Meet Louise Watson. Louise recently quit her job to explore writing, her true passion. Louise sat down with me and shared how she made the leap and what she’s learned along the way about managing fear and going for your dreams.
V: Can you describe what you wanted to do that you had some fear around?
L: I was doing a job that I had been doing for a couple of years. I was teaching English as a foreign language and for the first couple of years I was doing it, I was quite happy doing that. But after about two years, two things started happening, there were things at work that I didn’t really agree with, I wasn’t really quite happy with what was going on there and at the same time I was learning more about myself and I was getting into yoga and meditation and spiritual stuff. And I just had the feeling at that same time that there was more that I could do with my life and I thought about writing before but I hadn’t really got stuck into it. That was one thing that I thought about going for but I really felt quite strongly that I had to leave work first to have that space to think about what I really wanted to do. So that was the kind of big fear for me of leaving work without having anything lined up at all. It was about a year or so of procrastinating and worrying about how I was gonna pay my bills and if it would work out and deciding when I should jump and if I should jump.
V: So, what other things about doing this made you afraid?
L: First of all, the main thing was financially, because I didn’t know how long it was gonna take me to start making money or not, so that was a worry. And also, putting yourself out there because a lot of my writing is quite personal, about quite personal fears and things that are going on in my private life as I’m a private person and quite shy and that was worrying as well, putting that out there for people to see. And also people just might come ‘round and say that your work’s rubbish and they don’t like it so that was something that I worried about as well. Also just not really knowing what I was doing because I’ve been an employee for all my working life and before that I was at school and always doing what I was told so I’ve had a lifetime of being told what to do and how to do it and how to be and then just suddenly being left to your own devices not to really know which way is the best way to go.
V: So what did you do or what are you doing to move through that fear?
L: I think the main thing is really taking each moment at a time, not really worrying too much about the future which is something I’ve had to train myself to do. Not let myself go too far worrying about whether I’m going to be able to pay my bills or like what I do, just focus on what is the first thing that I need to do and take it step by step. And just very much living in the moment, like at the moment I’ve got a roof over my head, I’ve got enough money for X amount of months. I’m alright now. I don’t have to worry about the future right now.
V: So you’ve quit your job already?
L: Yes, I quit in the end of August.
V: And now you’re writing?
L: Yes, well I started writing a book before I left. The beginning of last year I started writing my book and that’s in the process of being published right now. I’ve decided on self-publishing. And I started my blog, which is not working out quite as I had imagined but I’m trying to work out how to chance directions with that. And I’m doing a writing course which helps you get published along the way, so I’m finishing an assignment for that that I’m trying to send off to a magazine for publication. I’ve had to go back to teaching part time, just doing part time temporary positions just to keep some money coming in, but regarding the writing, that’s what I’m doing at the moment.
V: How do you find that fear shows up for you?
L: A lot of fearful thoughts come in, especially if I check my bank balance and I’ve got less than I thought I had and I think “Oh, God, what have I done?” At the beginning, especially, I thought a lot about why have I left this job that I didn’t even mind doing that much, and I’m missing my colleagues and everybody else has got their secure jobs and I haven’t got an income. Yes, fearful thoughts came in which affects me physically as well, I get the feeling in my stomach when you get nervous. Mainly it’s the thoughts and I do tend to procrastinate a little bit if it’s a big task to do, then I kind of put it off for as long as possible, so I’m trying to take myself out of that and break it up into little chunks. I can’t handle everything right now, just take the first step. Get that done and set myself a deadline for doing each little step. Sometimes I’ve had a little bit of a meltdown along the way. Just kind of flipping out a little bit and not knowing what I’m doing and just losing it and just being with it. I actually tended to find that I produced a lot of my best work after that; I think sometimes you need to have a bit of a meltdown before you can start to think straight really, just to get it all out of your system and then get on with it.
V: So what keeps you moving forward?
L: I think even though I feel scared sometimes, it’s still preferable to that feeling of suppressing what you really want to do in order to just do a job and go to the same place every day and do what you’re told to just pay the bills and do something you’re not really passionate about even if it’s ok. Just having that freedom. I feel that when I’m writing, I have the opportunity to express myself. Just doing what you want to do and creating, just going towards the life that you want to achieve is just, even though it’s scary, it’s still preferable to, “Oh, I’ve got to go to work and I’ve got to do this and do that.” It’s scary, but it’s better than that boredom and suppressing who you are.
V: Are there things that you feared going into taking this path that once they happened you were like “Oh, that wasn’t so bad” or “Yes, that proved me right”? Something that showed up that you were like, “I didn’t even know to be afraid of that one”?
L: One of the things, actually it was just a few months before I left my job, I had my first Tiny Buddha article published and that was the first thing I had made public and I was really terrified of people kind of criticizing my work and that was just the worst thing that I could ever imagine. But what happened instead was that some people were asking me for advice. Like what should I do about my boyfriend? What should I do about this and that? That terrified me ‘cause I thought “I don’t know!” That scared me that people kind of saw me as somebody who had all the answers and had it all worked out. But that’s kind of the risk that you take when you put yourself out there. I was worried about being criticized and when that happened, I didn’t like it very much, but it’s helped me a little bit to get over that fear of worrying about whether you’ve offended people or upset people, or if people didn’t agree with what you said. When that happens, it’s not as bad as you think, because you realize that you can’t keep everybody all the time. Not everybody is going to agree with what you say. I guess the fact that you produced something that’s hit a nerve in any way means that you must be doing something right. It’s kind of taught me a little bit to be brave about what I put out there because the article that somebody criticized I was so careful about not upsetting people and wording it carefully and it still got criticized, so to hell with it then, I should just say what I want.
V: What would you say you learned about yourself after taking this leap?
L: I guess just learning that I can look after myself if I do stay calm and not let the fears take over. That I do have the ability to move in the direction that I want to go in and still make money if I need to if I find a part time job really quickly. If I manage to keep my head and keep those fears at bay then knowing that I do have the ability to keep going rather than just freaking out at the first sign of any trouble or things not going my way. Knowing that I do have the courage to do it as well because it can be quite scary sometimes especially when you feel like you’re the only one doing it. It’s knowing that I have that self-belief that you can make something happen when you want it. Those are the things that I really sort of discovered I am stronger than I thought in the sense that I can look after myself and can believe in myself enough to make things happen even if it’s not exactly as I planned it.
V: Are there any books that you’ve found have been helpful on this journey?
L: So many books over the last few years. I guess the ones that are the most relevant for me at the moment were Ken Robinson’s The Element. I think it’s the first book that I’ve read about the importance of loving what you do. He gives a lot of examples about well known people who just didn’t kind of fit into the normal education system and even the 9-5 and just made a living out of doing what they loved and the importance of doing that. I’ve just finished Barbara Winter’s Making a Living Without a Job. Those are the two that are the most helpful at the moment. Screw Work Let’s Play by John Williams, that’s another good one. Those are the ones that I’ve found helpful in terms of changing careers.
V: Any to help with fear?
L: What’s really helped me is this whole kind of, I hate saying this phrase, but the whole kind of spiritual journey that I’ve kind of been going on. Some of the books that have helped me, they’re not specifically about fear, but they’ve kind of helped me stop worrying and things like that. Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and A New Earth are not about fear specifically, but about the importance of staying in the present moment and that’s something that’s really helped me at the moment. At the moment, I’ve kind of got this bit of a YouTube addiction to Earl Purdy. He teaches from A Course in Miracles which I haven’t read yet. He talks a lot about fear and how when you’re listening to your ego, the fearful thoughts come in and you know that you’re not listening to God or the Universal or you’re not listening to your loving thoughts, you’re listening to your fearful thoughts. The ego is designed to really help you to stay safe. The mind’s goal is to keep you safe in terms of materials things, to protect you from the unknown. When you’re listening to your fearful thoughts, you know that’s when you’re listening to your ego; you’re not listening to the truth. You can acknowledge that those thoughts are there; you can just ignore them and go on with what you want to do.
V: What would you say to someone who was thinking about doing something they wanted to do, but they were hesitant because they were afraid?
L: Really I would say that if it’s something that you’re thinking about and it keeps coming up, then it’s worth going for it. Sometimes you can think about doing something in the spur of the moment and it may not be the right thing. For example, when I first thought about leaving my job, I was really kind of conscious of whether I was just reacting to a bad situation so I didn’t leave it for a long time and I think that’s helped me because if it stayed there for after a year, then it obviously means something. So the main thing is if you still keep thinking about it, it’s worth going for it and giving it a go. If you imagine the worst case scenario, it normally doesn’t happen and if it does, it’s normally not quite as bad as you think it’s going to be, at the time it’s just a thought that’s happening. The worst thing I could imagine happening was having to leave my flat and go back to live with my mum. And somebody said to me the other day, “If that happened, what would you do?” And I thought, “Well, it might be a good thing because then I wouldn’t have so many bills to pay.” Then she says, “Well then what would you do?” And I said, “I suppose that I would find a way to go and get out of that situation. I’ve got out of it before and then I would start again really.” If it happens then it’s not the end of the world.
V: Any final thoughts?
L: I’m looking at something I’ve written actually. Something I’ve written that I nicked from Screw Work Let’s Play is that if you have an idea or something that you want to do, then I would say that you’ve got to just allow yourself to imagine it first, to allow yourself to dream about the kind of live that you want. Don’t worry about how you think it’s possible just imagine yourself where you want to live or what job you want to do or who you want to spend time with and just kind of think about what you would have if anything is possible, allow yourself to dream about it. If you give yourself a few minutes or so every day to visualize what you want to achieve, the “how’s it gonna happen?” will become clearer to you as time goes on. I think so many people get hung up on, “Oh, I don’t know how I’m gonna do that. It’s not possible.” But if you just imagine that you can have it, kind of dream about it, the way that it will happen will become clearer to you.
So that’s Louise’s story, what did you think? Two things really spoke to me during out talk.
First, I love how she uses being mindful of the moment to help work through fearful feelings. It’s so easy to get carried away in fearful thoughts about the future that it’s helpful to be reminded that all we really have to focus on when we’re most afraid is the present moment and what the next step is.
Second, I love that she shared that she has had a meltdown (I thought it was just me!). She makes such a powerful insight about the power and clarity that often comes after you’ve had a meltdown. It makes me think of the word surrender. Sometimes it’s when you just let go of control and feel all those scary feelings that you can move forward with a new sense of direction and purpose.
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