You may be wondering which Harvard study I’ll be sourcing for this piece on overcoming fears. This time, we’ll reference no study at all. Shocking for this blog isn’t it! This subject is one in which I’m an absolute expert. I know it sounds a little sassy, but as Justin Timberlake sang “Now it might sound cocky, but is it really cocky if you know that it’s true.”
My friends and family know that I’m fearless and will risk my security to go after my dreams. And, it’s true. They’ve seen it time and again. For my first entrepreneurial venture, a matchmaking service for busy professionals, I jumped out of a great-paying job and started the business with just $3000 in my pocket. Luckily, I was able to grow the business fast because that business solved a pain point. Most people don’t want to live alone for the rest of their lives and would love to find their soulmates. I was able to sell the business after a year-and-a-half. Anyway, so as not to belabor the point — that is how all my ventures have been – all in!
It pains me to see people who feel stuck in jobs or circumstances that they hate or are bored with because they feel they have to endure it. It’s a self-imposed mind-prison. People pass on their dreams because of fear, many times feel it is too late to have a dream and even shut down that voice inside, forgetting how to dream altogether. Your inner callings are part of your authentic soul signature, a crucial part of living an alive, mysterious and gratifying adventure. That’s why I feel strongly compelled to share with you how I’m able to overcome my fears and go after the things I want and get them. It’s definitely not that I don’t feel the fear, I most certainly do. It’s not that I’m senseless, although it may look like it to an outsider at first. No, in fact I have a strong brain for logic and the big picture.
So without further ado, below I have compiled my top questions to ask yourself when you’d like to develop a fearlessness to go after your dreams:
1.) Does this idea excite me?
Here’s how I know if I have a calling that just can’t be ignored. The idea keeps coming up in my head. It may be one of those ideas that seem like a good daydream at first. Then when you think about going after if for real, your stomach starts to tickle with excitement or you may even get signs of fear, like sweaty palms. No worries! This is normal. Fear is a transient emotion, it will pass. Feel it, recognize it. Know that it is just self-preservation, which simply means you need to thoroughly investigate the idea. So, continue through this checklist – even if the idea seems a little scary or far-reaching.
2.) Will I feel regret, if I never go for it?
Life is short. If you are younger, trust me on this – it goes very fast! Do you only want to stick with the safe and boring or do you really want to live an adventure that you can call your own. When you go after a dream, life unfolds like a mystery. Every day you will meet something new, the unexpected – challenges and blocks in the road. Know that. That is part of the journey. Figuring it out and pushing through is where you’ll get your satisfaction, and yes even pride of accomplishment. Remember, any idea worth doing, won’t be a piece of cake – some are very hard to execute. It took Edison more than 1000 experiments to figure out how to light a light bulb. Can you imagine the elation of that victory? So, ask yourself, “At the end of my life, will I feel regret if I don’t pursue this?”
3.) Will I still be able to breathe in and breathe out at the end of the day if it fails?
The answer to this is almost always yes — that is, unless your dream involves free-soloing, base-jumping, slack-lining or other death-defying extreme sports or activities. Lucky for me, those types of dreams have never come to me. Most of mine are two-feet-on-the-ground sorts of adventures, nothing that plays with gravity or possible death scenarios. So, if it is only a loss of finances, ego or time, hey you’ll recover. In fact, hits to your ego will only make you stronger, more resilient and less likely to pander to it in the future. The ego is your biggest obstacle to living an authentic life. Long story short, if you still have your health at the end of the day and can breathe in and out – you will live to fight another day. If this is the case, the idea merits more investigation, continue down the list. Keep in mind, the arena is out in the world – go get mussed up a bit. It’s exhilarating. A dream will unfold in an infinite number of ways – just be ready to roll with it. Bob and juke man, you can do it! What else do you have to do with your time here on earth – watch T.V.?
4.) Do I have the skills in my wheelhouse or access to the resources to pull this off?
This is an important one, but not too terribly important. If you believe in your dream and can truly see yourself living it, you can acquire the skills, knowledge and resources as you move toward it. You know what they say, “If you wait to have enough money to have kids, you’ll never have kids,” etc. Don’t be afraid to go after something with a longer timeline. Think of the goal and reverse engineer what needs to happen and a plan. This way your brain will continually work on the plan and ways to assemble the skills and resources needed along the way.
5.) Do I have a brain that is just as good as any other?
Speaking of your brain, keep in mind that your brain size and weight has nothing to do with your mental capabilities. There are approximately 100 billion neurons in your brain, and that’s about the same as the number of stars in our galaxy. Everyone has the ability to ask and permeate the Supreme intelligence that created all that we know and see. Inventors like Steve Jobs, Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Ford, kept asking, kept looking for answers that would help them do what no one had done before. You can tap that infinite source of knowledge just as those before us that have invented all the marvelous devices of convenience that we have today. Where there is a will, there’s a way. Where there is a calling, there is access to infinite possibilities and knowledge.
6.) Do I want to move forward or stagnate in one place?
There’s not much need to elaborate here. When you are facing your fears keep in mind that if you do the same thing you have always done, you will get the same results you always have. If you are happy with your life just as it is, maybe stop here. But if this recurring vision keeps surfacing and you feel it can improve your life and others, embrace change, work down this list and dissolve those fears.
7.) How’s my faith?
I strongly believe that your thoughts and beliefs are your prayers and will absolutely manifest in some way in the world. So, if you believe you can’t, you probably can’t. If you believe you’ll fail, you’ll fail. Your power comes from your maker, which is capable of anything. If you can look out and see the stars, the mountain ranges, deer, ducks, millions of varieties of flora and fauna, the inventions that have come up just in your lifetime, and know that’s the kind of power that is behind you – you’ve got the goal bagged.
8.) Have I failed before? Did I bounce back? And, will I fail again?
The answer to all three of those questions is yes. You have failed before. You did bounce back. And, yes you will have failures again. So what!? In 1923, Babe Ruth broke the record for most home runs ever in a season. That same year he struck out more times than any other player in the game of Major League Baseball, to that date. The man was not afraid to strike out. Don’t be afraid to fail sometimes.
Losses can just be chalked up to gained knowledge (another way a light bulb won’t be lit).
Case in point, I started a retail store in my hometown. I knew it would be long hours, seven days a week in a confined space, but I thought “Hey, I can be happy anywhere.” Wrong. I hated it. It felt like prison to me. So I cut my losses first chance I got (with a new respect for retailers that do it well and love it). Think through things as best you can, but if you truly find you made a mistake, don’t be afraid to cut and run. Live and learn. That’s what we do, right? I learned from that that I can’t be pinned in too tightly. Flexibility and freedom have to be part of my visions.
9.) Have I thoroughly looked at all angles of the dream objectively?
So, that last one brings me easily to this point. Think your dream through thoroughly so you know the pros and cons before going in. This is a tricky one because this is where a lot of folks let fear talk them out of their dream. It’s just important to have a full understanding of what you are in for, so you can be sure it is compatible with your personality. For instance, with my matchmaking business I didn’t think through to just how many hours a day it would entail. Once in the business, I found that most people couldn’t come in to interview with me until after work or on the weekends. That made for some very long work days. We must think through the giddy excitement and initial fears to the day-to-day realities of what responsibilities are entailed in a dream. If we can accept those, it is move forward time.
Here’s another example of thinking through the realities of a soul calling. I wanted to meet the man of my dreams and wasn’t going to settle for anything less. As a former matchmaker, I knew this would be a numbers game. So, I gutted up, joined Match.com and dated like a maniac. Sometimes I had three meet-n-greets in a day – coffee at breakfast, lunch and a coffee or drink after work (always in a safe public place, of course). I knew that it would be a lot of work and take a lot of time. I knew I would meet many that were not good matches. And, I knew I’d get my ego bruised sometimes. But, now I have a great life with my soulmate and there is no doubt it was all worth it. I accepted the challenges as part of the journey and worth the goal.
10.) Do I have the work ethic, resourcefulness, and tenacity to pull this off?
For me, the answer to this is always yes. Be a bulldog. If you want something go after it and stay after it (unless, of course, you realize it was a mistake or see a better path).
11.) Can I see the challenges that arise as a puzzle?
When in the midst of moving toward your dream, there will be obstacles that come up that will make you feel fearful, doubting of yourself or uncomfortable. Over the years, I have developed a mentality of seeing any hindrance that comes up as part of the puzzle. I may feel the fear or disgruntled at first, but then go into puzzle-solving mode. If you think of your dream as a puzzle, it is even more gratifying when you see the pieces come together.
12.) Can I visualize how good the victory will feel?
Spend time thinking about your dream and how good it will feel to achieve it. The more vivid you can make the picture in your mind’s eye the more convinced you will become of its eventual realization and your fears will fade into the woodwork.
13.) Will this dream serve the greater good and not just me?
In the early days, I made business decisions on profit potential. My best advice here is to know who you are serving and why and how you are helping them. If you can answer these questions in your mind, you will be much happier in your day to day because you will know what kind of difference you are making. If a job or business is just picked for the money, you can end up feeling hollow and burned out. Know that you are making a difference and your happiness will naturally follow. How does this help you with your fear? When you conspire to help the world, the whole universe conspires to help you. Let that knowledge thoroughly absorb into your bones and confidence will replace your fear.
14.) Can I lose my ego to gain this dream?
There’s nothing better than losing ego so that you can live your authentic life and dream. Fears are ego-based (well, unless they are truly life-threatening activities like those mentioned earlier – free-soloing, etc. – and even those fears can me tamed). Anything worth doing, is worth taking a hit to the ego every once in a while.
It took Stevie Ray Vaughn years and years to get signed to a record label, even though he was extremely talented and had a sound like no other. He was tenacious and just kept at it. His manager said he and his band always did what was asked (whether it was long fan signings after a concert or the like), no matter how tired they were. At almost 30 years old, he finally did get signed by Epic Records, and produced some of the best blues albums of all time before his untimely death (See, life can be short – you never know). He’s now thought of as one of the greatest Blues guitarists in history.
15.) After looking at all angles does this vision still excite me?
Okay, you’ve looked objectively at your dream or goal, as well as your fear. You know that fear is not real. So, the only question to ask yourself now is ‘Do I still feel excited about the possibility?’ If the answer is yes, please go for it. Look at it as your special adventure and personal life puzzle and enjoy! Blessings!