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Entries Tagged as 'fear'

Thoughts Coming at You Like a Runaway Train?

June 26th, 2018 · 2 Comments

runaway train #2
When the email came in last week, I was puzzled. I’d received a notice that an Emergency Motion and an Emergency Court Order had been filed in a probate case I’d handled twenty years ago. My thoughts began to spiral:

  • I need to file a Motion and Order to Withdraw. UGH! What a hassle!
  • Maybe I did something wrong. Maybe that’s what this is about.
  • I probably did do something wrong.
  • I’d better read the court file and see what is happening. Maybe it’s online. I’ll ask a clerk to help me find it since I don’t practice law any more.
  • UGH! They are probably too busy to help me. I’ll have to go downtown. UGH! That’ll take half a day.
  • For sure I did something wrong.
  • Yes, I absolutely screwed something up.
  • OMG! How long is the malpractice statute of limitations?
  • What if my malpractice was only recently discovered and the statute of limitations won’t apply?
  • What if I get sued and everything is taken away from me?
  • Everything will be gone!
  • What should I do?
  • There’s nothing I can do. I’m screwed.

Within moments, I’d gone from casually checking email to eating government cheese and living in a van down by the river. The Inner Lizard–that part of the brain that is always on high alert, ready to screech urgent warnings—was, as always, preparing me for disaster. It doesn’t care whether we’ve encountered a spider or a shadow, it’s job is to determine that there might be danger and to scream, “MOVE QUICKLY OR YOU WILL DIE!” It doesn’t think critically. It doesn’t care about truth. Its job is to save our lives.

It’s a brilliant system that causes us to needlessly jump out of our skins if there is any possibility that a fuzzy little bunny rustling in the bushes could be a venomous snake. It’s simply trying to keep us safe.

For lawyers, this powerful system tends to go on overdrive, as our training teaches us to intentionally look for what could go wrong in any situation. After years of looking for the worst, we find it easily. But lawyers aren’t the only ones and it doesn’t take special training to over-react like I did.

But here’s the important part of this tale. For the past ten years, I’ve personally applied the principles I now teach others. I don’t automatically believe everything I think, like “I’m screwed, I’m going to lose everything.”

I now know that thoughts like these need to be critically examined if I’m in no immediate physical danger. I’m aware of the signals that my body broadcasts and intervene early with breathing and focusing techniques when I begin to feel the symptoms of fight, flight or freeze. I practice mindfulness techniques regularly so that I’m ready for emergencies like this one.

After a few deep breaths, I was calm and knew I needed more facts. My body is primed to immediately calm down because of my practices.

Then, I simply called the attorney on the paperwork and learned that years before I ever was involved in the case, the decedent sold a piece of property without signing the proper documents. This attorney reopened the case to clear title for the subsequent property owners. She had to notify me because I was attorney of record on the original file. There was nothing for me to do. She got the necessary court order and I would stop getting notices in a few days.

Okay, said the Inner Lizard. Nevermind.

Here’s the important point: my mind-body tools and practices didn’t stop my capacity for catastrophic thinking. But my reactions to those thoughts were significantly different than they use to be.

In the old days, thought spirals like this would trigger high stress, panicky symptoms like a stomach ache, trembling hands, and sleep loss. I might have avoided calling the attorney for a few days, frozen in physiologically triggered fear, and worrying the whole time.

Now, I can think clearly. “Oh, I’m having a bunch of crazy thoughts. What do I need to do? I need to get the facts. What’s the easiest way to do that? Oh, look at the documents more closely and see if there is an attorney I can call. Look, there’s a name, now find her number.” In several minutes, it was over.

Taming the Inner Lizard is not the equivalent of a lobotomy. Your brain will still strive to look for catastrophe, always looking to keep you safe. You may still have spirals of disastrous thoughts.

But with the right tools, your reactivity will be reduced significantly. It takes some time and practice, but it’s so, so worth it.

My Inner Lizard is now warming herself on a rock, her eyes half-closed, just waiting for our next adventure. Meanwhile, I’ll go back to my email, just waiting for the next time to take a few deep breaths.

Next time your thoughts are coming at you as fast as a runaway train, here are a few simple tools that can help:

  1. Drop your attention into your body by feeling your own weight. Feel the weight of yourself on your chair, of your legs and feet, of your arms and shoulders. Then take three slow, easy breaths, concentrating on a long, slow exhale that is at least as long as the inhale. Exhaling triggers the relaxation response of your nervous system, telling your brain that you are safe.
  2. Ask yourself which of your thoughts are true. In other words, which are factual and provable, and which are merely thoughts or conclusions without evidence? In the example above, the only thought I had that was factual was the one that said I needed to get more information by calling the attorney who filed the Motion.
  3. Try my Heartbreathing Meditiation Tool. For a free worksheet and mp3, just drop a note to support@terrydemeo.com and put the words “heartbreathing” in the subject line.

Tags: fear · stress · truth

Lessons from My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Wonderful Day

October 1st, 2015 · 9 Comments

ace key

It was one of those important and tightly-scheduled days where everything needed to go as smooth as silk, so of course it didn’t.

My daughter and 20-month old granddaughter were coming to visit me in Miami from New York for my birthday.  I had allowed a thirty-minute window before rush hour to get the baby’s car seat from my storage unit. Then I’d have just enough time to tidy the house, start dinner, and drive to the airport.

Lesson #1: Expect the unexpected, especially when it’s really inconvenient. We set ourselves up for stress and turmoil when we don’t allow time and space for unforeseen events.

I vaguely remembered having some confusion about the storage unit key the last time I was there, so I grabbed the box of extra keys from my desk and drove off. I congratulated myself for my brilliant foresight—every key I owned was with me.

When I got to the storage unit and couldn’t find the right key, I began to worry. In my upset and rush, only found one key that was the right size.  But it said “Ace” on it, so I assumed it was a duplicate key from the hardware store.  Since I’d never duplicated the storage key, I left without trying it in the padlock.

Lesson #2: Don’t make assumptions when you are upset or in a hurry. Your thinking isn’t as clear when you are stressed.

Lesson #3: Don’t give up without trying, especially if the effort is minimal.

On the way home, my worrying increased. I couldn’t imagine where that key was. I considered a rapid succession of possibilities–my desktop, a purse, my jewelry box, a bowl in the kitchen. I forgot to quiet my racing mind, even though I teach and practice mindfulness and stress management.

Lesson #4: We perform better and think better when we’re calm. Take de-stressing action at the first sign of upset. Disconnect from unhelpful thinking, regularize your breathing, and allow your body to relax. 

Instead, I rushed home and rummaged through every nook and cranny that could harbor a key. No luck.

My heart began to pound.  Thoughts flooded my mind: Where is the nearest baby equipment store? Do I have time to buy another car seat? What if I can’t find one nearby? Can I get one delivered by tomorrow? That will cost a fortune! What will we do in the meantime? We’ll be stuck in the house!

I caught myself and stopped the runaway train in my mind. I focused on my breath and grounded myself by feeling my body.  I began to calm down.

Lesson #5: Better late than never. 

I looked through the key box once more and picked up the Ace key.  That has to be it! I didn’t even try it! How dumb! How hard would that have been? I shouldn’t have been in such a rush! What’s wrong with me? 

Lesson #6: Let yourself be human.  Humans make mistakes. Irritation and self-scolding only drive up stress levels and make mistakes more likely.

Again I calmed myself, then drove back to the storage unit. The key fit! The door opened! Life was good!

My daughter’s plane would be landing momentarily.  I texted her that I was on my way, dragged the heavy seat down to my car, and headed for the airport. At a red light, I opened my purse to get my phone so I’d be sure to hear her text telling me where she’d be waiting.

But I couldn’t find my phone. I pulled off the road and searched purse, pockets and car. No phone.

I remembered that I’d texted her just before I took the seat to the car. Ack! I bet I left it inside the unit.

My thoughts raced more intensely than ever: I’m going to be late! The airport will be bedlam! I need my phone to know where she’ll be! I won’t be able to find her! How did people ever find each other at airports without cell phones? This is a disaster!

In an instant, my hands began to tremble and I was no longer able to think clearly. 

Lesson #7:  Stress begets stress. Cortisol—the hormone that prepares us to run or fight for our lives when we’re in fear–has a half-life of about an hour.  This means that an hour after an initial stress response, half the cortisol is still revving us up, and an hour after that, half of that half is left, and so forth. Each time we react stressfully over a short time frame, more cortisol is dumped into our systems before the prior load has dissipated. So our reactions come more quickly and more powerfully.  By this time, after multiple doses of cortisol, my reactions were swift and overwhelming.

I turned around and headed back to the storage unit for the third time. When I arrived, I raced upstairs through the warren of hallways and opened the door to my unit. The phone wasn’t there. I felt the blood drain from my face.

I remembered that a group of men were down the hallway when I’d picked up the car seat. I must have left the phone on the floor in the hallway and those men—those thieves—took it! If they get through my ridiculously simple password, they’ll have access to my bank account information. My identity will be stolen! Why didn’t I use a better password? Why did I keep information like that on my phone? The weekend is ruined!

I urgently felt the need for a plan, but I was so confused.  Halfway to the airport, I turned around.  I’d go home, call my daughter, and ask her to take a cab. Then I’d delete the confidential information from my laptop and hope it would sync to my phone before those thieves messed up my life.

My heart thundered as I crawled through rush hour traffic. My mind was reeling: This is taking forever! My daughter must be exhausted. I bet the baby is starving! And my phone is gone! Those thieves are laughing at my stupidity! This will take weeks to sort out!  I blinked back tears.

Lesson #8: Stress can hijack us emotionally and cognitively. By this time I was exhausted and my thinking was very compromised. Driving in this state could easily lead to an accident.

Luckily I calmed myself enough to realize that driving was my only priority at that moment.  Everything else could wait until I got home.  It wasn’t easy. But I got very present and focused on my driving.

Once again, I began to calm down. At a red light, I saw the clear purples, pinks and blues of the evening sky. I remembered the beautiful birthday gift of my daughter’s visit.  I thought about reading stories to my granddaughter.

My thinking cleared up: Everything is going to be okay. The only thing I know for sure right now, is that my daughter has to take a cab and my phone is gone. Whatever else happens can be straightened out when and if it happens.

Lesson #9: Keep things in perspective. Identify what is really at stake, not what your runaway mind is imagining.

About a block from my house, I heard a pingggggg that sounded exactly like a text coming in. A few moments later another pinggggggg. It was a text.  My phone was somewhere in the car!

I pulled into my driveway and found the phone lodged deeply under the passenger seat. I didn’t waste a moment trying to figure out why I hadn’t found it earlier. I called my daughter, apologized, and asked her to take a cab.

Tears welled up in my eyes again, and I laughed aloud at the same moment. All that for nothing! Except perhaps a good story of how not to deal with unforeseen events, stress, and upset.

Lesson #10: When all else fails, find something to laugh about, including yourself. In the School of Life, laughter always earns you extra credit.

My stories could wait. I had just enough time to shower and get dinner ready before my special guests arrived. But before I did that, I went inside to my desk and put a label on the storage unit key. That fake duplicate key would never fool me again.

Tags: fear · laughter · self-criticism · stress

Go ahead–get your hopes up!

April 20th, 2015 · No Comments

rainbow2

 

A friend and I were talking about an adventurous trip we’re both considering. We both had some reservations about it and we were discussing the pros and cons.

“I don’t want to count on it until I’m sure that I’m going,” he said. “I don’t want to get my hopes up and then get disappointed.”

“Why not?” I asked.

He couldn’t give me a reason.

The next day we spoke again. “I changed my mind about not wanting to get my hopes up,” he said. “Your question made me realize that I’m on fire about this. It would mean so much to me to do this. I want to be excited about it. I am excited about it.

“I realize that growing up, my enthusiasm was often dampened. My parents really meant well, but they always disregarded my excitement. I think they wanted to protect me from hurt, so I’d say the glass was half-full and they’d warn me it was half-empty.

“I’m ready to reclaim my natural joy towards life.”

It was a beautiful moment, and from there, the rest of our conversation was filled with our excitement about the amazing possibilities that could unfold if we took the trip, as well as some honest reflection about our hesitations.

But we don’t always realize what my friend did, do we? We often keep ourselves from getting our hopes up and stop there.  We stop short of getting excited about possible new adventures, opportunities, or good news. Whether we’re contemplating taking a trip, getting a promotion, or finding our dream home, we so often temper it with, “I don’t want to get my hopes up.”

This robs us of the joy that’s available in the anticipation, deliberations, and decision-making.

That joy and excitement is like rocket fuel, and propels us with the energy, focus, and drive to take the steps we need to move forward. It enhances our motivation and performance. And it feels great, too.

We do the same thing when bad news is on the horizon. When waiting for results from a medical test, for example, how often we prepare ourselves for the worst, not wanting to get our hopes up. And then we wait in dread and terror.

I challenge you to ask yourself why–why shouldn’t you get your hopes up? Can you find a single valid reason to dampen your enthusiasm, optimism, or joy?

We think that we’ll be better prepared by not getting our hopes up. We fear that it will hurt worse later if we’re optimistic and then don’t’ get what we want.

But the truth is this: disappointment now does not prepare us for disappointment later. It doesn’t protect us from hurt later, either. It only generates negative feelings right now. If bad news comes, we’ll still feel crappy later.

I once told a client that she might as well go slam her hand in a car door right now, just in case she might slam her hand in the door next month.

Because that’s exactly what we do when we don’t let ourselves get our hopes up, isn’t it? We generate pain and negativity right now when the event we dread may never happen.

Disappointment about what might happen feels heavy right now. And it’s totally useless. If we get what we want, we’ve felt terrible unnecessarily, and if we don’t get what we want, we’ve felt terrible leading up to the bad news.

And in doing so, we deny ourselves moments, days, weeks, lifetimes of excitement and enthusiasm. We rob ourselves of the very stuff that energizes us and propels us towards rich and fulfilled lives.

So how about it? What joy or enthusiasm are you holding back from? What bad news are you suffering about before you get it? What possibility are you failing to celebrate?

Then, ask yourself why. Why not get your hopes up? Why not imagine yourself in the situation you dream of? Why not imagine the best possible outcome?

The only thing you’ve got to lose is today’s pessimism, anxiety, and pain. If you don’t believe me, you can always try the car door test.

Tags: desire · fear · happiness

Life Begins at the Edge of Your Comfort Zone

May 13th, 2013 · 11 Comments

Buddy and me

Within an hour of my arrival at summer camp in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains the summer I was ten, I was hunched up in a puddle of tears.  A group of returning campers had introduced me to  Camp Mount Mitchell’s initiation ritual—they knocked me to the ground, pulled off my sneakers, and tossed them onto our cabin roof.  Those sneakers may as well have been on the moon.  I was so frightened of heights, the thought of having to climb up to that roof left me inconsolable and weeping. 

That fear of heights stayed with me.  Amusement park rides, steep mountain trails, even ladders—all sent me into a panic.  Flying on commercial planes was fine, but the nausea and shakes I had during an afternoon in a small plane left me swearing that I’d never get in one again.  

Which is exactly why I jumped at the chance to take a flying lesson in a small, open cockpit 1929 vintage biplane recently.

Because I’ve been on a mission to overcome my fear of heights.  It’s part of a larger goal to deal with all of my irrational fears.  One of the things I’ve learned about fear in the last few years is that it can be provoked by real or imagined danger.

And like many people, I have a wonderful imagination when it comes to scaring myself silly.  But when imagined fears are in charge, our lives stay small and pallid. We avoid adventures large and small and retreat from opening our hearts to love, speaking our truth, and going for our dreams.  Fear overtakes common sense, and even worse, it drowns out desire and passion.

Yes, fear drowns out our desires and passions–those delicious yearnings and stirrings inside us that pull on us and guide us towards lives of pleasure, passion, and deep connection.

In short, we can imagine ourselves out of the very adventure of being alive.

So here’s what I’ve done to change the pattern:

I examined my thinking.  I identified the thoughts fueling my fears and gently questioned them, looking for the truth.

Is it true I’m going to fall, get stuck, trip, loose my footing, crash, die?

What would this experience be like without the belief that I’m going to get hurt or die?

Can I think of instances where I or others did these things safely?

I worked through my scary stories just like that, one by one.  The truth was always safer and kinder than my imagination was.

I calmed myself with mind-body tools.  I did my heartbreathing exercise until I could imagine myself in a situation involving heights and then gently and efficiently bring myself back to a calm state.  I breathed consciously in moments of challenge.  I visualized myself being calm and confident in scary situations.  I grounded myself over and over.  (email Support@TerryDeMeo.com if you want an mp3 and a worksheet guiding you through the exercise.)

I felt the fear and did it anyway. I remembered what Darren Taylor, a/k/a Professor Splash a professional stunt diver, once told me about his fear of diving off an 80-foot platform into a tiny, shallow vat of water.  “Hell, yes, I’m afraid.  I just do it anyway.”

I gradually challenged myself in the real world.  I did this in ways that were fun and engaging.  I put no pressure on myself.  I did it because I wanted to, not because there was a voice in my head scolding or berating me.

Climbing at Bandelier

A couple of summers ago, I climbed 140 feet up a series of four ladders to Alcove House, an archeological site of the Ancestral Pueblo people in New Mexico’s Bandelier National Monument.  I had to consciously breathe the whole way, but I did it.  And I was also so elated that when I got back down to the canyon floor, I climbed right back to the top again.  Guess what?  The second time was a snap!

Ziplining in Barbados

I went ziplining in the rain forest in Barbados, attached by a harness to a thin cable hundreds of feet above the ground.  I coached and calmed myself, and before you know it, I was standing on a platform in the jungle, all hooked up and ready to soar.  Lifting my feet off the first platform took some “feel the fear and do it anyway” self-coaching.  But by the time I arrived at the end of the course, I was elated–no shakes at all!  It was fun flying through the air!

And then, a few weeks ago, I was invited to the grandest adventure yet—a chance to fly a very special small airplane.  The very idea triggered the same old responses–sweaty palms, fearful thoughts, racing heart and legs like jelly.

Several friends gave me “you’d better be careful” and “I would never do that” messages.  My very vivid imagination got carried away more than once.

But I trusted the tools and processes that have worked for me and for so many clients.  And I used them.  (I’ve learned that the best coaching tools in the world don’t work unless you use them!)

And I climbed into the front seat of Buddy, a 1929 vintage Stearman Model 4 open-cockpit bi-wing airplane, one of only seven still existing in the world.

I was a little afraid as I was getting settled into the leather cockpit seat when the shoulder straps repeatedly slid off my shoulders.   Can I fall out if we tip over too far? But I realized that was just a predictable little protest from my lizard brain, and immediately diverted myself with some gentle breathing .  And once we began taxiing, fascination and excitement took over.

Sarah and me, up in the air

My fabulous instructor, Sarah Wilson, sat in a compartment just behind me; we wore headsets and talked to each other the entire trip.  She gave me clear concise instructions, and before long, I was steering the plane, guiding it up and down, left and right, and even into a figure “8.” Sarah’s ebullient energy and deep love of what she does encouraged me to engage and have fun, and made the day even more special.

Elephants and Buddy’s wing.

We flew high and we flew so low we could smell the orange groves beneath us.  We saw elephants in a field at the Ringling Circus Center for Elephant Conservation.  We saw cows and flocks of birds and highways and farms.

And when we landed, I realized that I hadn’t had one single frightening thought, my heart never raced, and I didn’t have to remember to consciously breathe.  I had so much fun and it was so interesting that I forgot to be afraid.

Will my irrational fears return?  Who knows?  It doesn’t matter.  If they do, I’ll just keep chipping away at them.

But this I do know: when we intelligently and consistently confront the things that hold us back from our dreams, we find the places where we come fully alive and where we soar.  And in that place, the sky is the limit.

Tags: fear · risk · truth

A Declaration of Independence for Women (from being nice at any price)

July 2nd, 2010 · 12 Comments

A smart, wonderful client who lives in Manhattan recently got a lesson in the high cost of being nice. While riding on the subway, a bedraggled man got on the car, sat beside her and, in a series of escalating advances, attempted to engage her in conversation and then began to touch her.

Frightened, she quietly waited until the train came to a station, told him it was her stop (it wasn’t and yeah, she actually gave him an excuse for leaving), and left the car. She re-entered the next car which had more people on it.  He followed her, continued his advances, and luckily this time several men on the car restrained him, and summoned the transit police who took the very mentally ill man away in handcuffs.

My client was grateful because it could have been worse, but she was tremendously upset and shaken.

What was she thinking? As we deconstructed the event, she realized that she saw him initially approaching her, felt uncomfortable, but she sat still because she didn’t want to seem impolite.

We do it all the time don’t we? We’re such nice girls. We are literally conditioned to be nice.

After all, little girls are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice.” We’ve heard it since we could literally understand the words.

I once visited a new hairdresser, walked into an elegant salon and was greeted by a man dressed in black and chains.He looked like an old, grizzled British rocker who’d partied hard back in the day.

I didn’t like his looks or his vibe, but I politely sat in his chair anyway.  As I picked at my hair, trying to describe what I wanted, he abruptly told me that I was paying him to cut my hair, not drive him crazy, so I had to keep my hands out of my hair.  I was taken aback but, nice girl that I was, I folded my hands in my lap.

As he roughly raked through my hair, my eyes welled up with tears.  “I’m extremely tender-headed.” I told him.

“Well I’m not known for being gentle,” he growled. And I still sat there, blinking back the tears.

I was aware of a sickly feeling growing stronger in the pit of my stomach.  But I did not leave. I was frozen and didn’t move.

You know the ending of this story, right?

Of course.

I left with three inches less hair than I wanted, a lousy, unflattering haircut, and the prospect of finding someone else to repair the damage.

What was I thinking? I was operating on the same frequency as my client was in the subway, as the woman who doesn’t get off the elevator when the creepy guy gets in, the woman who doesn’t get up, walk out, make a fuss, or do whatever it takes to live her exactly as she pleases.

I ignored all the signals from my gut, because I felt too uncomfortable standing up and leaving.  I ignored my feelings because I was afraid to tell him the truth.

We’re such good girls aren’t we?  In the name of being nice, of not making a fuss, not offending, not drawing attention to ourselves, and a load of other unhelpful motivations, we tolerate all kinds of inappropriate people and behavior.

We ignore the clues in our bodies, as they sometimes whisper and  sometimes scream at us–get up, leave, walk, run, speak up, yell, don’t sit here, don’t stay here, don’t do business here, get the hell out of here and don’t turn back.

Enough!  I for one am declaring my personal independence and I invite you to join me.

Let us declare our independence from being nice above all, no matter what it costs.

Let us declare that from this moment forward, we will put our desire to be safe and happy over our desires to be nice, polite, good girls.  Let us listen to the signals from our bodies, to our discomfort, to our gut feelings. 

Whether it’s to protect our personal safety or our hair or anything in between, let us give up sitting quietly with our hands folded in our laps. 

Let us never, ever again fail to speak up for ourselves, and not leave, speak up, shout, or whatever it takes to look out for our best interests. 

Will you join me?

Tags: fear · listening to your body · risk · truth

How not being sensible got me to Africa.

September 17th, 2009 · 9 Comments

Does she have an Inner Nag?

Does she have an Inner Nag?

After I returned from my trip to Africa, people wanted to know what the best part of the trip was. The people, the animals, the landscape, the country, and the workshop I attended all enriched my life in so many ways.

But did one thing stand out?

Yes. The best part of the trip for me was that I went.  I didn’t take the advice of the whiney chorus of nagging, nay-saying voices in my head intoning “NO-O-O-O. Don’t go.  You shouldn’t do this.”

“You don’t have the time,” the clockwatcher crisply noted.

“You don’t have the money,” intoned the voice of lack, convinced it’s the only thing between me and a life spent living under a bridge with my worldly belongings in a shopping cart.

“You didn’t plan this far enough in advance,” clucked the practical one as she studied the lists on her clipboard.

“The long plane ride will wipe you out,” implored the hand-wringer that thinks danger and injury lurk around every corner.

“Everyone will think it’s foolish/be jealous/won’t like you,” pleaded the approval-junkie that desperately wants to get along well with others.

Is she looking for approval?

Is she looking for approval?

I’d heard them all before, cautioning me not to seize other opportunities in my life.  I’ve listened to their advice so many times.

This time, I realized they were just the voices of doubt, trying to protect me when I didn’t need protection.  So I thanked them for their efforts–they really had my best interests at heart.

Then, I ignored them.

My stomach still did loops when I gave the airline agent my credit card information and realized that I was committed.  It’s to be expected when stretching into new territories, both geographically and metaphorically.

And I had a fantastic trip with absolutely no regrets.  I was enchanted.  I learned.  I shared amazing sights and transformative insights with fabulous people.  I had an adventure.  It felt light and airy and magical and free.  And it still does.

He doesn't seem to be worried about his future.

He doesn’t seem to be worried about his future.

The Buddha taught that you can always know the sea because it always tastes of salt and you can always know enlightenment because it always tastes like freedom.

I can recall so many adventures that I’ve passed up because I chose to believe that chorus of hyper-cautious, sensible voices.

This time I listened to the deeper, wiser voice inside me.  “Go,” it whispered.  “This is an opportunity of a lifetime.  Don’t pass it up.  Go.”

Recognizing and listening to that still, quiet voice of truth is the greatest lesson I learned.   And it’s delicious.  It tastes like freedom.

Tags: desire · fear · truth

Do Doubt and Fear Ever Go Away?

February 21st, 2009 · No Comments

darren-jumps1Is there a point at which we are so sublime and confident, that we can put ourselves into new challenges and not worry, not feel any fear, not have one thought that we might look foolish or screw up  or that our ideas might be rejected? Clients ask me this all the time. The answer–absolutely not.

The man in the photo calls himself Professor Splash. He holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for jumping over 35 feet into a kiddie pool holding 12 inches of water. That’s insane!

I had an opportunity to talk with him a couple of years ago and I asked him whether he was ever afraid when he did a jump.  “I’m scared out of my mind,” he told me.  “I just jump anyway.”  You can watch him set a world record here.

I attended a workshop once with the late Debbie Ford, who was a stunning, poised, bestselling author.  She asked the audience, “Do you think I am never scared?  I am scared all the time.  I just don’t let it stop me.”

Doubt and fear are widespread human responses to challenging situations.  After we’ve learned to see our limiting thought patterns and assumptions, they lose their power to stop us.  I might screw up, my idea is too crazy, it’s too risky—thoughts like these will likely pop up when we place ourselves at risk by doing something new, whenever we challenge our comfort zone.

We feel the old fears and hear the old worries when we take risks.  But we can recognize them for what they are—just thoughts.  And from this place, we can keep going. The fear and worry lose their power over us when we don’t let them stop us.

Being human means we will have doubts and we will always feel fear. And growth means that we don’t have to let doubt and fear stop us.

Tags: fear · risk · thinking

What Are You Doing “Just in Case”?

October 29th, 2008 · No Comments

I knew what I had to do today.  The thought was scary.  I was really, really hesitant.  Is this the right decision? Can I be sure?  What if I make a mistake?

I’ve held a license as an educational therapist for about 10 years.   I thought, “Well even though I don’t want to do this work anymore, I should maintain this license, just in case….”

Just in case what? It’s practical, sure, but I have a full-time coaching business that I love and this particular just in case is based on an assumption I might lose the work I love and go back to work I don’t love.

So I decided that just in case is not a sufficient reason to do keep this license.  Just in case wasn’t coming from the reality of a thriving business doing work I love, and it wasn’t coming from desire, from what I really, really want.

So I sent an email notifying my certifying company that I would not be renewing.  Simple.  Straightforward.  Direct.  It was scary to push the send button on my email.  My hands trembled a bit and I caught my breath.  And a few minutes later, it felt fantastic.  Clean, honest, clear.

What are you holding onto just in case that you really don’t need?

Tags: desire · fear · risk