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Face Your Fears: Today Is a New Chance to Change Your Life

“Every new day is another chance to change your life.” ~Unknown

Last week there was a short article on the front page of my local newspaper that touched and inspired me deeply. There was a picture of a very proud looking woman, holding her A-certificate for swimming.

She had followed the swimming class with a crowd of five-year-olds. All her life she had been afraid of water, and then two-and-a-half years ago she decided to—literally—take the plunge and enroll in a swimming class.

She is now 78 years old.

The reason it spoke to me so much is because it confronted me with all those things in my own life that I have put aside and said goodbye to, because I told myself that I’m “too old,” that it’s “too late” or that there were other reasons that made it “no point anymore.”

And I’m only 43 years old. A baby compared to the wisdom of a 78-year-old woman!

She stepped forward, embraced her fears, and decided to learn swimming to get her badge. In fact, I believe the swimming badge she got wasn’t enough and she should have been given a medal for bravery!

A few years ago, I spent my working days translating and doing the administration and marketing of the business I share with my husband. I was also co-writing new training material about child rearing and developmental psychology. I loved doing this all!

Meanwhile, my husband traveled the whole country, giving the trainings and workshops we had developed, spending many hours away from his family.

I started to realize that I was hiding from the outside world.

It is so safe and cozy to spend your days in your beautiful home office, never having to face the criticism of others. It was a painful confrontation to learn that I was actually simply afraid of standing before a group of people sharing my knowledge!

During that time, a friend of mine introduced me to the Creative E-course by Leonie Dawson, which was such a revelation. I discovered so many hidden dreams in myself that I had buried under a blanket of “satisfaction” and “comfort.”

When I discovered the training program to become a “Certified ACT trainer and therapist,” I knew it was time to step out of my comfort zone. I embraced my fear and my feeling of “embarrassment” to change careers at my age. Yes, I was doubtful and hesitant. Yes, I did it anyway.

I’m so glad that I listened to my gut. Since then I have found so much wisdom and so much more enjoyment in my life.

My life is not free of stress, doubts, struggles, and disappointment. But I do feel like I’m finally living it! Turns out that standing in front of a group of people (I now lead workshops) does not kill you at all and I really love the interaction!

It also changed the relationship with my husband profoundly. We have rebalanced our work-family life and we have so much more to share in general.

Embracing your fears does not make them disappear miraculously. They are still there, telling you why you mustn’t do this or that. But you can choose not to be held back by them. Listen to the ramblings of your fears, but follow your own path nevertheless.

So, ask yourself today:

What would you like to do, and what fear is holding you back from doing it? 

We are all afraid of something, each and every one of us. The question is: does your fear prevent you from doing things?

Did you never travel abroad because you were afraid of flying? Were you afraid to take a painting class because you felt you’re not talented enough? Have you always dreamt of learning to play an instrument, but felt you’re now too old to start?

Make a list! 

Take a sheet of paper and make a list of your goals and what fear is holding you back. Use the word “but” in your phrase. For example: ”I would love to be self-employed, but I’m afraid to give up the security of my job.“ Or “I would love to learn swimming, but I’m too old now.”

Finished the list? Then here’s the next assignment:

Revisit your list and replace the word “but” with “and.”

Opposites support each other. A desire or challenge will automatically provoke an equal amount of fear. However, your dreams and that fear belong to each other.

By using the word “but” your mind creates a conflict by implying a condition that has to be met first. It tells you that it is impossible to realize your dream.

By replacing “but” with “and,” you’ll notice that lots of things can exist side by side, without having to exclude each other. In fact, there is suddenly the option of a compromise between your desire and your fear.

Example: “I would love to be self-employed and I’m afraid to give up the security of my job.”

“I would love to learn swimming and I’m old now.”

Notice the difference this little change makes?

Turns out you can do whatever you want and have your feelings and thoughts of fear at the same time. Embracing your fear is so much more effective than fighting it. Fighting will drain your energy, while accepting your fear and still pursuing your path will increase your energy.

Dig out those long-forgotten dreams

Search for your old journals, look back at your life journey, and think about all those dreams you have since long forgotten or put aside. Tell that voice in your head that offers all the good advice (“You really shouldn’t…” “You’d better…” “Are you sure you want to…”) to keep on mumbling, and write your list anyway.

If you come across one or more dreams that trigger the same emotion and passion as in the old days, ask yourself:

Am I ready to forget about this dream forever? Or will I embrace it from now on and finally take the first steps to make it happen?

Photo by BraNewbs

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About Judith Lang

Judith is a mum of 4 and a certified ACT & Mindfulness trainer and therapist. She helps women define their values and dreams, accept what they cannot change and embrace their fears and insecurities! Sign up for her powerful new e-course “Embrace Life!” that starts April 2nd. Visit her at www.growblossomflow.com.

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  • Guest

    Really enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing, I am making this list tonight. =)

  • Akemi Gaines

    I think one of the wisest things we can do is to assume we know nothing. This way we get to actually see. A 78 yo may have more “life” than a 20 yo. And how do we know a 78 yo cannot swim well?

    As you wrote, however, many of us hold on to our fears because it feels safe and comfy. Of course, it’s a misunderstanding. It’s like saying being in a prison is safe and comfy.

  • joy

    thank you. great article

  • Judith Lang

    I think your comparison of fear to a prison is very striking!

  • Judith Lang

    Thank you! And I’d love to know how it goes!

  • Judith Lang

    Thank you, that is very sweet of you to say!

  • Suzanne

    Making the list, and then replacing the “But” with the word “And” is so great & wise! So many people could benefit from doing this exercise.

  • Anita Lim

    Brilliant post, Judith! You are a woman of many talents :)

  • Rita

    JUdith and Jonathan’s articles were very complementary to each other. It brought to my attention that embracing your fears was the same as accepting one’s fears.Fighting one’s fears was as much as resisting them vehemently to denying their existence through being unaware of them. Yes Embracing/Accepting one’s Fear and still pursuing one’s Desire/Path, can be so energizing at any time of our lives.
    I am so happy with my attempts to quieten the ‘Voice’ in my head that never stops to continuously offer manupulative,harsh and unsolicited advice, so threateningly. I just allow my Critic to rant and rave. Now as i try to grow a little aware, I do not need her.

  • http://twitter.com/GrowBlossomFlow Judith

    I love this, Rita! We all have fears, and we can’t shake them off, we take them with us wherever we go. However, we do have a choice, if we follow up on that harsh critic voice, or pursue our dreams anyway …!

  • http://twitter.com/GrowBlossomFlow Judith

    Awww, thank you so much, Anita! (and I’m happily returning your compliment!)

  • http://twitter.com/GrowBlossomFlow Judith

    I agree! Often participants in my workshops first react with a puzzled “what’s the point of doing that?”, then after they did it, they are amazed about how much this little exercise changes their attitudes!

  • Deepu

    brilliant article

  • Jack Thompson

    You just changed my life. Thank you.

  • Patrick

    In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

    Abraham Lincoln

  • Jenifer Lamug

    Just ignore fear and do your best! Fear should not stop you in pursuing your dreams.