“Leap and the net will appear.” ~ John Burroughs
Over the past year I’ve stretched myself in lots of new ways. I’ve said yes to opportunities that gave me instant butterflies in the pit of my stomach. I’ve listened to my inner wisdom and stepped forward even when I couldn’t see the path ahead. I’ve tried – am still trying – to become friends with uncertainty.
Moving forward, which happens to be away from my comfort zone, is exciting. And scary.
When I step into the unknown and challenge my (perceived) limitations, my ego throws all sorts of self-doubts in my path. When things start to get comfortable, WHAM! Up pop nasty self-critical thoughts: What makes me think I can do this? Who do I think I am?
When I slow down, breathe deeply, and take time to reflect, I realize my ego is trying to protect me, keep me safe in my comfort zone.
Now I choose to respond with, Thank you, ego, but snuggling up in my comfort zone no longer serves me.
Here are some things that have helped me push through fear. Maybe they’ll help you, too.
Remember that you’re brave
Make a list of the times you were afraid and pushed through it. Big or small fears, it doesn’t matter. In each situation, what was it that scared you? What made you pull yourself together when you could have crumpled up into a ball instead? How did you push through it?
Read your list whenever you need to be reminded that you are brave.
Look at the lesson
Often we fear the feeling of fear, but that feeling is actually giving us valuable information. What is the fear telling you? Is it telling you to prepare for something, such as giving a speech? Great – that’s within your control. Is it telling you to hold off on a new opportunity that makes you uncomfortable? If so, why are you uncomfortable? Is it because the opportunity feels wrong, or simply because the outcome is unknown?
Look at your fear and try to break it down into smaller parts. What exactly are you afraid of? What’s the worst that could happen? Is the worst really all that bad?
Turn it around
When you’re scared, your physical sensations are often similar to those you have when you’re excited about something. Your pulse may quicken, you have butterflies in your stomach, or your breathing is shallower than usual. To your body, it’s much the same thing.
If you’re feeling fearful about a new experience, turn that around by associating it with something you’re excited about. What is something potentially amazing about the experience? For example, if you’re scared about speaking to a classroom of children or doing a radio interview, consider that these are opportunities to share your message and help others.
Someone once said to me that fear – when it’s not an instinctive fear about a genuine threat – is a sign you’re approaching something deeply important to you.
Prepare, then let it go
Do everything you can to be ready for the opportunity in front of you. Prepare for it, then let it go. You can’t ask more of yourself than your best. The rest is beyond your control.
I’m so grateful for this journey I’m on, with all of its beautiful twists and turns and lessons. I have a feeling that as I continue to stretch and grow, I’ll need to continue developing my courage muscles.
One step at a time, right?