Just two today, hope you enjoy!
Tiffany Hawk wrote an awesome article for the Huffington Post a few months ago that I just read now: “How to Make Dreams Happen. Right Now. Even if You’re Scared.”
In it Tiffany gives some background on her life overcoming her fear of flying to become a flight attendant and then ultimately writing a novel and becoming a travel writer and writing mentor. She also shares stories about dealing with fear from three awesome ladies. This is definitely a good read and inspirational as it lets you peek inside her journey (one of my favorite things to do) and reminds you that “Courage, isn’t about waiting for the fear to subside, it’s about doing it anyway.”
Funny lady Aisha Tyler has a podcast called Girl on Guy where she interviews people, mostly from the entertainment industry, about pretty much any topic that comes to mind. It’s not a show about fear specifically, but she has interesting people on and they get pretty open and honest.
I was listening to her recent interview with Scandal star Dan Bucatinsky (he plays Cyrus’ husband if you watch the show) and caught this super helpful exchange about creativity and fear:
Aisha: What I do think we share in common is also this need to be creative and I feel like when you’re waiting for someone to give you permission to be creative, you’ll never be creative. You just have to give yourself permission and you want everything that you do to be successful, but I feel like the first litmus test to success is did I do it to the best of my ability? Am I pleased with what I created? I mean, you’ve been a writer almost now as long as you’ve been a performer and there’s so much when you can walk off a set one day and be like “Man I really killed it.” It’s as satisfying to me when I’m in front of the computer and I’m like “Oh! God! I just love what I did here!” I don’t think you go around being like “I’m so awesome.” There’s something fulfilling in having an idea and getting it out and executing it in the way that you intended regardless of who sees it. That in it of itself is satisfying.
Dan: I also think it’s all about fear. It’s all about the management of fear. I am scared most of my life, all the time. And the management of that fear, whether it’s that I’ve got a lump or whatever or the blank page which panics me more than anything on the planet. It’s the pushing through fear that is the most satisfying thing because it’s where all creativity comes. I was petrified to be naked on that stage and acting with someone like Jeff Perry who started the Steppenwolf Company. I’m petrified every time I have to write a script. I was petrified to write my book ‘cause it was so exposed and so honest. But that made it so much more satisfying and that made me want to push even harder to…When it really scares me, I know I’m close. And it’s hard. Fear’s supposed to stop you. The impulse goes back to the animal instinct. Fear’s supposed to keep you from doing something that might kill you. But the creative world isn’t going to kill you and the fear is what drives you.
Aisha: And the fear will keep you from all of the things that you’re dreaming about, the 40 year old you and the 8 year old you.
Dan: And conquering the fear is the thing that at the end makes you stand and go “Oh, my God I’m so proud of myself.” I love that. I didn’t just let the page stay blank because it was too scary.
How awesome is that? The interview is over an hour long and worth a listen so check it out here if you’re interested.
Any thoughts on this week’s resources? Any to add?
Thanksgiving season brings with it the common question “What are you grateful for?” Many families in the U.S. who celebrate the holiday often go around the table before dinner and share their gratitude lists with each other. I’ve done this with my family a few times over the years and really enjoyed it.
Gratitude is such a powerful tool. You can turn dark moments into ones that are easier to handle by diverting your attention towards those things that you do have. You can train your mind to notice more good things by the simple practice of writing a daily gratitude list. Gratitude can change your life.
In thinking about gratitude, this question popped into my mind: “What about fear are you grateful for?” And then shortly after this one appeared: “Are you crazy? Is it even possible to be grateful for fear?” So I set myself a challenge to look at fear in my life and to review the interviews I’ve done for this site and come up with a gratitude list.
Here are the top 7 things about fear that I am grateful for (in somewhat random order):
1. It’s often a signal for when I’m close to something that could change my life for the better. I’ve learned that sometimes fear does not mean that I should run away, but it can be a sign to move forward. It can mean that there is something wonderful on the other side if I can just push through.
2. Those overactive fear responses that I’ve often complained about can protect me from unnecessary danger. As a contrast to number one, the other times I mention are when fear can mean to run away. Sometimes fear is a great physical signal that you’re not safe and it’s best to be cautious. It’s learning to tell the difference as Tom Ewer mentions that is the most important thing. There is also a great book about this concept by Gavin de Becker called The Gift of Fear.
3. It brings me closer to my body and understanding the way my body works. Being a person with an overactive fear response, I’ve taken a lot of interest in learning how my body works and what those fear responses mean. I don’t think I would know as much about my body if I didn’t feel so fearful so often. Just learning about the flight or fight response and how it actually causes those symptoms that used to scare me so much (i.e. increased heart rate, stomach ache, nausea and shaky hands to name a few) makes it a lot less scary and easier to handle. One good book that helped me with this was Hope and Help for your Nerves by Claire Weekes.
4. It helps me connect more deeply with others. There is something powerful about sharing your fears with another person who is also willing to share their fears with you. It brings deeper connection as it requires you to take off any masks you might have and just be honest.
5. It’s brought me more compassion for others and their suffering. Feeling afraid and not being able to move through it can be very scary, challenging and humbling. It’s allowed me to be more compassionate towards myself and my own suffering and extend that towards others.
6. Without fear, the high that I get when I overcome fear would just not exist. I’ve noticed that whenever I hug my fear, I experience this high (for lack of a better word). Maybe you’ve noticed it too. I’ll feel happy and excited and my self-confidence skyrockets. I have a strong feeling that if I attempted something and felt like I totally had it in the bag and wasn’t afraid, I wouldn’t get that same high, at least not to the same degree.
7. And finally, it made me start this blog and meet so many wonderful people. If I hadn’t struggled with fear for so many years of my life, I wouldn’t have started this blog. And although it was scary to start it, it’s enabled me to meet so many awesome and interesting people through interviewing them and having them connect with me through emails and comments. I’m thankful for all of you!
What about fear are you thankful for? I’d love to know so please share with a comment!
Photo Credit: Shannon Kringen
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After being laid off from her job at a Fortune 500 company, J.P. decided to face her fears and start her own software training business. She graciously talked to me about what she learned soon after she was laid off all the way until now with a thriving business.
V: What kind of fears were you experiencing when you were laid off and then when you were beginning the process of deciding to start your own company?
J: First of all, I had an idea about doing this for the company I was working for. I actually spent some time putting together a business plan for them which they had no interest in whatsoever. So here I had this great idea for a business and they didn’t want it and I guess I was young enough that I didn’t see the clues that the contract that we had with the government was about to end. The good that came out of it is that I had learned a lot and made a lot of networking connections. And while it might have been more frightening than it was, I mean, I must have been $30,000 in debt at the time. I did have a roof over my head and a husband with an income so I wasn’t totally out on the street. But it was scary; it was scary because I hadn’t done anything like that before. And while it wasn’t like I didn’t know what to do or how I was going to do it, I had this idea and I just had to change the plan around so that it would work for an individual without corporate resources behind it. And I also knew it was gonna take a little time because I had to get a name built, and then people would have to come to know me. And that was I think the scariest part, is upfront I wasn’t naïve about it, I knew it was gonna take time. But I think the best thing I did to overcome that was to say “Ok. While we’re waiting for that to build, how many ways can you get your name out there? How many ways can you let people be aware of who you are?” I was working eighteen hours a day building my name and the idea of the company that I was trying to put together. The first two or three months were probably the hardest because nobody knew I was there. And I think I probably made $600 and that was the part that was scary. Because I was wondering, you know, how am I going to do this? But I did have faith that it would work and it finally did. After that it started getting better and then it got to the point, I was doubling my income all over the place. Then it was very exciting. Then it was “can I keep up with this?” because I was getting four hours of sleep a night and doing everything myself. So part of it then was if it grows too fast what will I do? There are all kinds of things that can happen when you start a business; it’s hard to predict everything no matter how hard you plan.
V: Did you have things that you would either do or keep in mind to help you keep moving forward when things were still kind of uncertain?
J: I read whatever I could on starting a small business. I do remember one book in particular that helped a great deal because I was so focused on marketing and that was Guerilla Marketing and that point in time, like I say it was almost 20 years ago, this was kind of cutting edge, he had a lot of great ideas and inspiration on how to get yourself known. And I think I tried most of what was in the book. But, more than that, it showed you that you didn’t have to have a million dollars to get rolling. I’ve always loved that phrase “Feel the fear and do it anyway” and that one is just a motto that I do and “Just grit your teeth and go forward.” You know you’ll worry about it later. You know you’re afraid, but you’re still moving. And that helps. And if you do that, the flipside of fear is excitement. You can turn it so that it does help. But on the other hand I wasn’t afraid all the time, a lot of the time I was excited. I was very optimistic.
V: You mentioned before that you were in debt. That can be really scary too. How did you overcome that?
J: You know, the one blessing I got is when I found out I was being laid off, I did get a little bit of warning and I knew what the situation was and I knew that I was gonna have low income for a while. So I immediately called my credit union and while I was still gainfully employed and could have my employment verified, even though it wasn’t going to be forever, I refinanced, you know, I took out a loan and paid off my credit card debts and stuff. Then I had a single loan that was long term that had low payments. And I did that the day, within hours, of finding out what was going on. I didn’t get paralyzed by it. I immediately thought how can I handle this? And what’s the smartest thing to do within the time frame I have to work? So that worked out very well because that meant when I had very little income I could pay off the loan because I had made it forever. And then when the income went up, I just paid it off quicker. And in the beginning I didn’t know what to expect so I had to prepare for the worst. And I think what’s really important is to be able to be calm and not panic. To sit there and look at the facts and say, these are the facts, what are the options? And what will serve me best?
V: So where do things stand now?
J: Well, I still have my own business. It will be 20 years in 2014. I’m debt free. I paid to put my youngest child through college with cash. We bought our cars with cash. Work now is by choice, a few months a year. Let me say one thing, in the beginning the things that I thought I should be afraid of were actually the last things I should have been afraid of. And the things that turned out to be real problems, I probably should have been scared of, I didn’t even know existed at the time. So, for instance, I was afraid about earning enough money; that turned out to be a non-issue. Once things got rolling it just snowballed and took off. The things that I didn’t know to be afraid of were things like people in business that were not ethical because I had never dealt with that before. Those turned out to be things that really were big issues running my own business. Sometimes you can’t even imagine things that will happen that end up being tough and perhaps if you knew ahead of time you would have been afraid or more cautious but I’ve always been the type of person that gave more than I took and I think it’s ok to err on the side of being kind and if you get taken advantage of, so be it. But as you get older, I think that happens less. But going into a business, I think that more people start out trusting others and perhaps they should be a little more fearful of that. I mean, I’ve written curriculum that people have stolen that had contracts with me that said they would pay me for it and they owed me $200,000 worth of it and they didn’t. So sometimes, you can’t even imagine that these things are going to happen. Perhaps a little more caution up front would be wise. I wouldn’t call it fear, I think caution, perhaps would be wise.
V: When something like that happens, how do you not get jaded and just turn around and forget about everything?
J: Not everybody in the world is like that, thank God. I think the majority of the people in the world don’t get up in the morning and try and sabotage others. There are few people that are not very good people and I guess I haven’t had to deal with that many in my life so I’m always surprised when I run across them. But I think you get to be a little more cautious, true, but you can’t become jaded, you can’t become hard, because then that’s not good either. And in a way, that would make them win. Some things you just have to let go of. Like I can remember when I first started out, I did a job for a local company and I didn’t know that they were having financial problems so then they couldn’t pay me. They just declared themselves bankrupt and changed their name and went back in business again and didn’t pay anybody. I was sputtering mad for a while and I then thought, well you can keep being mad about it and screaming it’s unfair or you can let it go and get back to earning some more money somewhere else and doing what you’re supposed to do. Because if you dwell on that, you’re not gonna get anywhere and that negative attitude is going to come out in everything you say and do and if you’re marketing yourself and your business, people can hear the tone of your voice if you’re not positive and upbeat. So if you let that stuff drag you down, it can ruin you. You can dwell in it or not. And someone I know says that resentment is like you taking poison and hoping the other person will die. It doesn’t really work. And I know my husband has said don’t let other people rent space in your head. You just have to let that go. I always figure the worst punishment for them is they have to live with being themselves.
V: What advice would you give to someone who has a dream or a goal they want to achieve but think that they can’t do it because they’re too afraid?
J: I asked you earlier if you had read anything by Barbara Sher. I’m a great fan of hers. And she talks a lot about resistance. What she means by resistance, or my interpretation is, that there’s something that you really want to do, say you have a dream and when you think about it it makes you happy, but when you go to do it something comes in the way, a fear or something blocks you. And that resistance, whatever it is, procrastination, avoidance, is probably an issue that you had all your life, maybe from childhood. Everybody has stuff like that and if you can get in touch with it, you may never 100% get rid of it, but you can certainly be aware of it and that’s a huge thing, the understanding and acceptance of it. A lot of people in the world, especially women, don’t think they deserve to be happy or they have to put everybody else first. Work first, fun comes later if ever. And who are you to pick one, be an artist, be a musician, blogger, start your own business, whatever. I really think she’s on to something there. And her thing is, if you start thinking of the whole thing and it’s “Wow, I’m so overwhelmed. I’m scared to death.” Then what you have to do is come up with a small thing you can do. You know, maybe you can’t paint an entire oil painting, but you can take a pencil and do a little sketch of the lamp across the room. And maybe that would give you a little bit of happiness and joy. It would be so small that the resistance wouldn’t be threatened by it. And then it wouldn’t rear its ugly head. You can find small things. Or you can try and sneak around sideways. Like if you’re afraid of being a success in business. You can do something that will help the business, but doesn’t seem like you’re directly being a success. Maybe you’ll work on a website. Maybe you’ll make a phone call or go to a meeting and do a little networking. You find something though to chip away at it so it’s not as overwhelming. You’re just doing something small. You’re finding yourself every step of the way. So you have to make little things you can do.
So that was J.P.’s story! What stood out to you? I liked how she showed that even though some fear inducing obstacles landed in her way, she found ways to move through them and still remain optimistic. It’s so easy to let the fear of those obstacles stop you from even trying, but it’s very encouraging to know that things will happen and more often than not we are capable of handling them.
Photo Credit: Steve Worsethandetroit
Ok, before I start, I recognize that while you’re reading this you may notice that today’s reflection isn’t specifically about overcoming fear. I thought about a few other things I could write about, but this topic keeps tapping me on the shoulder so I decided to write about it here.
I’ve noticed something that happens once I’ve started taking steps towards my dreams. Very often I’ll stop in the middle out of discouragement and the belief that I’m just not doing enough. Have you ever felt that way? I have a feeling that a lot of people who struggle with fear may feel this way too.
After I turned thirty, I decided to start observing myself without judgment. So far it’s been life changing (I’m sure I’ll write about this too at some point) and it’s what caused me to notice that I have been berating myself for not doing “enough” and I want to stop.
So here’s what came out of my observation:
Am I using my own standards or someone else’s?
It’s so easy to adopt others’ beliefs and thoughts as your own and not even realize you’re doing it. I’ve found that my belief of what’s enough was built on someone else’s standard of unreasonable perfection and the borrowed belief that if you’re not doing something every second or doing really huge things every day you’re a poor excuse for a human.
My own standards, or the ones of my ideal self, are a bit more humane. I want to be taking at least one step every day towards my goal with the emphasis on the direction of the step and not on whether it’s a huge one. I very often take more than one step, but with my ideal standard, I consider those steps nice bonuses which makes me feel even better.
Am I being honest with myself about missing the mark using my own standards?
In observing, I find that it helps to consider all the possibilities so I don’t let myself off the hook. What do I want to be doing and am I doing that? Am I consistently not taking at least a step a day? If I’m not doing what I say I want to be doing, then there may be some truth to me feeling like I’m not doing enough. But I don’t need to use it as a label and just wallow, I can use it as a sign that I need to regroup and try a different tactic or change my standards.
Start an accomplishments journal
This has been one of the most helpful things that exposed the “I’m not doing enough” thought as a lie. Write down what you’ve done towards your goal every day. Write it in a journal, in your day planner, in your phone, anywhere you can refer to easily. At the end of the day or week, take out your list and look over what you’ve done.
Most times that will be enough to make you see and hopefully appreciate the cumulative work you’re putting in towards your dream. If you still look at the list and feel like it’s not enough, ask yourself what you would say to the list writer if the list was written by a close friend or family member that you care deeply about.
So hopefully this has been helpful to you. Have you ever experienced these feelings? Have you found another way to deal with feeling like you’re not doing enough towards your dream? Please share!
This week’s roundup has lots of goodies. Let’s get to it.
Patty Chang Anker released her book Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave back in October. From the title you can probably tell that it’s all about overcoming fear. I picked it up and have been reading it and she does a very good job letting you in on the thoughts and feelings that often go along while facing your fears, plus she’s really funny.
She also wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog with three helpful tips for overcoming fear and this gem:
“Tears, doubts, fears and loneliness.” That’s how one of Izzy Arkin’s latest post starts.
I love when people give you a peek behind the curtain to show you what it really takes to live their dreams, especially when they talk about their fears or the not so sexy stuff that they deal with.
Izzy does just that in his post, “The Dark Side of Pursuing Dreams (Warning: Read At Your Own Risk).” As I mentioned in my last resource roundup, Izzy moved to Japan to pursue his dream of becoming a ninja. And although I suspect most of you don’t have the same dream (I know I don’t), just knowing that he still experiences some of the same fears and doubts that we do and hasn’t given up on his dream is enough to make this post an inspiring read.
This next one’s a two-for-one resource. The Huffington post has an app called GPS for the Soul where it provides tips and inspiration to help you keep your stress level down. It looks pretty cool.
They also have a section online by the same title that provides tips and inspiration too. I found this article that they posted with inspirational quotes about overcoming your fear along with some funny pictures. My favorite is the dog on the diving board.
Bethany Rosselit shares how it ultimately took her about an hour to overcome her fear and chase her dreams after spending 10 years fearfully living a life that was all wrong. I love this story. It’s filled with lots of good tips from someone who’s actually done it.
Simple and straightforward tips from Nancy Sathre-Vogel on how to overcome fear. What makes this post extra helpful is that Nancy and her family have an awesome story. For four years, they traveled around the world together on bicycles. This post also has links to other helpful blogs that she wrote about fear.
And finally a short post from Seth Godin, “The first lie…”
Seth Godin’s writing is so good because he does a fantastic job getting to the heart of the matter without belaboring any points. I love this short post about various lies we tell ourselves about what it takes to make a place for yourself in this world and also about the people who are already doing it. We all have fear.
Have you read this week’s interview yet? Check it out:
Interview with Lindsey Swett – “Use Fear to your Advantage”