I stood frozen, watching the car speed toward me. It was a deer-in-the-headlights moment: I knew I had to get out of the way, but there I stood, rooted to the spot as the car got closer.
“Run! Go to the outside of the curve!” a friend yelled.
The outside was closer, but several cars had already spun out on that curve. If this driver lost control, the car would go right where I was, and there was a fence. I would have nowhere to go, no way to escape.
The inside of the curve was safer, but farther. Would I have time to make it that far?
I stood paralyzed, undecided. Running out of time.
Obey advice I disagreed with? Or disobey someone I respected and bet it all on my own judgment?
As the moment stretched out, it felt like my mind was empty, but on another level, thoughts were flashing by:
- My mom would kill me if she knew I was doing this.
- I don’t want to die.
- Now maybe I won’t have to go to work on Monday.
At the last split second, I snapped out of my trance and ran like hell for the inside of the curve.
I made it. But for the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t clear my mind from the image of that car speeding toward me as I stood immobile in its path.
Almost getting run over was scary enough, but what bothered me most was my contribution to the danger. Why had I stood there all that time in the path of the car? Did I secretly want to get hit?
The idea that I couldn’t trust myself with my own safety scared me. And then there was that out-of-place thought about not having to go to work on Monday. Did I really just put my life at risk as a way to ditch work?
As I replayed the scene over and over in my mind, trying to make sense of it, I couldn’t help thinking about my life. What if I really had been hit and killed in that moment? What if that had been the end?
It made me think about what I was doing with my life, how I was spending my time, what was important to me and what wasn’t. I realized that almost nothing I was doing mattered to me at all. I wasn’t sure what to do instead, but one thing I knew for sure: there was no way I was going to keep wasting my life at that job. I would have quit immediately if I had known what to replace it with, but I didn’t, and I still needed money to live on.
Clearly, though, something had to change. I couldn’t just go back to work Monday morning and pretend nothing had happened.
I ended up compromising: I cut back to part time. I worked out a deal where I worked noon to 6 pm most days, with one normal full-time day per week. That kept me at 80% of full-time, which meant I could keep all of my benefits. I liked that, but what I liked even better was that suddenly, four mornings a week belonged to me. I felt like I bought my life back.
Meanwhile, I made a deal with myself: when I figured out what I wanted to do instead, I would go and do it.
I think most of us go through periods of confusion or inertia, where we don’t know what to do or can’t seem to get unstuck. It took me awhile to figure out what I really wanted to do, and then some more time to start believing I could actually make a living at it. (Let’s face it: sometimes I’m still not sure of that.)
For me, the first step in changing my life had to be the commitment to myself. I had spent most of my life doing what I thought others wanted from me or what I thought I should do. Get good grades. Give the “right” answers. Stay in the bad marriage–you made a vow! Find a way to be positive about your job–don’t waste that education!
Deciding to listen to myself, really pay attention to what I wanted, and then act on it… that was a major reversal for me. Once I committed to it and started trusting myself, I started feeling a pull toward writing, toward blogging, toward online business. As I obeyed the pull, it got stronger and led me deeper into projects that would become successes. My dreams and desires came into sharper focus, and I pursued them.
It wasn’t just that I wanted to pursue them, although I did, very much. It was also that I had realized I was a force to be reckoned with.
If my inner self was so committed to waking me up that she would paralyze me on the race course until I chose myself over all else–if she was willing to risk death to impart this message to me–who knew what else she might be capable of? If I didn’t harness that life force to power my dreams, it was clear she would stop at nothing to get my attention, and next time, the ending might not be so pretty. But with her on my side, what could stand in my way?
After a lifetime of feeling weak and powerless, I found a dragon inside myself: elegant, strong beyond measure, and ready to breathe mythical fire into everything I created. So I started feeding it.
Happily ever after?
At this the point in the story, most people assume the fear goes away, and suddenly you can do whatever you want, magically. Success becomes effortless, everything you touch turns to gold, and you live happily ever after.
You need to know: that’s pure bullshit. Nearly everything I’ve done in pursuit of my dreams has scared the crap out of me.
- I wrote a book. I was terrified that people would hate it and say horrible things about me. I released it anyway.
- I developed a coaching package. I was petrified that nobody would want it. I offered it anyway.
- I created a workshop. I had nightmares that it wouldn’t help anybody and I’d have to send refunds to all the participants. I ran it anyway.
- I saw the chance to quit my job and work for myself. I was haunted by visions of myself and my cat, homeless and destitute. I made the leap anyway.
I did interview calls, constantly in fear that I’d forget how to talk and humiliate myself. I introduced myself to big names, expecting to be scorned. I asked for help over and over, each time with visions of outraged rejection. Whether I got what I wanted or not, it was always worth facing the fear.
Fear doesn’t go away. From big to small, most anything worth doing involves fear. The only way to avoid it is by not living. But you can learn to overcome fear… to work with it, handle it, use it.
Are you following your dreams?
Just like me, standing on the track with the car speeding toward me, you have a choice. You will not live forever. What do you want your life to be? What do you want to remember yourself for? If today was your last day, would you die satisfied that you had given life your best?
Fear is what holds us back… if we let it. Don’t let it keep you from your dreams.
If you need help transcending fear, I’ve built a 12-module self-study workshop called Beyond Fear. It will show you how to master your fears so you can do what you want to do. Click here to learn more.
Don’t put this off!
It’s time to stop letting fear hold you back. You can feel relaxed and calm in the face of strife. You can confidently be yourself, overcome procrastination and overwhelm, and accomplish what you want. You can be liberated from your fears and follow your dreams.
Now is the time to take the first step.
If you want to master fear, click the button below.
I can’t wait to see you on the other side.