It’s easy to get swept up by the busyness of life, and to get distracted by things that suck our precious energy like cat videos on YouTube or Chris Hemsworth’s Instagram feed (I mean, has there ever been anyone more perfect than Thor?). A lot of people are blindly going through the motions of a life which isn’t necessarily by their own design. This life path goes something like this: you’re born, you grow up, you learn the lessons of your parents, you’re groomed and molded by society, you find a decent job, get married, raise a family, retire and die. This path seems logical at first; there’s nothing inherently wrong with this path. But somewhere along the journey you begin to get a twinge in your gut telling you that something is missing. You realize that you’ve been following your good neighbor’s version of a successful life. But when you finally “wake up” to the realization that your life is not your own, you get stuck because you’re afraid of change, of breaking social conventions, and appearing reckless. It’s easier to stay where you are because change takes real effort and oftentimes struggle. You’d rather stay on your comfy couch and watch “Suits” on Netflix than to step out into the world and bust your butt doing something meaningful. You’re stunted by fear, and you don’t even know it.
What do you really want out of life? Do you want the freedom to express your true self and to pursue your dreams without restrictions? Personal freedom should be the ultimate goal, but you continue to let social pressures keep you in a box. You fear being judged by others and so you stop pursuing the things that could potentially bring you joy and a sense of purpose. You worry that you might disappoint your family and friends, and so you get distracted by things that steer you away from your dream of becoming the next Oprah Winfrey or Elon Musk. You stay where you are and lay blame to your past experiences and complain about your current situation. These limiting thoughts are borne out of a fear of failure, loss and ridicule. It’s so easy to lose touch with your authentic self and to let life lead you instead of you leading your own life.
Fear is a mechanism our brain uses to keep us out of harm’s way. The problem with this brain function is that it hasn’t really evolved since our caveman days when humans had to survive predatory cats and marauding tribesmen. The fear that we experience now is largely irrational, because our world (for the most part) is a heck of a lot safer now than it was a few thousand years ago when we donned skimpy loincloths and carried spears. We now fear things like public speaking and the mysterious unknown, and avoid them like the plague as if these things could kill us. So we avoid the life we want because of fear that is tricking the ego into playing safe and small. It’s a choice to let fear run your life. Sometimes you don’t even know that it’s happening, it’s so programmed into your brain.
Many of these fears were ingrained by the people closest to you; parents, teachers, and friends. This urge to self-protect exists because of your social conditioning. You must be mindful of the people that you hang out with. Brendon Burchard in his book, the Motivation Manifesto, describes these people as the Worriers, the Weaklings and the Wicked. The Worriers are typically your parents or close family members that you tend to listen to more often; you value their opinions and you usually trust their intentions. They may mean well, but they don’t always know what’s best for you. The Weaklings tend to favor the path of least resistance which usually equates to a mundane existence. They will tempt you into doing activities such as, play video games or go shoe shopping, instead of doing the things that will lead you to your goals. The Wicked are the naysayers that blatantly bring you down and say your ideas are stupid.
You must take every piece of advice with a pinch of salt. Simply knowing the fear isn’t your own gives you the power to fight it and to carry on despite its pervasiveness. By acknowledging and recognizing that the feeling is irrational, and by focusing on what could be gained rather than what could be lost if you actually faced your fears. Nine times out of ten, the gains outweigh the losses.
My advice to you is to write down one goal that you have (no matter how silly), and to list all the things that could go wrong, as well the things that could go right if you pursued it. Writing it down will give you a much better perspective and will give you the boldness to actually get out there and make it happen. You will probably come to the realization that the things that could go wrong aren’t actually all that catastrophic. They are certainly not life-threatening. Who cares if you might look like a complete amateur or fall flat on your face? These awkward experiences help you to learn and grow as a human being. As Kelly Clarkson would say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. It’s cliché, but it’s true, so don’t internet pinch me for making a Kelly Clarkson reference. Every single successful person started as a newbie not knowing what the heck they were doing. And I guarantee that they were no strangers to flat-out failure. So stop doubting yourself; get out there and do this thing.
7 things you can do today to help you face your fears:
1) Write that shit down in a journal, schedule it in your agenda or Grumpy Cat wall calendar. When you write things down it becomes tangible and you will be reminded every day. You can even set phone notifications, just to be super sure that you won’t forget.
2) Put sticky notes on your bathroom mirror so when you brush your teeth in the morning, you’ll have no choice but to see your goals and your gorgeous morning face (and nest of tangled hair on your head).
3) Say “nah!” to that negative self-talk. Banish those useless thoughts from your head, and replace them with positive ones. You have complete control over your beliefs; why not make them awesome ones that will bring you up rather than down?
4) Do something out of the ordinary. Strike up a conversation with a stranger at the local coffee shop or health food store. Sign up for a free yoga class. Do something that will gently push you out of your comfort zone.
5) Make one small change. You don’t have to make huge changes all at once in your quest to becoming a better you. Start with an easy one, like skipping the sugar in your coffee (if your goal is to cut refined sugar). Replace the sugar with cream and repeat to yourself how tasty your coffee is. Eventually your mind will follow and pretty soon you will wonder why you ever put sugar in your coffee “it’s just way too sweet!”
6) Have your best friend hold you accountable. Tell them your plans, so that they can ask you about them every time you see each other. You’ll be so annoyed that you’ll have no choice but to make good on your goals.
7) When you’re about to do that thing that scares the hell out of you, and you’re feeling the nerves like something wicked. Repeat to yourself that you are “super excited!” and “this is what excitement feels like! Cool!”. Your mind will begin to believe it. Then jump in with both feet and don’t look back.
Your mantra for today is “Feel the fear and do it anyway”