Have you ever had anything you really wanted? Some sort of goal or dream or something that kept calling and pulling you? Yet you never got round to actually doing or achieving or even taking one step towards it?
Has fear ever held you back from going after the things you wanted to do? Did you ignore the tug in your stomach and in your chest because you were afraid? Have you spend your days doing things you don’t care about just because they were safe?
I have done that in my life. Often. Too often. Until the point I got sick of it.
A few years ago my life was run by fear. I felt paralyzed and stuck. There were so many things that I wanted to do, to learn, to become. And yet I kept staying in the same place. Treading water, going nowhere.
Sure, I got some stuff done. I graduated university, I earned money, I paid rent, had food on the table. Life wasn’t awful.
But at the same time I kept failing at the things that I truly cared about. Stuff that I had been carrying around with me for 10 years of which I thought “some day I will do this” but never did.
The things that I yearned for with all my heart, those dreams that put fire in my belly and hope in my chest, I never ever got to achieve them.
I felt like a failure for such a long time.
What about you?
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you have lived through or are living through the same thing. Maybe you wake up in the morning dissatisfied with what you are doing and desperately wish for a change.
Maybe there is something you are avoiding. Your declining health. The fact that your weight is starting to take a toll on your body. That it is getting more and more difficult to climb the stairs.
Or you are just scraping by at work. Struggling, procrastinating, doing things that neither you nor anyone else cares about. Pushing papers, being busy, never getting around to doing the important stuff?
Maybe you have been wanting to start exercising but have used every excuse in the book in order not to. “I’ll go tomorrow”, “I’m tired”, “I think I’m actually a morning person”, “What if there’s something on TV that will never be shown again?”.
You yourself know it’s complete BS but still. Still.
Or maybe it’s all of the above and your life is just completely out of balance. Maybe you don’t even know where to begin.
I have been there. I have felt or done all of the above in my life one way or another.
Enough is enough
Today I want to share a framework which has helped me tremendously in my life and which, funny enough, I came up with by accident. It occurred to me on a trip to Germany.
To understand the story, you have to know that I am scared of flying.
Not like not-the-biggest-fan-of-flying scared, but heart-pounding-wet-palms-shaky-legs scared.
It wasn’t always that way but at one point in my life I had a panic attack on board of a plane and ever since then my subconscious fires all the fear cannons when I try to get on one of those flying machines.
So I was at the gate, going through the motions, pulse racing, sweating, secretly regretting that I bought the ticket, at the same time trying to talk myself down, practicing deep breathing and all the other tricks I had acquired throughout the years to get myself on board.
Until this one thought popped into my head: “What if I had no choice?”
What happened next was remarkable. All of a sudden I was focused. My nerves stopped ringing like I was about to jump off a cliff, my thoughts stopped racing and overall I started feeling – normal.
That’s when I realized that subconsciously I had been seeking for a way out. I had tried to come up with reasons not to get on that plane, to wriggle myself out of having to fly.
Once I eliminated that possibility in my head, my mind stopped looking for an exit strategy and I stopped being divided. It was like a magic pill.
This goes hand in hand with the fact that usually, most of my anxiety would vanish once the plane was on the runway and accelerated. At that moment, some sort of switch inside of me flip.
Before that moment it would theoretically still have been possible for me to get off the plane (probably not, but who said this stuff was rational?).
However, the moment the pilot gives full throttle is the point of no return. No turning back. And in that instant all of my resources are diverted toward something else.
If I can do it, so can you
So back to you. Back to whatever it is you are avoiding. Or the thing you desperately wish for.
What if you didn’t have a choice either? What if you didn’t leave yourself a way out? What if you closed all other options and committed yourself? No turning back.
Because I hate to break it to you, but nobody will come and save you. No fairy will wave her magic wand and all of a sudden your problems will take care of themselves and disappear.
And even if. Even if someone else would make it all go away, is that what taking responsibility for your life is about?
I know it’s scary to commit yourself. I know that.
What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? What if I can’t change?
It’s easy to find reasons not to do it. To leave yourself room to wiggle out of it.
There is an infinite number of excuses, however flimsy, readily available. You could probably come up with ten of them in the next five seconds. So could I.
But aren’t you sick of making excuses for yourself? Aren’t you tired of postponing what really matters to you? Of going through another day feeling stuck in place and feeling like you can’t make any meaningful changes?
I know I was. Still am.
Being scared is part of the process. It’s the price you pay. It means whatever it is you are attempting matters to you. It means it’s important enough to you that you would care if you failed. And that’s a good thing.
So what if you had no choice?
What if you took full responsibility for what happens or doesn’t happen in your life?
What if you stopped looking for a solution outside of yourself and waiting for someone else to take care of things for you?
What if all the usual excuses fell by the wayside?
What would you do?
Image: Kenny Louie