How to Overcome Fear and Live Your Dreams

Changing my life was easy.

Laughably easy.

I e-mailed a resume, did a 12 minute Skype interview, and typed up a letter of resignation.  I then packed up and left the small town where I’d spend my first 34 years on the planet.  All in all, it probably consumed an hour of my time.

So why, prior to that, did I spend 10 years working in a job I hated, to pay the mortgage on a house I didn’t love, in a town where I never belonged?  Why did I spend so many years of my life experiencing unhappiness?  Why didn’t I put in this hour of work sooner?

I think the answer is simple: fear.  For much of my life, fear has been the dominating force behind all of my decisions.  I was afraid that I was inadequate, and that I would never find an employer that would hire me.  I was afraid that I would fail, and that my family would starve.  I was afraid to give up the “security” of my previous job in order to find happiness.

In so many aspects of our lives, fear is the invisible wall that keeps us from moving forward.  Fear is the wall that prevents us from reaching our potential, and finding happiness. Fear comes in disguise, dressed up as sensibility. It tells us that we are being sensible.  Fear told me that I was a parent, so of course it would be irresponsible to take unnecessary risks.  Kids need stability, and taking any financial risks would jeopardize our daughter’s well-being.  Fear told me that I was realistic–I knew that I was lucky to find the job that I had.  It was because of fear, that I was convinced that I was certainly nothing spectacular, and I would not stand out from the herd of other applicants somewhere else.

It is amazing how many lies our brains feed us.  And until we can see them for what they are, they become reality to us.  One of the most important skills we can learn, is to step back and view our thoughts as a third party.  Do that, and see how many fear-based lies your brain is trying to pass off as truth.  In my case, it was an unbelievable amount of lies, that led me to feel trapped in my situation.

And that situation was gradually worsening, until everything came crumbling down last January.  Even as that happened, the fear persisted.  I was unhappy, and my physical and mental health were suffering for it.  I was struggling in my marriage, and not taking as good care of my daughter as I could.  I was harming more than myself, by letting fear paralyze me.

In the end, I did move forward. I did take the steps to make the change.  At the end of July, we signed the deed of our house back over the the bank, and donated most of our possessions.  With whatever items would fit in our station wagon and a small U-haul trailer, the three of us drove over 1200 miles across the country, to Houston.  On the balcony of our small, sparsely-appointed apartment, we spend our evenings sipping wine and enjoying our fresh start.

Here are some tips for overcoming fear and creating the life of your dreams:

  • Look at the worst case scenario.  And be realistic about it.  I was afraid we would starve, but when I considered it, I saw that we would not.  There are many ways to get food, and many ways to survive.  The worst case scenario was not starvation, it was embarrassment.
  • Don’t fight it head on.  Pay attention to your fear.  Look at your thoughts, with understanding, so that you can find the root of your fear.  Just trying to plow ahead, without understanding what is holding you back, will not work in the long term.
  • Find support.  Whenever you make a change in your life, you will have supporters and naysayers.  Surround yourself with cheerleaders.  Be sure to have people to encourage you when you’re doubting yourself.
  • Watch out for arbitrary rules and steps.  They are your mind’s way of avoiding actual change.  Before I actually applied for the job in Houston, I had a lot of “conditions” that had to be met, before we “could” leave.  I needed to pay off the house, and get some money in savings, for example.  While these are good things to have done, doing them would have kept me in an unpleasant situation for many more years.  When we were ready to make the move, we made it happen, even with the conditions unmet.
  • Spring into action.  If you sit around thinking through the scenario, you will either create plans that never happen, or you will create more scenarios to be afraid of.  Overthinking will not serve you well, once you have a plan.  Do something to move in the direction of making it a reality.  Take baby steps if you need to, but try to do something everyday.

Facing fear, and overcoming it, is a very difficult process, but it does get easier the more times you do it.  And it is completely worth it.  Now, instead of dreading my job, I look forward to bicycle commuting to a job that I love.  My days are filled with sunshine, joy, and simplicity.  While I still do have bad days and occasional struggles, overall our life is proof that there is a such thing as happily ever after.

Bethany enjoys writing from her small apartment in Houston, at least until she replaces it with a sail boat.  She writes about her adventures, and her thoughts on life, at her blog, Online Life Coaching

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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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