Doing the thing you fear the most
For a couple of years, I’ve been routinely asking myself the question: What am I most afraid of right now, that’s holding me back?
Then when I find out, I’ll set myself up to do it by scheduling a workshop, for example.
That strategy has led to a complete change in my career, from being a freelance software developer to being a personal/spiritual development and small business teacher, running a couple of wonderful Mastermind and other groups, doing fun projects with the top names in Denmark, owning my own software as a service that I love working on, moving from Denmark to my beloved US, making serious changes to some key relationships, which in turn have improved my relationship with my kids (though painfully, painfully long-distance now), going skydiving, flying a small airplane, and on and on. It’s a strategy I’d definitely recommend.
Today, though, Seth Godin, whom I admire, said that if you wait till fear subsides, then you’ll miss the boat. Someone else will have already run with your idea.
Which does happen for sure.
But what happens to me when I read it is that this old voice in my head goes off again:
“Shit, I’m not going up against my fears enough, I’m not doing it fast enough, I’m going to miss out, to lose, I’m not going to make it.”
And when that voice takes control of me, it’s not fun being me.
Thankfully, I’m getting better and better at recognizing it and stopping it, but it still sneaks up on me from time to time. Like today.
“But what if it’s right? What if there is something I’m afraid of that I should go out and do, and I’m not seeing it, and I’m not doing it? What then?”
Well, in fact, I can absolutely guarantee you that it is indeed right.
There is something I’m scared of (buried below my level of consciousness, so I’m not aware of it). And if I weren’t scared of it, or rather, if I were aware of my fear of it so I could make a conscious choice about it, then I’d probably go out and do that thing right now. And I’d be better off for it.
This statement is and always will be true, all the time, non-stop, till you die.
But listening to and believing that voice in my head is not going to help me one iota.
So I’ve devised a test to help me make sense of situations like this:
IF listening to that voice makes you tighten up, tense, stress, or close your heart, DO NOT LISTEN. It is NOT helping you get where you want to go.
IF listening to the voice makes your heart soften, makes your shoulders drop, makes your tensions release, THEN it’s got a message worth listening to.
The thing is, the fears that really hold you back are the ones that you’re not even aware of. But when you tense up, you have less access to your unconscious, not more. In fact, you have less resources overall, not more.
A softening of your heart, which allows you to see what’s beneath the level of your consciousness, is always the answer.
In the end, that voice in my head represents just another fear that I need to challenge: The fear of not challenging my fears enough. And underneath that: The fear of not “making it”.
That’s the real fear holding me back.