December 28, 2016

A Teeny, Tiny thing to Conquer the Big Stuff in Life—Even if we’re Scared Sh*tless.


The acronym: “Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise.”
The quote: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
The aspiration: “Leap and the net will appear.”

The message is clear: You are strong and capable. You can do this.

It sounds simple. It sounds brave. It sounds daring.

And it scares the tuna salad out of me.

I find the idea of fearlessness to be mildly terrifying. Our brains are wired for fear, to expect the worst. Earlier in our evolution, this system kept us alive. Imagine a caveman standing in the woods, in the path of a charging, snarling, ferocious wolf bearing down upon him—a lack of fear would have left him blissfully unaware of his oncoming demise, an easy target for a hungry predator.

These days, most of us don’t face a crisis of such proportion, although at times life may indeed feel that way. That type of fear is not what I’m really referencing here. I’m talking more about the insidious, sneaky fear that comes in like a thief in the night. I’m talking about the kind of anxious, persistent fear that whispers constantly rather than throwing periodic tantrums to get your attention. The constant second guessing, relentless self-doubt, and the ever-present voice who never forgets to say, “I told you so.”

We are inundated with the message we must be fearless to move forward, to pursue our endeavors and truly succeed. We are encouraged, “Go big or go home!” We are told, “Winners make it happen!” We hear, “We can do hard things!” These phrases come to be the unspoken expectation: we must always be striving, constantly grinding, relentlessly pushing ourselves or we’ll miss the mark.

Repeatedly missing the mark, whatever that is for you, feeds the self-doubt even more, and the internal questioning intensifies: “Who am I to think I can do this? What right do I have to pursue this? How can I possibly believe that I have any idea what I’m doing?” The endless circular monologue is exhausting, and the fear creeps in more and more, until before we know it, we’re drowning.

Here’s the thing: I don’t believe we have to be fearless.

Being fearless seems like an unattainable goal to me. It feels like a sure way to feed the internal spin cycle of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If all our goals are unattainable, or feel unattainable, then I believe we are setting ourselves up for failure.

What I think we need instead is to be courageous—to be scared and to move forward in spite of our fear. When we can take even one step forward in the face of fear, we are already winning. When we can put down the burden, wipe our tears and our brow, take a deep breath, and move ahead, we are already winning. When we can succumb to fatigue and then rise again to keep on keeping on, we are already winning.

So how does this work, this idea of courage rather than fearlessness?

Author Christina Rasmussen calls it a “five percent plug-in.” The idea is that if we can move forward, even five percent, there is progress. A commitment of five percent effort is as simple as putting a toe in the water. There is minimal threat from such a small venture; if five percent feels like too much, we can always pull back. Except five percent is so safe that we don’t need to pull back. Just knowing that we have that option is what makes a five percent step such a safe act.

Whatever the goal, however distant it feels, it is always possible to break that monumental pursuit into manageable tasks, five percent tasks, which can be completed in a reasonable time and with available effort.

Sometimes it’s not the task itself; rather, it’s the motivation required to start which can be a huge challenge.

I have a secret for you: we’re not meant to do life alone. I repeat, we are not meant to do life alone.

It’s easy to stay on the sidelines, waiting for the right moment to take your first courageous step. There is no right moment. The right moment is now. Start where you are. Enlist support from family, friends, your tribe, or a coach. If you are willing to commit to five percent, there are people who will help you show up for yourself. After all, it’s only five percent—what do you have to fear?



Author: Virginia L’Bassi

Image: Megan Leetz

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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