How To Replace Fear With Confidence

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?

The Time Has Come. The Time Is Now.

This line comes from the Dr. Seuss book “Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!” In the book, the author exhorts Marvin K. Mooney to leave the room and suggests many ways he can do this. At the end of the book, we see Marvin go — but only when he is ready.

Just like Marvin, when we think about making a change in life, we have to decide when it’s time for us. We have to decide when to say “enough!” Whether it’s a job that is ulcer-inducing, a relationship that both parties know is over, or a life that feels constricting and confining — we each have to choose for ourselves when the time has come to make a change.
Clients come to me because they are thinking about making a change. Here are some questions I ask them to gauge where they are at:

What are you wanting?

We talk about their vision, and how their job, relationship, or personal growth would be if it were a 10 out of 10, instead of a 3 out of 10. We all have big dreams, but we rarely take the time to stop and imagine them. Thinking about what we truly want is helpful to start uncovering our values and priorities.

What’s the cost to you if you don’t make this change?

People usually respond quickly and say something like, “It would feel bad.” It’s important to really think about this question, though. For example, what is the impact on your friends and family if you stay in a job that makes you miserable? What is the impact on your future customers and clients if you do not launch your business or hang out your shingle?

What would have to change in you for you to take the next step?

When we think about making change, we often think of to-do lists and tasks that would need to be accomplished. But without changes in how we think about ourselves and act, our to-do lists are likely to sit untouched.

To create change, we need to believe that change is possible, and we need to believe in ourselves. Then, just like Marvin K. Mooney, we get to choose how we start this journey.