Never let your fear decide your fate.
~ From “Kill Your Heroes” by AWOLNation
It's okay to be afraid. It's natural. But fear also holds us back at times when a bold move would serve us better. I love the above line from the AWOLNation song because it's a good reminder not to let our fears get in the way of what's important.
I’ve been trying to live by that philosophy for years, and while I do pretty well, I still have to fight the angst that often accompanies a new opportunity. In fact, I’ve decided that whenever I feel the fear, it’s a sign that I should probably do whatever it is that has me running the other way.
Okay, this doesn’t apply to things like surfing in a tsunami, diving off a bridge, or anything that usually starts with, “Hey, ya’ll, watch this.”
I’m talking about personal and professional risks where the reward is great but the fear is strong. Things that force me to stretch outside my comfort zone.
When Wiley offered me the opportunity to work on Scrivener For Dummies, I was scared witless. Could I really deliver a 400-page book in three months? S-T-R-E-T-C-H.
Turns out, yes. And, man, is that a boost to the self-esteem.
You know how easy it is to spiral downward. We turn down chances we really want because we’re afraid we’re not good enough, and then we hate ourselves for being cowards.
Well, you can spiral upward too. But it requires a risk.
My first one was Toastmasters. All through college, I didn’t give speeches or presentations in class, I merely survived them. Often with no memory of the event. After three years of Toastmasters and many years of teaching, I looked forward to speaking opportunities. Each one was another chance to prove to myself that I had mastered that fear.
Was I still nervous? Hell, yes. Still am.
But there’s nothing quite like the feeling of standing in front of the crowd, being fully in the moment, aware of where you are in your speech, aware of the individual faces and expressions of those before you, and knowing exactly what’s going on. You can liven things up, change the mood on a dime, speed up, slow down.
You are in control, not the fear.
After Toastmasters—and listening to lots of Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, and Franklin Covey—I made a habit of going after what I wanted. Maybe not as quickly as I’d like, but I did it.
Grad school. New career. Quitting my job to stay home. Becoming a writer. Blogging. Teaching classes. Saying yes to the book.
Next it’s delivering in-person workshops for writing groups (starting this weekend in San Jose, CA!), speaking at a regional conference, and my first national conference workshop appearance (RWA in Atlanta).
Who knows what’s after that?
Self-publishing? Rock climbing? Purple hair? (Okay, probably not purple hair.)
Whatever it is though, I’ll decide, not the fear.
What’s the one thing you’re afraid of that could change your life for the better if you did it? What’s holding you back?
By D Sharon Pruitt (CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)), via Wikimedia Commons
By bzo (http://flickr.com/photos/bzo/14417381/) CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons