What’s the #1 thing that holds you back? What is it that prevents you from doing what you think you should be doing? Maybe you don’t even know what that “it” is. I know that’s been an immense struggle for me in my professional career.
I started this site, called Fearless Endeavors, with an interest in mind to explore our fears and how we can overcome them to live a life that’s more free. By free, I mean a life that’s not dictated by what we think we should be doing (i.e. how we think others perceive us in regards to what we do), but rather on principles, ideas, interests and passions that are at the core of our being. It’s a bit hard for me to even speak to as I don’t feel I’m really living that kind of life.
I’ve been listening to a series of interviews that Jonathan Fields has done via his new project, called the Good Life Project. All of the interviews have been fascinating to me as I have an extreme interest and passion into how our mind works, why we do the things we do and more personally, why is it that I struggle overcoming my own fears and insecurities. I really connected with the last interview he did with Katherine Preston, a woman who developed a stutter at the age of 7 and four years ago left her job to embark on a journey that would eventually lead to some radical self-discoveries.
For me, I think it resonated so much because Katherine’s story is so visceral. I asked myself the question of how I would feel if I were in the same situation and I immediately could feel the very real pangs of fear and uncertainty (tightening of my stomach, getting nervous). In a way, it connected me to some of my own fears and insecurities. It also, honestly, made me feel a bit bad about myself. Listening to all of these interviews magnifies for me how I’ve retreated from my fears and how I haven’t taken action.
I’ve also found it extremely interesting to analyze some of the loops and habitual patterns I have related to my fears and trying to overcome them. For me, it kind of goes like this.
This usually starts after a long period of complacency or not doing much. I start to feel bad about myself and my situation. There’s usually some deep down desire to do something or take action in some way. 100% of the time for me it gets down to “what do I want to do with my life?”
Action for me comes in the form of reading books about other people who have overcome their fears and taking courses on online businesses and studying people who have left the traditional work environment to start their own thing.
Action usually leads to an initial sense of optimism. I feel like I can make change in my life and I even start some side projects. One of those projects was this blog.
Stress and Despair
This is where things get dicey for me. Optimism quickly turns into stress and despair. Fear really kicks into high gear here. I question myself. I can’t seem to come up with the “one” or “right” answer of what it is I want to do. I start to question what I’m working on or writing about. I see other people around me who have started similar projects and have succeeded, but I don’t seem to match up to that (what Aaron Ross refers to as “compare and despair”). During this time I also feel like there’s a lot of pressure I put on myself. Specifically, I feel that if I’m not taking enough action, whether it’s writing a blog post every week, having a conversation with someone, working on a product, etc, I’m not doing enough or I’m lazy.
During this stage I get involved in all sorts of mind games that really mess me up. I study and practice meditation on a regular basis and a large part of what I study is focused on being open to whatever arises, whether it’s labeled as good, bad or otherwise and learning to be comfortable with what arises without getting caught up in our stories. Part of me wonders if there is this story I’ve created and become attached to about how I feel like I need to break out of my corporate job in order to do something bigger with my life and that this story has turned into a belief that if I don’t do that, I won’t be happy.
There’s then a second story I have about learning to be comfortable with where I am and appreciating my life. My good fortune in finding a wonderful spouse, in having activities I really enjoy to do (travel, cooking, food, meditating, fitness) and in having my health. Am I getting caught up in all this searching for something better and bigger out there and is this what is actually pulling me away from having a better sense of contentment in my life?
I’m pulled in both directions, fractured into two selves. One believing that the second story above is just a cop out and the other one believing that I’m incredibly lucky and I should be able to find contentment with who I am and what I am doing. This stage can be a bit overwhelming for me and I always tend to back off and retreat from what I’m doing until I inevitably get this stirring in the pit of my stomach (i.e. internal motivation) that starts the cycle over.
I want to briefly jump back to my comment on compare and despair above. I’m finding it increasingly interesting how prevalent this is in my life and how I use it to set myself up for failure. I’ve referenced the wonderful interview series that Jonathan Fields has done at the Good Life Project. I watch these interviews and they resonate with me because I too have an extreme interest in this subject matter and studying why we do what we do.
I’ve become acutely aware of how quick I shoot myself down. I see the interviews he’s doing, the books he’s written and I tell myself that someone out there is already doing this. Jonathan is already studying these things, writing books about the subject matter and he’s a huge success. That space is taken up and it would be stupid for me to delve into it any further as any sort of career path or interest because it’s already being done.
What’s so interesting is that I’m consciously aware of this thought entering my head and I know it’s not the right attitude, yet I can’t shake the thoughts. There’s a part of me that says “that shouldn’t stop you,” yet there seems to be this stronger part of me that just flat out stops.
Recognizing these habitual patterns is an amazing first step. I think many of us are blind to our patterns and the stories we create in order to hide, mask and run away from our fears. It’s perfectly normal to do this and it’s not something to feel bad about.
If you feel something is off in your life, or you’re struggling to overcome some fear, a good first step is to take a very open, honest and almost scientific look at how your mind is working. Start to recognize some of the patterns in your life and how they play out. As you do this, questions will arise which will allow you to delve deeper. Share your stories here. What do you fear?