Feel the Fear and Leap Anyway

January 16th, 2013

To be fearless is to live without certainty. It is to dip at least one toe into the future without knowing how it will feel (how potentially good it will feel) or where exactly it will lead you (potentially some incredibly exciting place) or who will join you (potentially some phenomenal people). In other words every step is a leap of faith, opening up incredible potential. But not even one step offers certainty.

We spend sway too much time waiting for the right conditions to take steps. When the spring comes, I’ll start running again. When the kids are old enough, I’ll start my dream business. When my finances are secure, I’ll travel. When the work stress ends, I’ll give up smoking. When, when, when….. a constant search for certainty and perfect conditions. Perfection is nowhere and certainty is an illusion, fueled by fear.

Take steps NOW. Feel the fear and leap anyway. Reframe fear in your mind. Instead of fearing fear, and submitting to it like a school yard bully, stand up to it. Maybe even think of it as your friend. Pema Chodron said, “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

Fear speaks through butterflies in the stomach, loss of appetite and sleeplessness, among others. Butterflies in the stomach are normal. I like the way Steve Bull described it:

Nerves and butterflies are fine – they’re a physical sign that you’re mentally ready and eager.  You have to get the butterflies to fly in formation, that’s the trick.

Its possibly the same with sleeplessness, the gift of time to process possibilities in your mind, and loss of appetite, the gift of a light feeling in your body. Not that you want to live in a constant state of stress or starve yourself for long. But when fear is strongest, major leaps in potential may be close. The new truth will likely have a lot to do with trusting yourself more deeply.

Make a decision from a place of self trust, even WITH fear, and you will sleep like a baby.

Expecting certainty is like the old game we played as kids; stuck in the mud. You can’t move until someone else climbs between your legs. Until others save you, you’re stuck. This is one of the ways that fear is used by religions, advertisers and politicians to keep you dependent on them. They tell you they will give you certainty if you believe this way, vote that way or consume their products.

Part of the new world we live in is that more and more people are exposing the lie of external certainty. Seth Godin, the guru of new world marketing, has a book called A Marketers Are Liars. He writes,

The truth is elusive. No one knows the whole truth about anything. We certainly don’t know the truth about the things we buy and recommend and use.

What we do know and what we talk about is our story. Our story about why use recommend or use or are loyal. Our story about the origin and the impact and the utility.

Marketing is storytelling.

The story of your product, built into your product. The ad might be part of it, the copy might be part of it, but mostly, your product and your service and your people are all part of the story.

Tell it on purpose.

This is profound stuff from Godin. Old certainties don’t work for so many of us these days. We’re replacing dogma with story telling. The story can be upbeat. it can be empowering. But the power of the story comes from within. The anchor isn’t any external promise. Its an inner trust.The beautiful thing is that you don’t have to wait for anyone else to get you unstuck. You can unstick yourself from fear’s muddy hold.

I don’t know about you, but I find this exciting. And it gives me a great tool to work with fear. I can let go of certainty, and step out in trust. Who knows; it might be way better than fear ever allowed me to imagine. One last thought from Tony Schwartz,

Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.

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  1. Emily says:

    Truth  and uncertainty are sold as paradoxical however, they are really just words that attempt to describe constructs of thought that give form to thinking. For me, truth is about knowing who I am in the world and in life, and as life progresses it changes, never static. Uncertainty masquerades as a bad guy, but without it, we may never know what is possible for us and what we are capable of. Thank you for my daily dose of your wisdom, I love your stories because they encourage us to LIVE life!  

  2. Emily says:

    What are your thoughts on Universal Truths?

  3. ian says:

    hi Emily, I think Universal Truths is another phrase to describe “general patterns” such as everything changes, you get what you give, and peace can only be found within. They are generally true without being absolutely predictable or according to a formula. Uncertainty is built into even these universal truths because you don’t know what, when, where or how you will get what you give nor what peace will feel like. I totally agree with your statement about truth as knowing who you are in the world and this constantly changes.
    Be well Emily

  4. Another amazing article!  LOVE IT! 

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