One of the things that keeps us stuck in fear is the belief that if we want to pursue a dream, the first step we take has to be the “right” step.
We can’t make any mistakes.
The stakes are too high.
If we get it “wrong” it will be horrible.
If we fail, we’ll fall to pieces.
But more than likely not.
Instead of this life or death approach, I’d like you to consider another way of looking at things.
An approach that has helped me take scary steps time and again is embracing the idea that you can learn and grow from anything.
When you look at a potential action step as a source of knowledge about yourself and the world around you, fear becomes less of a stopping point and just something to watch as you move forward, like scenery passing by your window on a cross country car trip.
At first, finding lessons in what seem like mistakes can seem a bit challenging.
You might find yourself thinking something like, “There is no way that I can learn from this situation. I just want to run and hide and forget I even considered this stupid dream!”
But with practice it gets easier.
I’ll give you an example so you can see this in action.
As part of my dream of quitting my job, I decided that it might be less scary if I worked somewhere part time to help me with cash flow.
Through a connection, I found a potential opportunity working from home as a bookkeeper. While I have a degree in Accounting and had worked managing the day to day expenses for departments within larger companies, I had never done bookkeeping for small businesses before so this excited and terrified me at the same time.
I wasn’t 100% sure I could do it, but I took the leap and applied and got the position and was scheduled to start a couple weeks after I quit my full time job.
About a few weeks into it though, I realized I’d made a mistake.
This kind of work just wasn’t for me. It was stressful and not in a good rewarding way and was taking up so much of my time that it didn’t seem worth it, given the fact that I had quit my job in part to give myself a break to clear my head and explore new options.
I spent many days and nights upset, and being unkind to myself about my decision to take this job. “What were you thinking? This is horrible. You’re so stupid. If you quit this though, you’ll be a failure.” (This wasn’t one of my finer self-talk moments, but I share to let you know that we all have moments where we forget to be kind to ourselves.)
Eventually I got to a tipping point where the desire to quit this part time job became stronger than my fear of not having any income and my regret over making this decision that turned out so poorly.
So I quit the job with my tail between my legs, feeling embarrassed and disappointed.
After the dust settled and I spent some time journaling, I found a shift in perspective happening. The more I wrote about the situation, the more I was able to find some gifts and helpful lessons that I had learned from the experience.
I’ll share a few:
I hope you get the point I’m trying to make.
You need not fear taking a step when you actively look for the lessons and gifts that come with whatever outcome happens.
Do that thing and if it doesn’t work out, take a step back, let the dust settle and see what lessons you were able to learn about yourself, what you want and how the world around you operates.
If you use what happens as a means to the end goal of building up your resilience and inner strength, you will be unstoppable.
Here are some questions that you can ask yourself the next time you’ve taken a step that didn’t work out the way you had imagined it would:
What good things came out of this situation?
What didn’t I know about myself that I know now?
What didn’t I know about life that I know now?
What worked well?
What didn’t work well?
What do I want to do differently next time?
I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment. Have you ever learned a valuable lesson from taking a step that at first glance appeared to be a mistake?
Do you have something you want to do, but just can’t seem to take any steps because you’re terrified? It could be a book you want to write or a business you want to start or anything that you want to do, but aren’t doing out of fear.
If you answered yes, you’re likely in the midst of the freeze response. The freeze response, where you stay really still until the danger passes so you won’t get hurt, is one of the methods that we use to protect ourselves from real or perceived danger.
Now this might work if you’re hiding from an animal in the woods, but it doesn’t really help you turn that business idea you’ve been throwing around into reality.
Freezing is a lousy way to deal with your fears.
Waiting around until your fear disappears usually just makes it worse.
You have to move forward to get what you want, fear and all. I’ve found 7 ways that help me stop freezing and get moving. Maybe they’ll help you too!
It may sound or feel silly in the moment, but talking aloud to yourself as though you were a team of one can be really effective. Just imagine that you were coaching a sports team and trying to motivate them before they went onto the field. What kinds of things would you say? “You can do it!” “Get out there and show me what you’ve got!” Be gentle or be stern. Use whatever words and tone work and feel motivating.
Often we freeze because it seems like the safer of options, but that is because we are not looking at the situation closely enough. Deciding not to decide is still making a decision. What are you choosing by giving into the freeze? How would your life be a year from now if you keep freezing? Write it out and ask yourself “Is this what I want to choose?” You might find that the action that you considered so scary has more upsides than the downsides of staying frozen that you identified.
We can’t do it alone. Call a friend who you know to be supportive and ask them to help you move forward. You could ask them to help you brainstorm your first steps. Or ask them to check in with you the next day to hold you accountable for taking a step. You could even ask them to join you by moving forward with a dream of their own.
Often when we freeze up, we expand our feelings about the freeze to other tasks. We use it as evidence that we can’t do anything worthwhile. Find something that you want to do, but don’t feel as much angst around, and do it. The only caveat is that the thing you choose to do should be active and creative, not passive (like television or web surfing). It should be something where you’d feel a sense of accomplishment afterwards. This will remind you that you are capable of accomplishing things even in times when you freeze up and it may give you some hints about what might work to get you going where you were once stuck.
Take a walk or jog. Put on some music and dance. Go swimming or bicycling. Do something to get out of your head and into your body. This works in part to distract you, but also to release endorphins in your body to help you feel better, more energized and less stressed which can help you approach your project from a more empowered place.
Offer yourself an attractive reward for moving forward. Make it personal to you. If it helps, you can also include other people in your reward process. For example, buy yourself a treat and give it to a friend and tell them to give it away to someone else if you don’t complete a step by a certain time. You can also use the benefits of achieving your goal as a reward. Make a list of the good things you think might happen and read them each day to begin associating good feelings with your goal.
Often our fear is not about doing a thing, but rather that we won’t be able to handle what might happen during or after we do it. Look to your past for examples of how you were able to handle doing something you once feared. You are more capable than you think of handling whatever might happen down the line. If you can’t find an example in your own life, tap a friend to share theirs or do a search online for people who have dealt with the fear you have to get some inspiration. It they can do it, you can too.
I hope these 7 tips get you moving forward and out of the stuck zone. Share in the comments where you’re freezing up in your life or share what you’ve done to move forward during a time when you’ve been stuck.