had spent five years at a job doing work he hated.

He stayed because of inertia, of the human tendency to just continue doing what works.

But like one of my mentors recently told me, she was “bored and busy” at her last job, which had been a dangerous combination. In all honesty, it’s a dangerous combination for any of us who want to grow.

As I chatted with him about what his next steps were, he shared his uncertainties around things like figuring out health insurance and not knowing what his “thing” was.

What moved me, though, was his desire to lean into the moment. He knew he was safe and had a great support system, and that his anxiety was unfounded. He acknowledged he was at a rare crossroads in his life and wanted to savor the process, while being very aware of the privilege that allowed him to do such a thing.

The Fear Equation

The conversation reminded me of a passage from Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art, where he talks about how our Resistance around meaningful work is proportional to the importance of the work. The greater the fear, the more we need to do it.

It’s simplistic to say we should do all the things that freak us out (i.e. don’t jump off a roof just because it’s terrifying). Yet, we need to embrace that fear is a natural part of seeking the change that matters to us.

Take my friend, for example. It probably scared him shitless to quit his 9-to-5, but he also told me “it feels right”. It took five years for it to finally “feel right”, but it’s hardly out of the ordinary for fear to go hand-in-hand with contentment.

Fear is an indicator you’re about to do something that scares you, and the outcome is important.

Are you afraid to meet the in-laws? Probably because you want them to like you, and it matters to you.

Do you feel like vomiting right before a big test? Probably because it has a big impact on your grade in the class, and that matters to you.

Whether the event warrants your fear is beside the point.

If you’re afraid, something is at stake, and you don’t have to justify it to anyone.

The Risk of Being a Fool

Like Brene Brown says, there’s no courage without vulnerability. Vulnerability is about taking the leap, even when you can’t guarantee the outcome. If the outcome matters to you, you will be afraid. It’s a moment of stillness before the waves crash down around you, where you’re wondering to yourself, ” Am I a fool for trying?”

In fact, you’re a fool for not trying.

Pressfield sums it up when he says:

“The professional tackles the project that will make him stretch. He takes on the assignment that will bear him into uncharted waters, compel him to explore unconscious parts of himself.”

Embrace the Shadow

Are you in a place where you’re feeling “busy and bored”?

If so, think about the thing. You know, the thing you could do, but instead, you imagine a better, braver version of you doing it? Are they going down the hall and introducing themselves to that cute neighbor? Are they finally publishing those blogs that are sitting on their local drive? Or are they being honest with their boss about what they really think?

Where are you feeling Resistance, anxiety, fear, discontentment, rage?

Journal it out, or tell someone trusted about it. If you’re like me and you’re a silver linings kind of person, life can end up as rainbows and flowers if you’re not careful. It’s why Dr. Aziz Gazipura, author of the book Not Nice, encourages people to keep a journal for ranting and letting out your rage. If you really check in with yourself, you’ll notice there are things that tug at you; irritation, anxiety, fear, discontentment, etc.

Tune into the shadow inside of you so you can identify what scares you.

Be honest. Identify the fear. Follow it. It’ll show you the way.

(Again, don’t jump off a roof, please.)

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