- Fear is thinking what I’m doing doesn’t matter, faith is me believing it matters and doing it.
- Fear is believing no one cares, faith is believing that at least one person does.
- Fear is believing that I don’t make a difference, faith is believing that at least one person is getting something from my writing.
- Fear is not publishing my new book because what if it isn’t good enough & people don’t like it, faith is publishing it anyway.
- Fear is believing there won’t be enough for me, faith is believing in abundance & enough for everybody including me.
- Fear is not trying new things because what if people don’t like them, faith is doing new things because I like them.
- Fear is not following the purpose of my life, faith is writing every day.
- Fear is rejection, faith is putting myself out in the world.
- Fear is the snarky question: Just who do you think you are?, faith is the quiet answer: a writer & an artist.
- Fear is backing down and staying in the shadows, faith is rising up and shining my light.
- Fear is thinking it’s a stupid idea, faith is believing it’s worth trying.
- Fear is failing & allowing that voice: I told you so, faith is picking myself back up and trying again.
- Fear is believing in failure, faith is believing in lessons learned.
- Fear is not saying what I need to say, faith is speaking the truth.
- Fear is being given a gift/talent & not using it, faith is operating in my gifts/talents every day.
- Fear is worrying about what everyone else is doing, faith is being concerned only with what I’m doing.
- Fear is writing for other people, faith is writing for myself.
- Fear is believing it’s too late, faith is believing my time is coming.
- Fear is trying to rush & push things through, faith is trusting the process.
- Fear is knowing the right next thing to do & not doing it, faith is knowing the right next thing to do & doing it.
- Fear says don’t share something so personal because people will think badly of you, faith says be authentic because someone somewhere probably needs to hear it.
Have you made your Life List yet?
“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet
Fear’s a tough one.
The biggest regrets in my life come from when I chose fear (& backed down) instead of choosing faith (& moving forward). I don’t think fear ever goes away. Sometimes it’s not as strong (just nervous) & sometimes it’s overwhelming (sheer terror). But I think whenever you get out of your comfort zone, fear crops up.
Faith is walking through fear, baby steps and holding your breath if you have to, but walking and moving forward nonetheless.
I had a high-school teacher who told the class that we should aggressively pursue things that scare us. I was a teenager at the time. I thought he was nuts. Why scare myself unnecessarily? Turns out, he was right. Want to watch yourself grow by leaps and bounds? Face your fears with beauty and courage, keep moving through them then conquer them, & you’ll see just how capable and strong you really are.
“And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke
WHAT WILL YOU RESOLVE?
So here’s my New Year’s resolution, the only one I’m going to make: This coming year, the one that’s new and untouched and full of things that have never been, I’m going to keep moving forward, I’m going to choose faith over fear every single time, I’m going to show myself just how much beauty and courage I truly have.
I hope you’ll do the same.
What are you most afraid of? And will you resolve (read: promise) to do it this new year? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
“Security does not exist in nature nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” ~ Helen Keller
One of the best self-help/motivational books I ever read was If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat by John Ortberg. It’s a religious book. It has to do with a horrific storm at sea and Jesus walking on water. It tells the story of the disciples hanging out terrified for a while in the boat until Peter steps out in faith. Whether you’re religious or not, believe in that story or not, the fact remains that if you want miraculous, heart-pounding things to occur in your life, you’re gonna have to step out of your comfortable, safe boat and into the churning waters without a guarantee of what the outcome will be.
I’ve said this before in this blog & here I’m saying it again: That’s where people get stuck. They like to dream. They like to think about goals to achieve someday, which is some nebulous, undefined time in the future. They feel a calling in their lives & they ignore it or worse, flat out say no. They have talents & gifts that they keep hidden. They like to stay in the background & sometimes gripe about why their lives aren’t satisfying, exciting, what they want them to be. Why? Because it’s safer that way. There’s no risk involved. But there’s never really a sure thing, is there? You could do all the right things and still get in a car accident that paralyzes you. You could be the best parent in the world & still your kid gets tangled up in the wrong crowd and hooked on drugs. You could pay all your bills on time and have a fabulous credit rating & still get cancer.
I DON’T LIKE RISK
Look, I’m not a fan of risk either. I never have been. Part of it is my personality. Part of it is my upbringing. Either way, I tend to order the same thing at restaurants. I like to vacation in the same spot every year. My hairstyle hasn’t changed in probably more than 5 years. I’m a fan of safe & steady. Really, I am. But there also came a time in my life when I just couldn’t live with myself anymore. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror & flat out ignore what my heart was telling me. I’ve wanted to be a writer, specifically a novelist, since I was 5 years old. No joke. Five years old. And I wasn’t doing it. I was doing things around it (writing news articles, feature pieces, press releases, notes & short stories in my journal) but I wasn’t writing novels.
So what was the problem? Answer, short and simple: I was afraid. If you wanna find out what your particular boat is, Ortberg says, then ask yourself what you’re most afraid of, especially when you imagine yourself having to let it go.
The biggest, number one fear was money. For me, it’s always been that. Where was the money coming from? Would there be enough? How am I going to support myself? That comes from my mother, God love her, growing up in poverty, her fears passed down. But the good thing that came out of my upbringing is that, for the most part, I tend to be a low-maintenance kind of gal. There’s almost nothing better to me than shopping the clearance rack at Macy’s and getting a pair of $80 Tommy Hilfiger jeans for $5.49 (after coupons, of course ~ true story!). Am I still scared about not having enough? Yes, but it’s less & keeps fading as time passes. What I’ve learned through all these years is that between bargain shopping, coupons, & not buying junk I don’t need, the money has always been there.
I thought I was afraid to leave my career because of the steady paycheck & the medical benefits. That was part of it, sure. But also, I realized later, I was afraid to leave because I was afraid of other people’s perceptions of me (that’s a whole other blog post) ~ what would they think of me quitting a decent-paying job to go be an artist, a broke & starving artist, which sadly is what I’d come to believe about making art. What I also came to understand after I left my full-time employment was that it had been a convenient excuse, a kind of crutch I guess, a way to wiggle out of what my heart was saying ~ no, I can’t go be a novelist because I have a career, doncha know? I’ve also come to understand that satisfying your soul & being able to look at yourself in the mirror is more important than your bank balance.
When I left my full-time job, I had to rely more on my husband’s salary ~ very tough on me because I’d lived alone for a long time before I met him and so I was used to taking care of myself. Having mostly only his income to live off of made me feel less independent & more like a mooch. It’s been years now & sometimes I work 16-hour days (but only get paid for a fraction of those hours) & I still feel like that. But the upside is I’ve gotten (& still get) to experience somebody loving me enough to want me to succeed & being willing to help me however he can. I tear up a bit writing that because how often do you truly get to experience that level of caring and nurturing? How often do you let yourself experience it?
I moved to Chicago to follow my dream. It was a new place. A BIG city for somebody coming from a small town. I didn’t know a single person except for my husband. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know anything about the area, the people, what to expect. And I hate change. Hate it. Sorry to say, I’m not a fan of adventure either. See my I don’t like risk paragraph above. But I packed all my stuff in a little U-Haul & moved. It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life. Not only graduate school but also city living (read: anonymity) and meeting new friends and realizing that despite all my fears about money, there was always enough. There just was. Some of my best friends still live in Chicago, people I can call at 2 a.m. & who have my back no matter what. Now, Chicago feels like home to me & some days I find myself homesick to return there. I love that city & I go back every chance I get.
AND THE POINT IS . . .
Take it from me, living based on your fears is not living. A lot of times, especially with new stuff, I’m still scared. But I keep moving forward despite it. Just hold my breath & go. If you want your life to be different, be what you want it to be, you have to make a change. Nobody will be at the end of your life handing out gold stars or blue ribbons because you played it safe rather than feeling fully alive. If you truly want to feel that exhilarating rush as you take a risk & trust the universe to catch you, then you have to take that first step. As Ortberg says, you’ve got to get out of the boat.
What about you? Have you stepped out in faith? If not, what’s holding you back? Please feel free to share your thoughts & experiences in the comment box below.
Well, last week’s post got a lot of hits so I figured it’s probably a topic that people struggle with or at least are interested in. This post expounds on what I learned during EntreLeadership, not just for writers but also for anybody wanting to overcome their fear & pursue their dream.
For starters, Dave Ramsey said that the number one reason people don’t follow their dreams is fear. He, too, was terrified in his life (a story he told: he was in bankruptcy, with a wife, marriage on the rocks, 4 kids, mortgage they couldn’t pay, being sued) but he kept moving forward.
People are looking for a risk-free environment. They come to seminars and want someone to take the fear from them. They want the risk to be gone. I know because that’s why I wound up at Dave’s event. In fact, 3 out of the 4 people at my table that day were there because they were afraid to follow their dreams (the last guy was there because he “just liked Dave Ramsey”). I wanted someone to make it easier. I wanted reassurance that it would all work out fine. When there’s no risk, you might say, well then I’ll follow my dream. That, the no-risk part, Dave said, is never going to happen.
What you have to do instead is keep moving forward. What I mean by that is to take the next step in the direction of your dream, then the next, then the next. It doesn’t matter how big the steps are. The more terrified you are, the smaller you probably ought to make them in the beginning (but not forever). The point is that you have to move—and keep moving—through the fear.
When you stay stagnant, motionless, your thoughts get the better of you: I can’t, I won’t, I’ll fail, it’s too hard. And so you back off. You lower your expectations. Maybe you stop altogether. But when you keep moving, keep making goals for yourself and then reach them, there’s a little piece of strength added to your plate and a little piece of fear taken away.
HOW THIS LOOKS IN REAL LIFE:
- I wanted to make my novel, Small as a Mustard Seed, available as an eBook & I had a shoe-string budget, which meant I had to do most everything myself.
- I broke it down into tiny do-able steps (redo my website, start a blog, make a Facebook fan page, get a Twitter account & learn how to use it, do the cover, format the book, etc) that I did one at a time.
- Was I scared? Absolutely. At every step I felt out of my comfort zone: who am I kidding, I don’t know what I’m doing, what the #$@#! did I get myself into, why am I doing this.
- But I kept going. Sometimes, I took a day in-between decisions to take a breath, but I knew that I wouldn’t give myself more than a day off, that I would keep going forward.
- I set an end date, May 29, 2011, and promised myself I’d have it done by that day.
- I, who knew nothing about HTML, CSS, jQuery, or any kind of web-design language, cruised through forums & learned & made a website myself (www.shellijohnson.com) that I think turned out pretty good.
- I took an online class and learned Facebook & Twitter (& am still learning).
- I learned about royalty-free vs. rights-managed images & licensing agreements for cover photos.
- I took another online class when the formatting of my novel into an eBook fell to pieces a week before the book was due.
- I dealt with problems (yes, there were a lot) as they came up. I did my best not to back down. I took a breath, sometimes two, and made a lot of decisions.
- Did I make mistakes? You bet.
- Were any of them fatal to my dream? No.
- Most importantly, I made my deadline. My book went up for sale & the fear I had when I started in early April was all but gone by the end of May.
Dave said you can’t reach your goals waiting for a time when the fear will subside or the risk will be gone. I can attest to that. Really, in 2 short months, I went from being fearful to being empowered. There’s strength in living boldly. And the best part is that once you knock down the first wall—the one you might’ve thought was impossible to scale, that you didn’t have it in you to beat—the rest of them don’t look nearly as high.
So, a few months back I went to a 1-day Dave Ramsey EntreLeadership event (more on that in another post). It was a motivational class for people who wanted to learn more about owning their own business. But I figured it probably applied to writing, too, since working on a book is usually a solitary event, no set hours, no boss looking over your shoulder and telling you to write more.
One of the first things he talked about is why people don’t following their dreams: simple fear. Fear of opposition, yes. Fear of failure, sure. But also fear of success, fear of making the wrong decision, fear of other people’s opinions. As you already probably know, fear will paralyze you. You won’t write. Maybe you’ll feel guilty about that & beat yourself up, but still you won’t write.
Here’s what Dave suggested: Keep moving forward even if it’s only in bite-sized chunks. Here’s what I say: If you keep making the decision to write, to show up every day and work, even if it’s only a sentence or a paragraph at a time, eventually the fear will lessen and will probably subside altogether. You’ll find yourself writing for longer and longer stretches. Hopefully, you’ll find yourself looking forward to sitting down and working. Eventually, you may even miss hanging out with the characters even if they’re only real in your head.
He also talked about looking at options and the worst-case scenario. So what’s the worst thing that can happen if you spend an hour working on your book (you had fun, you learned something, you wasted your time)? Okay, so what options do you have if you think your writing stinks (hire an editor, take a writing class, join a writing group for feedback)? What’s the worst thing that could happen once your book is done (you don’t find an agent, you do find an agent, critics hate it, critics love it & you have to come up with something just as brilliant the next time around)? What options do you have if you can’t get it published (self-publish, put it in a drawer & work on another to hone your craft, give it as a gift to your friends/family). Dave’s point was that if you take the time to make a list of your fears, walk through what could (not will) happen & have a list of options available so you don’t feel trapped/stuck, you can nearly get rid of all fear.
Hope this helps you. Happy writing!
Grand Prize Winner, Grant Winner, & Silver Medal Winner