Here’s an idea: let’s not waste any time feeling alone or special in our boondoggles, horn-swallows, tomorrow-is-the-day, and various adorable ways that we get in our own way when it comes to doing what we really want to do.
Because we all get in our way. We all turn away from what brings us most alive. Nothing to look at there, move along inner gawkers who want to be make a federal case out of our failures.
Instead, sisters on the adventure called showing up for your life, let’s flip right into doing something fresh, shall we? Let’s outsmart, outlove, and slip right on past our same old sh*t.
Here are 9 ways to get your scary sh*t done.
#1 – Ask: What would you tell your best friend to do next, if he/she was in the same situation and asked your advice?
First thoughts – quick write them down.
This is my favorite decision making question, courtesy of the Heath Brothers book Decisive. I added the qualifier next because taking the long view when getting started on what scares or overwhelms you is often not helpful.
Now go do that next step that you would so applaud your BFF for doing.
#2 – Give up thinking there’s a right way to deal with your fear
Maybe you like to hip check your fear into the corner and tell it to shut UP. Or maybe you like to greet your fear with a gentle “Hello. What do you need to be okay with me moving forward? Because forward I will go.” Or maybe outside support in the form of coach or a class works best for you.
There’s no one “right” way to handle fear.
What matters is that you don’t let it run your life. Remind yourself you are not fear. You have plenty of resources to get through whatever situation you’re in. And please forget the idea of managing fear “spiritually” or the“right” way. That kind of reasoning is usually a sign fear is running you.
So if you find yourself thinking that you aren’t managing fear correctly, consider that just might be fear’s voice in your ear.
#3 – Forget beginning at the beginning
I tell writers at my retreats, “Don’t confuse writing the beginning with beginning. Beginning is simply starting. The beginning of your piece, the opening, is what you write later, almost always at the end, after you know what you’re writing about by first writing it.”
Thinking you need to know the perfect beginning of your project before you can start can keep you stuck for years, send you looping back to begin the perfect beginning again and again. Jump in anywhere. Do something. Then ask, “What’s the next simple step?” Repeat.
Yes, at some point, it’s useful to step back and access where you are going, to see if you are reasonably on course but not at the beginning. You don’t know enough. You may know next to nothing which makes you afraid and sends you back to “start again the right way.” Resist!
#4 – What if you aren’t afraid (confused, overwhelmed, self-doubting, etc.) but you need to strengthen your emotional immune system?
Lisa Lahey and Bob Kegan at the Harvard School of Education maintain (based on years of research) that we aren’t afraid of change, we are afraid of being undefended. Makes sense when you think of how we lived for most of our human history: in tribes, where it was safer.
The idea is to figure out what to do to help yourself feel safe (or defended) while taking action on things that you care deeply about but that also scare the crap out of you.
How can you do that? There are lots of ways. One is the micro-practice of calming your nervous system throughout the day. Whenever you notice yourself flipping out or numbing out, savor your breath, extend your exhale, and feel your body here – safe and present.
#5 – Your future self knows squat
Your brain regularly convinces you that your future self will be a far better, smarter, more disciplined person that the current you. That’s why we say things like “Tomorrow I’ll start exercising!” or “Next week I will write two hours before I check email every single day.” Only there is no future self. When tomorrow or next week arrives, it will be YOU that arrives, too.
Don’t let this truth depress you! The you you are today is totally sufficient! She/he is more than good enough to make your project a reality. Waiting for your better future self is another of fear’s ploys to keep you safe – aka, in the same damn place.
To bring your future self together with your current self, do something you like to do while taking action on what you’re putting off. I’m listening to chant music while I write this. I will listen to a podcast later when I run. Maybe yours is co-working with a friend while you do your scary sh*t or wearing your favorite outfit while making that hard phone call.
Pleasure plus action!
#6 – Ask: Whose story might be highjacking your desire?
I have a coaching client who’s a superbly wonderful young woman. I love watching her transform – she is such a quick study! Recently she decided to leave her highly paid sales job to strike out on her own as a business coach. She immediately began building a local practice. Then an offer for another job in her field came along – a truly enticing offer. She came to me in tears. “But if I take this job, I’m giving up on my dream of being self-employed. I’ll never do it. I’ll be total flake and failure.”
I smelled something off in her reasoning. We quickly discovered it was a story she’d picked up from the coaching/personal growth world, a story that said being self-employed and “going for your dream” is better than being employed.
My client realized that what she wanted wasn’t to fulfill some glossy picture of what success is supposed to look like but to declare her own, which included taking a job at a start-up that could lead to a big payoff in a few years.
Your turn to inquire: is your current version of your desire true to you? Is there anything about what you want that has been contaminated by a should or a cultural ideal or a line of bullsh*t?
It happens to all of us. My invite to you: Let it go and orient back toward your version. It may not look any different on the outside but it’ll sure feel different on the inside.
#7 – Forget visualizing your success
Research has shown that focusing on being done and dusted and aglow with success with your project is actually demotivating. I personally find it makes me all uptight and pushy, rather than open and consistently taking joyful action.
Instead of visualizing your ideal end result, feel yourself in process. What does it feel like in your body to be painting those giant canvases? Sure you want to see those canvases hung in the hot art gallery in your city, but let that go for now. Imagine your body – the sensations, breathing, posture, the pleasure – painting. What does it feel like in your physical being (imagine it needed) to be enjoying crafting your main character in your novel? Having a great sales conversation with a prospective client?
Weave in small moments of feeling your process throughout your day, especially when you feel lost or afraid. Let the body help you get into action.
#8 – Name your intrinsic motivation
You’ve no doubt heard that focusing on extrinsic rewards (praise, money, promotions, best-seller list) has limited efficacy when it comes to your long term motivation. As long as you feel the playing field is fair, extrinsic motivation is another way to decrease your willpower and your pleasure, and even increase procrastination.
Get familiar with why you’re doing your scary sh*t for yourself. This doesn’t mean you can’t be motivated by serving others; however, being motivated by the desire to serve is very different than wanting to be recognized for serving.
Reflect: Why you are doing your scary sh*t? Meaning, agency, doing high quality work, experiencing flow, and progressing or learning are common intrinsic motivators as is the pleasure of doing your thing (finding the perfect metaphor, being lost in your story) for example.
Whenever your fear snarls at you or you fall into comparison hell, take a moment to remember this intrinsic motivator.
#9 – Be Enough Now
If you never did another thing, never overcame whatever is in your way, never brought your genius to life, it doesn’t matter. That’s because your essential goodness, your beautiful beaming heart, your humanity as it is now, would be in no way diminished.
You are not your work. You are not what you do.
You are Buddha nature, Christ consciousness, pure love. Right now.
I’m not telling you this to make you feel good. I’m stating a fact. And when you grasp this fact (even for a few breathes) you realize that all the scary shit in the world is an illusion. It’s nothing. Then you can do what you want, take action, play along. Because it’s engrossing, because you love learning, because you burn to share what you know, but never because you have anything to prove about who or what you are.
Because you don’t.
But then you knew that, didn’t you?
Please take one of these ideas and put it into play – your way. Let one idea lead you to take action on what you most want to create, to build, to love into being.