I love talking about fear.
Not the healthy kind of fear that helps you make intelligent decisions to stay alive or the exhilarating adrenaline rush.
I am interested in sneaky fear that cheats us out of experiences and relationships and steals opportunities to grow. The fear that whispers lies of inadequacy or unworthiness. The fear that paralyzes us when we want to try new things or pursue a passion.
Fear is tricky. It takes on many forms. It can be a strong motivator in the short term, but passions motivated from fear eventually become toxic.
In the Passion Paradox by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness they reference a study from David Conroy at Penn State University. When Conroy examined athletes he discovered five common divers of fear:
- Fear of shame and embarrassment.
- Fear of losing a positive self image.
- Fear of an uncertain future.
- Fear of important others losing interest.
- Fear of upsetting important others.
It is impossible to think we can arrive at a place completely void of fear. But when we create a space of self awareness and acceptance we can learn to address our real fears. We can be aware when fear begins to overtake us. We take steps away from fear driven choices.
Identify your fears. Challenge them. Start to play to win, rather than not to lose.
I returned to fearless driven racing in the fall of 2018. As I noted last week, I loved racing from my first step. After some initial success I spent some time fueled by outward validation and then fear of failure. It was still fun, memorable, and extremely valuable. But I had become impatient and lacked direction and purpose. In 2017 I made a decision to work to stop giving lip service to my values and begin to fully honor them and myself through my hobbies, relationships, and my work. I wanted to more authentically inspire and lead others. I stopped allowing myself to hide behind veils of perfection and/or fear of failure. I am still often afraid, but I try to not let it hold me back. I go all in.
In the spring of 2018 I hired a coach. I vowed to respect her plan and vision as she guided me to my goals. In the weeks leading to my goal race, Ironman Arizona 70.3, I followed my plan exactly— from nutrition to workouts to spinning in sweats and visiting saunas for heat acclimation. I brought my food on the plane and although I was staying with good friends I skipped beers and junk food and went to bed early. I wholly showed up. I didn’t win. I didn’t even perform exactly as I had planned. But, I raced unafraid and loved the entire process.
I continue to race with more purpose and passion, whether it’s for myself or to support, inspire, and encourage others. I still hear the whispers of fear. But I do my best to say, no thank you.
Sometimes it is not fear that is holding us back, but a lack of patience in the process. Please know that any path toward mastering goals or passions will be filled with bumps and roadblocks. Boredom will creep in at times. Uncertainty. We are hardwired and influenced by our culture to desire and expect immediate feedback.
Don’t let this stop you. Focus on navigating the ups and downs of the journey, rather than on the outcome. Stay grounded in each moment rather than always looking ahead. Figure out why in order to stay committed and interested.
My lack of patience (and a fair amount of fear) stopped me from writing for many years. I grew up writing, studied English in college, and had a life long goal of publishing a book. But I had become impatient with the idea of restarting. I could only see the outcome I desired, and that felt very out of reach. I had lost sight of how much joy writing gave me. Not the excitement from validation of readers, but the love of the process.
I began pursing the idea of being the most authentic, honest version of myself. Of being internally motivated to be the truest me. I felt I was leaning toward loving deeper, accepting more, learning, and challenging my fears and willingness to fail in most aspects of life. But, I was falling short. I knew there was still something missing.
Over many years the voice telling me that I needed to write was also a whisper, not much more audible than the voice of fear. As the voice became louder it also became more demanding. More distracting. And one day it was so loud and clear that I could not deny it any longer. I had to honor it in order to be authentic. To inspire you to do the same.
I decided to focus on patience and start with the joy in the process. I want people to read my blog and articles and eventually my book. I love getting feedback when my writing reaches people in any thought provoking way. It is my purpose to inspire and teach you all through my own experiences and knowledge. But I have to honestly very intentionally work on not letting the outward validation motivate or sustain me.
I write for the process. I write for me.
I race for the process. I race for me.
I coach for the process, I raise my kids for the process, I love my family and friends for the process. I hope is that my words and actions will inspire you to awareness of your own motivation to find the processes you love and eventually your passions. To reject fears and find patience. To move forward in abundance and not scarcity.
Next week I will introduce the idea coined by Stulberg and Magness: harmonious passion.
It has such a nice ring to it. Way nicer than living out of scary, yucky, slimy fear.