April 21, 2019 | 05:16 PM

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25.03.2013Fear: Is It Stifling Your Experience Of Being Alive?

Fortune favors the bold!

Margie Warrell, Forbes.com

A couple years ago I accepted an enthusiastic friend’s invitation to join her for a morning at trapeze school.  Naively as it turned out.  Despite my utter terror standing 230 feet, – oops, I meant 23 feet – above the net (it just felt like 230 feet?!),  I jumped anyway.  Five times in all. And while I wouldn’t race back to do it again, I’m glad I said “yes” because hanging upside down I knew I was well and truly alive.

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To me, that is what life is ultimately all about – being willing to step (in this case jump) outside our comfort zone, push the envelope of possibility and live in such a way that we know, and feel, truly alive.

We human beings are really much more ‘human becomings’ than anything else… always in the process of becoming all that we really want to be – whether in our relationships, our career or business, our community and life.  Yet in my work as an executive coach and speaker, and in the rest of my life as a busy mother of four, I meet many people who don’t feel “truly alive” in even one area of their life.  It seems an awfully sad way to move through life.

When I talk to people about what’s keeping them from enjoying that aspect of their life more fully, their answers always boil down to fear. Sure, fear can present in different ways – laziness, procrastination, cynicism, arrogance, recklessness, apathy, despair – but underneath all of these ‘symptoms’ is the same thing. Fear of failure or looking foolish; fear of rejection and disapproval; fear of not measuring up, being inadequate, alone or unloved.

Fear is a potent emotion that serves to protect us from pain and harm. However, left unchecked, fear has the power to trap us in jobs, careers, relationships and lives of quiet desperation that leave us thirsty for purpose, hungry for depth and disconnected from the unique potential that lies within us.”   Indeed, countless people live their entire lives trapped in false beliefs, shrouded under a cloud of fear so pervasive that they are not even aware they are trapped… in their own life. Fear has become the new normal.

Having worked, travelled and lived around the world and witnessed the power of fear across many cultures, I’m convinced that achieving the success we want, however we choose to define it, requires confronting our fears head on – owning them lest they own us.  Fears that keep us from taking chances and making changes; from challenging the status quo; speaking up about that which weighs us down and daring to stand out in the crowd.  To quote Amelia Earhart: “Courage is the price that life extracts for granting peace.”

Neuro-scientific research has now proven that when you choose to think new thoughts, repeatedly, and take new actions, repeatedly, those thoughts and actions gradually build new neural pathways in your brain that over time become your default thoughts and actions.  And so, with persistence, you can gradually build up your “courage muscles” and with it, your self-confidence to do things you would previously have cowered from, your ability to lead, to influence, and to produce amazing results in your life.  Over time the action that you would once have cowered from, no longer terrifies you and the path of courage becomes easier to take over time That said, I am not going to jump off the trapeze again.

Apart from marrying my husband of nearly twenty years (which wasn’t scary), the best things I’ve ever done in my life have all required stepping through a wall of fear, and the self-doubts it fuels.  Boarding a plane at twenty-one years old to spend a year solo backpacking around the world. Moving to Papua New Guinea to work for three years. Starting a family in Papua New Guinea. Returning to grad studies with three young children.  Having a fourth.  Embarking on a new career as an executive coach. Writing my first book (Find Your Courage) despite having far more passion than literary skill. Uprooting my four children to move across the world for the new experiences, learning and adventure it held in store.

As I wrote in my most recent book Stop Playing Safe, I’ve discovered along the way that we ‘human becomings’ have a tendency to overestimate the size of risks and underestimate our ability to handle them. Also,  that very often the thing we must do more than anything else is that thing that scares us more than anything else.

Of course the fears you face are yours alone. As is what inspires you and how you define success. This isn’t about comparisons. It’s simply about being willing to challenge the stories, excuses and beliefs that may be getting in the way of your ‘success’ in whatever area of your life you feel it’s lacking. And it’s about having the courage to step right through the middle of your fears and into whatever actions are calling you forward.

Only by daring to dive deeply into life can we soar to the heights of success we aspire to. As Helen Keller said, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing.” Where could you embrace a spirit of adventure that calls you to step out of your comfort zone and step into your life more fully?

Fortune favors the bold! So let me leave you with this one simple, yet incredibly important question:

Where is your life waiting on you to step through your fear, act more bravely and live more boldly? Trust me, you are capable of more than you think. Be courageous.

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