3 fears that are de-railing the life you really want
Fear and excitement are very close – you could say they are on a continuum. When does fear stop you in your tracks while excitement could pull you forward to an experience that will stretch and fulfill you?
Sometimes the solution lies in bringing your goal into clearer and more resonant focus, ensuring that it is magnetic and authentic enough to be worth the risks involved in achieving it.
At other times, your breakthrough will come from taking a reality check – by asking ‘is that a legitimate fear or is it an excuse?’
Change is challenging. In order to create new ways of living or working we will have to face our fears head on. The 3 tactics in this article will enable you to carry on despite your fears.
As Brené Brown says in her Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted:
We are the authors of our lives.
We write our own daring endings.
But first, we need to understand what’s really happening in that fear and excuse cycle.
Then we can dare ourselves!
1. Excuses are fears in disguise
Which fears are you not facing by making those excuses?
When we’re afraid of doing something, the chances are we’ll put it off. We also make up stories for ourselves about why we’re doing this. Taking an important step is frightening – that’s natural – but separating out what’s fact and what’s fiction will give you the power to stop making excuses and take well-informed action.
Are you making excuses for not taking an important decision? Perhaps you’re placing the responsibility on someone else’s shoulders, imagining someone or some thing is stopping you.
Do any of these sound familiar:
I’m not ready
I’m too old
I’ve only ever worked in this industry, I’m not employable any more
I don’t have the money / the time / the information I need to …….
I don’t have anyone to guide me
They haven’t explained my options
As Pamela Mitchell, founder of The Reinvention institute counters,
‘Of all these excuses, is there one that could not be overcome?’
I wholeheartedly agree when she says our constant companion on the journey to a new way of living or working is fear.
It’s not a matter of getting ‘over’ fears. This is impossible because they’re a fact of life and part of our biological makeup. But what we can do, is to learn to distinguish fears that are genuine (based on evidence) from those that are ‘false alarms’. And the latter will disguise themselves as excuses not to take action.
TACTIC 1: Fact or fiction?
My question to you is: what is stopping you from getting where you want to be?
When you write that obstacle down and look at it objectively, is it truly something which can’t be overcome?
If you can see that there is a solution (even if you don’t have it yet) you can stop making excuses and start working towards it. That might involve asking for help, finding some answers, but both will be based in reality, NOT the excuse-laden landscape of the inside of your head.
You will have freed yourself from a lazy excuse and named the real problem – and once you’ve called it out, you have the upper hand!
2. Fears of disaster
This is the familiar landscape of the great what if.
This kind of catastrophic thinking is based on the assumption that if you pursue a bold idea, attempt to build the life you really want, or shift career, something unmentionable will happen to you.
We’re talking potential outcomes here. Your scary scenario isn’t based on anything concrete, no hard evidence, but that won’t stop your mind from racing through a wide range of disaster movie scenes:
I’ll be poor
People will laugh at me
I won’t have any friends
No one will buy my product
I’ll look stupid
All of these potential futures can flash through your conscious mind in the blink of an eye – and they will keep you stuck. I’ve experienced them all and sometimes they’ve held me up – occasionally for a long time.
TACTIC 2: Finish the thought
But I’ve learnt the surefire way to outsmart this particular type of excuse is to just finish the thought. Get the specific catastrophe out in the open and you can see it for what it is – a fear of the unknown disguised as a catastrophe.
Write it down then ask:
What’s the worst that could happen? Write that down
Then what would you do? Write that down
Then what? Write down other ways you could tackle the new situation
Will your life come to an end?
When the perceived catastrophe is exposed for what it is, you can then see what is really holding you up. And when you know that, you can do something about it. Because what you do know (because you have the evidence) is that when one thing happens, you find a way over, under, around or through it.
You deal with it.
3. Fears of not being enough
How’s your imposter syndrome these days?
When you deny your true abilities and find yourself saying - I’m not qualified / experienced / clever / wise enough to …. (insert your heart’s desire) … you are in the land of false claims. And the ruler of this land is your inner critic.
The first thing you need to know about your inner critic is that what he or she is telling you is not true. What you’re hearing (usually in the voice of a stern parent, teacher or other authority figure) is a bold statement masquerading as a truth. If you stop to consider it clearly, there is no evidence at all for what it’s telling you.
The best way to test this is to get it out of your head and onto paper – write it down then ask: where is the proof for this?
No, there is none.
This action has the added advantage of putting a distance between that voice and you. You can now choose to replace the lie with your own truth, which might be ‘I am qualified because…’ and provide some solid evidence. And remember it need not always be a paper qualification – achieving results for yourself or others can also qualify you in certain situations. Context is everything, so provide some.
TACTIC 3: Taming your Gremlin
Psychologists might refer to these interior voices as your inner critics, but Rick Carson calls them your gremlins. In his best-selling book ‘How to Tame Your Gremlin’ he claims that one of the most powerful tools in your gremlin-taming armoury is ‘simply noticing’. This is step one.
And for me, this was the most difficult because the gremlin voice had been part of my inner landscape for most of my adult life. Sometimes I would feel the gremlin impact more as a downward shift in mood, or a jolt from sunny weather to overcast. So just separating out the actual words from the mood music of your gremlin is an important step.
Choosing how to respond is step 2 – and here, Carson encourages experimentation and playfulness. If you grapple with that gremlin, the chances are they’ll get the upper hand. Using the tactic I suggest at the beginning of this section to create space and provide a different story is a more productive way of responding than repressing feelings of inadequacy or getting into a grim wrestling match.
Fill in the gap left by the exposed lie (you are not x enough) with something you like about yourself and that is relevant to the lie. It might be ‘I’m a great listener – remember what Kate said about her session last week’. Turn up the volume on the positive and evidence-based story and reduce the volume on your gremlin’s chatter. Your hand is on the volume control of each. Use it wisely!
As Carson would say, ‘You’re taming your gremlin.’
I’m not saying it’s easy. And yes, it’s a life’s work. But by waking up to the tricks our inner critics can play on us, we are clearing the ground.
And my final question, with full permission to dream big:
What would your life look like if you gave up excuses, looked your fears full in the face and started creating the life you’re craving?
You don’t have to go it alone either. Which of your friends do you trust with this sensitive information? Who will join you on this journey? And remember, that he or she will hear your gremlin loud and clear, so let them in on the secret. Chances are, they are involved in the same dimly-perceived battle. You could even be gremlin buddies!
Can I help?
And if you’d like an objective and supportive hand in facing your fears, getting clear on the life you really want and then building it, just drop me a message here. No matter which career change service my clients choose, there will always be an element of mindset work involved in achieving the shift they’re looking for. This is a core part of having a coach alongside you - we’re trained to call out inner critics and help you manage them.
I love working with brave hearts who are ready to find out what they can really do when they discover their own strength!