“We must travel in the direction of our fear.” ~ John Berryman
A friend of mine called me late one night this week because she was panicking. She has a big trip coming up and she was worried about her safety while away from home. To be fair, this friend has a highly-tuned intuition, more highly-tuned than almost anyone I’ve ever known. She has good gut, so when her fears grew increasingly worse, she panicked. She couldn’t tell if her fear was valid.
I gave her my litmus test for fear. When I wake up in a panic, when my mind is on an endless loop of worry, I know that my mind is getting the best of me. When I am afraid but maintain a clear, calm resolve, I know that my intuition is on to something.
When my apartment building caught fire, I didn’t panic when I realized what was happening. My laser focus kicked in to get me out of the building as quickly as possible. There was no thinking in those moments as I scrambled down the stairs. I knew I was in danger and my only concern in those moments involved survival.
When I was considering leaving my corporate job to freelance full-time, I initially had some serious moments of panic. It took me a year to put a plan in place that gave me enough comfort to take the leap. My fear about going out on my own had nothing to do with my intuition. That fear was from that tiny voice in the back of my mind known as self-doubt. Here I am, 8 months after my leap, and doing just fine. Self-doubt comes and goes, but it never stay for long anymore.
Don’t despair over your fear. It’s a natural reaction and everyone feels it, some of us more than others. Here’s the thing about fear: you really can’t hate it because it does mean well. On some level, it is trying to protect you. However, it does need to be tamed. You must learn to listen to it, take only what’s useful, and then keep going.
My one year plan that I put in place so that I would be comfortable leaving my job was well worth it. Fulfilling that plan has allowed me to take on projects in the last 8 months that have proven to be some of the best opportunities of my career. Fear served a great purpose and I am grateful for its counsel, but I didn’t let it become the focus. I didn’t let it paralyze me. You shouldn’t either.
It’s fine to have fear. Just make sure fear doesn’t have you.