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  • Pamela Carey

Overcome Fear and Go for What You Truly Want

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

What is it that you are afraid of?


And no not spiders or the dentist.


But what is something you have been afraid to do? Something that your life may be better on the other side of, but you haven’t yet taken the plunge.


Maybe it’s to tell someone how you feel. Or to start a creative project. To launch a

business. To run that race. Or make a difficult change you’ve been putting off. Or step

up at work or school into a new role.


You got your specific area you want more courage in your head?

Good.


In this article we are going to dive into how to say YES to the challenges of life instead

of shying away from them.


The solution is in the problem.


The reason you are afraid of doing the thing is because you are attached to a certain

outcome, expectation, or need on the other side of that leap.


A therapist I was working with said, “Why do you say I love you to someone? Is it to

hear it back? Or is it to express how you feel?”


Woah. I had to sit with that.


If someone is afraid to say I love you, it is because it is not about the expression of that

love but if they will be loved back. What if we lived life more in favor of what we PUT

OUT, give, express, actions we take? And judged our experience less by the immediate

outcomes. Isn’t that a more courageous, full, and fulfilling way to live? I get that is easier

said than done, so stay with me.


She further asked me “Why do you write a book? Is it for money and applause? Or is it

for the act of creation and putting it out there and people can react how they will?”


At the time I was writing my first book, and I told my therapist in response to her

question, it was to finish it and express the message in it. Even if it helps just one

person’s life improve it will feel worth it.


Now while that had truth, deep down, I think I was also afraid of hearing crickets upon

launch. That I would work so hard, and it could come out and nobody would care. Part

of me was attached to a certain OUTCOME and that is where the fear was coming from.


That book did eventually come out, but in order to finish it, I had to detach more from

the outcome and care less about its reception. In doing that and in taking that plunge, it

helped me detach from the outcome in other areas of life such as acting that required

effort without guarantees. I gained confidence in myself to be able to jump and accept

the consequences; that I could be strong enough to handle myself no matter the

outcome. This story has a nice pretty bow on it, but you are reading about it in a few

minutes. In reality, it took years. My goal in this post is help you shorten the time

between thinking about what you want (without acting) and the moment when you are

done hesitating and going for it.


With the example you thought of in the beginning – what is the thing you want to do

and what is the outcome you are attached to?


You have a way you hope this will turn out. What are you afraid will happen if it doesn’t

turn out how you’d like? Write this down or at least pause reading for 30 seconds and

think of your fears around this endeavor.


Now if you dig deeper – I bet those fears are coming up empty handed.


What will happen if I try and fail?


Ok what will happen after that….


Ask that question to yourself a few times. “What will happen if I try developing that

business in my days after work at my 9-5 and it doesn’t go anywhere?”


“I will be embarrassed,

I will have wasted time trying something,

I will have put in a lot of work that didn’t pay off,

My friends or family will say I told you so or judge me.”


Ok, then what?


“...I will feel bad?”


Is that it? You just had to sit with some uncomfortable emotions, and you learned? You

tried something that you were always wondering about? You were brave and maybe

some people didn’t understand you, that is the worst thing?


(By the way that is because we are talking about relatively calculated risks here NOT

putting all your money on the line like quitting your day job – there is always a way to

take more measured risks in the beginning.)


You cannot control how people will react or how successful a risk will be. And deep

down you know that. This lack of control of what will happen on the other side of taking

a plunge is what holds us back.


Now you may know that. You may be thinking “Of course I don’t know what will happen,

and of course that is what I am afraid of! Not knowing what will happen!”


But if we take it a step further. What is the alternative? Waiting until you can control

what will happen? By planning, prepping, researching, stalling, getting more advice first,

deliberating while sitting on the fence until everything is “just so?”



You will NEVER be able to control the outcome.


So, the solution is to focus SOLEY on your actions and better reasons for those actions.


“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is

more important than fear.” – FDR


Putting yourself out there is scary. All this talk about going for it anyway is not to be trite

or simplistic. You have likely heard about how being not accepted by the tribe meant a

lack of survival for a human, for hundreds of thousands of years. (Or more like millions

of years if you want to count our similar relatives.) While now we live in a different time

and our survival does not depend on acceptance by the tribe (aka everyone approving

of you and liking you) it is still scary and that is still ingrained in us psychologically. Of

course, there are additional risks too to endeavors beyond reputation such as energetic,

financial, time, and more – you are putting yourself on the line when you take a chance.


An alternative is to ACCEPT that it’s scary.


ACT therapy (acceptance and commitment therapy) with a lot of the groundwork

developed by Steven C. Hayes * is a form of therapy rooted in mindfulness and action.

In some of the main principles of ACT therapy ** one accepts rather than rejects how

they feel. For instance: “I am nervous” or “I am scared.” And then we realize these

feelings are normal but they do not need to stop us from what we want to do. Hence

accept and still commit – accept how you are feeling and still commit to action. Rather than not admitting how we feel or rejecting our feelings in an attempt to bypass them

(which by the way doesn’t generally work in the long run), you acknowledge the fear

AND choose to move forward regardless of that fear.


An example could be a musician before a show realizing “Yes, I am nervous. And I will

accept that part of me and acknowledge it. And because of my values and what is

important to me, I will perform anyway and do my best.” This is a form of self-

acceptance and reduces the fear in the future because you realized, it was ok last time.

“I ended up ok.” Even if it didn’t go perfectly you took the ACTION. That is what we are

judging as your performance – not the outcome but did you take the right action. Did

you do the thing you know you needed to do.


We can make the stakes worth it when taking the leap is aligned with our values. The

word value has to do with what you care about but also economics – how much

marginal benefit relative to cost – what is it WORTH to you? Is the risk worth it? For

instance if you want to start a fundraiser for a cause you care deeply about, it is worth it

for you to take the risk of starting something because in your core the cause matters

enough. Getting sober and telling people about it – making that leap is worth it if you

connect with a reason deeply enough. Like getting sober for everyone you love, and

your future self, or your health and to live a long life, and the ability to be present versus

mentally checked out, not fully alive.


It is natural to want to shy away from uncomfortable situations, but this does not always

serve us – if we can ACCEPT that things are uncomfortable and do them anyway - This

is INCREDIBLY simple but also INCREDIBLY powerful. When we shy away from

risks the bubble of what we perceive we can do gets smaller. When we do the

things that matter to us despite how we are feeling, the opposite happens, the

bubble of what we believe we are able to do gets larger and larger. This is not

ignoring your feelings. It is saying simply, “Yes I am tired, yes, I am anxious, but I am

going to take the next right small step anyway towards what aligns with my values and I

will be there for myself regardless of the outcome. I will not abandon myself or have

self-hate if it doesn’t go well or even if I back out and I can’t today. I will love myself no

matter what. But the step can be SO small.” The action can be the smallest thing that

moves you closer to your aim. So, if you can, go for it.


Taking these actions and showing up this way is hard but it is what makes life worth

living


If someone has never faced rejection or failure that is not a testament to perfection.

That is a testament to not putting themselves out there enough into challenging

situations.


The solution to all of this is to take the ride.


To say I love you not for the purpose of hearing it back, but to love. To write the book not

worried about the reception, but to write. To step on stage, to make the change,

because in your heart you know you must – to leap not with the expectation that you will

land on a bed of roses every time. And to be curious what is on the other side or what it

feels like in midair. To feel the wind on your face.


The therapist I mentioned in the beginning of the video also taught me that a solution to

fear and perfectionism is not bravery. But wonder.



I wonder what will happen if ______?


I wonder what will happen if go to the audition and make a bold choice. If I throw my hat

in the ring for this leadership role. If I apply to the job I don’t know if I can get or attempt

to learn that new skill, I wonder what will happen if, I _______and fill in your example

from the beginning.


In Brene Brown’s words: “To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your

whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t

come with guarantees…”


Wow. Isn’t that a good thing? How would you like it if every movie you ever watched

was spoiled and you knew the ending from the start?


How you would you feel if that movie or that story was your life? You knew how every

struggle was resolved?


It would be boring.


You don’t want to know. You want to be on an adventure.


You want to wonder how things will turn out when you leap.


Turn your fear into curiosity.


We hear about focusing on the process, the act of creation, the work, not the destination

or the outcome. What if we used this mindset not only to help us in the moment to keep

going (how it is often used), BUT also to have the courage to start. The people standing

at the starting line stalling are not afraid they may fall. They are afraid of, “What if I run

the race and I lose – what if I put in all this effort and it will be for nothing.”


It will not be for nothing. It is to be the kind of person who runs the race. What is the

alternative? Watching from the sidelines? That is fine for some parts of life. But for

what matters to you, for what in your heart you know you need to do – be the kind

of person who runs the race.


These strategies:

- Aligning with values and what is important to you

- Applying the acceptance and commitment therapy framework

- Wonder instead of perfectionism

- Focusing more on input, and less on output


Take “what if I am afraid or what if it doesn’t go well” OUT of the equation. Because you

are accepting you may be afraid and can act anyway in accordance with what matters

to you. AND things don’t have to go how you want them to go for them to be worthwhile.


You will learn something. You will develop the muscle of bravery, you will be on an

adventure, you will gain self-respect, and you will leap again.


What will lie on the other side?


Only those willing to venture will know.


Next up – how to choose what that first step should be and how to actually take that

next small step!



Here is a video that is on a similar topic. It is not the same wording or examples as above, so it could be a good companion to this post.


 

* Although other people have done similar practices, he helped form a unified theory

around the subject.

** There are other principles and tactics within this style of therapy. We are just covering

a couple of them here.

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