Getting to this point has involved a few bumpy years of major change. Some of my experiences over this time have been healing, exciting, joyful, encouraging, inspiring, and so lovely.
But during a lot of this time, I’ve also been totally and utterly terrified.
As things have evolved, I’ve dealt with heartache, pain, extreme anxiety and other debilitating health issues. I’ve also achieved some interesting and unexpected milestones, learnt valuable new skills, and finally discovered what I want do in life (yay).
Despite my fear.
At the time of writing — literally weeks away from taking another big step — I have to confess that I’m feeling pretty darned scared. But one of the biggest things I’ve learnt on this bumpy road, is that how I respond to my external world, has a profound affect on my ability to move forwards.
You see, I’ve discovered that I make the most progress on my journey when I’m brave.
Despite my fear.
How we view the world, and people within it, affects our ability to thrive and succeed.
Shawn Achor puts it best: “It’s not necessarily reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. If we can change the lens, not only can we change our happiness, but we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.”
So with this in mind, I wanted to share some of what I’ve learnt during frightening times. Paying attention to the following three areas encourages my courage, and it might do the same for you.
All of our unactivated potential lies just on the other side of our fear. The quickest way to get to it is ‘through’, which means making friends with our fear. When we view obstacles and stressful situations as challenges, instead of threats, then we build our immunity to fear.
What I’ve learnt on this wild ride, is that my fear is not bigger than me. It’s just my brain trying to protect me, from a threat that is usually no more than a small concern. It’s one possible outcome of many. My fear is simply trying to help me, but usually rather unhelpfully. In the same way as when someone answering your question with a question, isn’t really being that helpful.
Next time fear has got you quaking in your booties, stop and ask yourself…
“What if I can?” (despite my fear)
These words have become such a powerful activator for me. And they can work for you too.
Go on. Speak them. I dare you.
As Shawn Achor points out in his engaging Ted Talk, our brains work better in ‘positive’ than when we’re in ‘negative’, ‘neutral’ or ‘stress’ modes.
Our behaviour matters, as it can help teach our brain to respond better to fear. There are two simple ways to change the way we interpret fear physically:
Turn anxiety into excitement. When we practice positive cognitive responses to fear, they lessen its hold on us. And we all look and feel far more confident when we have a smile on our dial.
Feeling super-excited about the opportunity which something scary presents can crowd out our fear. How excited are you about getting on that massive rollercoaster, despite knowing that you’ll probably crap yourself too? Real life isn’t that different.
Calm the nervous system by creating breathing space between your fear and how you react to it. A few deep breaths, before you respond to a hairy situation, can affect the whole outcome of what happens next.
In for 4, hold for 2, out for 6. Do it three times. First to centre yourself. Second to create possibility and realign your purpose. Finally, to let go of judgement, so you can open the door to discovery. Breathing helps us face fear with calmer confidence, which means we then can trust ourselves to do the right thing.
Making change means changing (duh). If you’re making big changes in your life, find people who are making big changes in theirs.
I’ve learnt the lesson of isolation the hard way. It makes everything that bit more difficult, especially when you’re already doing things that are WAY out of your comfort zone.
The upside of isolation is that when other people aren’t there to help or support you, if you’re just brave enough, then you find a way to get through lots of new things on your own. But our wellbeing thrives on care, connection, acknowledgement and reciprocation. So we’re better off finding our people.
That means hanging with people who “get” you. This isn’t necessarily your family or your best mate from school days. It may be someone who doesn’t fit into your day-to-day. They may even live on the other side of the world.
You need to be connected with (and challenged by) people who understand your mission, and whose values and valour overlap with yours. Find people who are prepared to face their fears to move forwards. They may be on their own journey, but their courage will inspire and excite you. They can help you and you can help them.
Find or create a community you love, because love conquers fear.
I’ve unfortunately learnt that giving time and energy to people who can’t (or deliberately won’t) see the value you bring to the world, is not good for how you handle fear. It drains your courage.
If they don’t get as excited as you do about the big (and little) steps of progress you make, then they’re not worthy of investing precious love and care in. Don’t settle for less. There are more appropriate people out there, so keep looking. Finding good people starts by being better at being you.
You can do this. I believe in you.
So, back to this big step of mine, which is a bit scary.
While there’s still heaps of learning to do on this new road, what I’ve learnt so far is that I can handle whatever comes my way.
Despite my fear.
Being brave builds our strength of character. By being brave, we learn to trust ourselves. By being brave, we become better at handling the hairy, scary moments in life.
We can learn to walk with our fear.
And once we can walk with it, then the next step is learning to fly.
Be brave, think big, stand tall.