A line in Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, stopped me in my tracks. “I had fixated upon my fear as if it were the most interesting thing about me, when actually it was the most mundane.” I immediately realized that this was how I lived too many years of my life. I had let my fears — of public speaking and taking on new challenges, among others — take center stage for too long. I fed my fears energy and attention, as if they were worthy of reverence. With her simple statement, Gilbert shook me awake.
Our fears are not the most interesting thing about us.
So what is? Gilbert writes, “I had creativity within me that was original; I had a personality within me that was original; I had dreams and perspectives and aspirations within me that were original.”
Our personalities and perspectives and aspirations — those are what make us unique.
Taking that one step forward, what would it be like to refocus our energies and attention to these attributes? After all, these are the parts of us that connect us to others, allow us to make contributions to our world, and remind us what’s possible when we are at our best personally and professionally. Imagine what it would be like in a new situation to stop feeding the fear and instead feed the curiosity and confidence? It would move us from fear to confidence.
I realize that, in coaching, I do this all the time. A client will start speaking about a situation he or she is worried about — usually a situation at work or new challenge. As soon as the “fear” voice starts to speak, I redirect the conversation. “Instead of what you don’t know,” I say, “Let’s focus on what you DO know. List five things right now that you are good at.” Redirecting the coaching with this new perspective immediately changes the energy of the thinking from limiting fear to possibility and strength.
Physician, heal thyself. I know how to remind my clients that their fears are not the most interesting things about them. Now, at the start of 2016, it’s time to cement that idea into my brain. When I fall into the vortex of fear, I hereby resolve to stop, breathe, and remind myself what makes me unique. My ability to listen without judgment, my enthusiasm in guiding others, and my courage in trying new endeavors are only a few of those things.
What’s the most interesting thing about you?