Managing Fear & Having Courage
This time, last year, I thought I may pass out. Not because I was a single Mom who also happened to be running a company. Not because the summer was hot and record temperatures put us all on edge. And it wasn't because of anything in the external world. It was my own feelings and beliefs.
About this time last year, I was about to do two big things in my life. Could they compare to adopting a child eight years prior? Would they even come close to fighting and learning to become a CEO? Yup, both would compare to any of those significant life-changing events. In August of 2017, I was preparing for both the Rebelle Rally and gastric sleeve surgery. Fear was strong in me. Courage was at an all-time low.
Excuses from, not enough time to money (significant and not to be trivialized) seemed to be the most critical roadblocks. Desire wasn't an issue for either of these events. I'm an outdoor adventure type of gal. I had been offroading, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, and traveling for almost all my life. In that, weight issues started to take me out of things I enjoyed the most in life. Even traveling to new countries (a tremendous joy of mine) turned into loathsome dread. The thought of sitting on another airplane and having to ask for a seat extender put fear in me.
The biggest roadblock of them all became fear. Fear in its many faces started to take the wheel for my life. Fear of looking a fool at the Rebelle Rally. Fear of complications from surgery. Fear of not being prepared to trek across the desert looking for a flag. Anxiety, fear, and fear.
With luck in August of 2017, I had already started to put fear aside. Nine months prior I committed myself and my cousin Charlene O'Day to compete in the Rebelle Rally 2017. There were times we talked about turning back. Usually, when we feared we wouldn't have the sponsorship and money to keep going. As well, about a year prior I also committed to going through gastric sleeve surgery so I could lose weight. Which wasn't a decision made lightly. I've struggled with weight my whole life. In which, I came to the conclusion that less food and more exercise wasn't the simple answer we think it is. I had turned back on the surgery several times, sometimes funding was the reason, but the real reason was fear. This time, I committed no matter what.
So, what changed? What happened that I was now able to do things I hadn't done before? There were several steps I took to start putting fear in a box and muster the courage. Was I confident in any of it? Not at all. But I began to feel more courage. This was the most significant change and stop towards a famous quote I heard since I was a young child; "Achieving starts with believing."
The first exercise I conducted and practiced was fear-setting. I picked this little gem of an activity up from Tim Ferris (https://tim.blog/2017/05/15/fear-setting/), the creator of such crazy ideas as the 4-Hour Work Week. Tim says he took this idea from Stoic philosophy. Stoic's were masters of maintaining the middle way (Buddhist concept), in other words, not riding the roller coaster of life. In this exercise, I defined my fears, not my goals. I knew the target, Rebelle Rally, and gastric sleeve surgery. The template for doing this exercise can be found in the link above to Tim's TED talk. The gist is below:
- With the end goal in mind, list all the worst things that could happen by going for the goal.
- In a column to the right, list how you may prevent each of the bad things from happening.
- In another column to the right of that, list next to each lousy item, how would you repair it if it did happen?
- In yet another column to the right, list all possible benefits from taking the action you are about to make.
- Seeing a pattern, another column to the right, list the costs of inaction six months later. What will it indeed cost you to do nothing? Rarely is there no cost involved. Sometimes it's disappointment, let down, get sicker, etc.
- You guessed it, another column to the right, list the costs of inaction a year later.
- Finally, another column to the right, list the costs of inaction three years out.
My prediction is that you will see and feel that the cost of inaction is much higher and more damaging than going forward. Your fear will shift. I try to do this exercise on a quarterly basis now. It helps me to see where I have fear around doing something and also helps me to see how important a goal is.
The next step, after realizing fear needed to be put aside, was to take a play from my parents' book; seek to infuse positivity in what I'm doing. Positivity, or mental state, is one of the most critical concepts I struggle with and seek to put in check daily. Much has been written about the genetic and psychological reasons why we may turn negative. Once you realize we may be defaulting to the negative to keep safe, we can change it. Some of the steps I took to keep a positive mental state:
- I told people about what I was doing, but I explained it in positive ways. Reinforcing it in my mind and also adding accountability.
- I started using social media to promote what we were doing, with positive quotes and attitudes.
- I crafted a series of positive quotes specifically pointed to events that may derail us up to and during the Rebelle and during my surgery. I taped the quotes up around my Jeep for us to see. I placed them in my house, car, and journal so I'd write about them running up to both events.
- I ran the fear-setting exercise, again and again, to reinforce the positive was more important than the cost of doing nothing.
Finally, I took one step forward at a time. As the old saying goes, I ate each elephant one bite at a time. I started moving little by little towards the goal. A colossal realization hit me during this time, it was that courage was far more important to me than confidence. I should say that I've always been a confident person. Much like a guy, when faced with jumping off a bridge into the lake below, I often just did it. At its heart, it was faking it until I made it. What I don't like about the phrase, "fake it until you make it," is that it's not faking it. Some genuinely do fake it and might hit the mark over time. I realized that I was usually good at courage, I did it and did it again until I was good at it. But not this time, at this point in my life, I was lacking courage. Courage in myself, courage in action, courage across the board. Fear was driving and trying to keep me safe. Fear was saying the cost of the surgery and Rebelle is too much, you will never come up with the money, you may get hurt.
I was lucky I started with fear-setting first. Fear was beginning to go back in a box where I could use it for focus. What bubbled up was that having the courage to take a step was far more critical than knowing I could do it. Even knowing that I could do great things in my life, it wasn't until that moment that I knew I could do any of it.
My message to you is this, fear has to be managed, and you need to embrace courage. You could be looking to advance your career, have a child, compete in the Rebelle Rally, or complete surgery; you must manage fear and have the courage to take the next step.
This year commitments on the other side of the globe are keeping me from the Rebelle Rally. My feelings are of sadness instead of fear, sadness in not being surrounded by amazing women. The sadness of not running through the desert I love. This will be remedied next year when I won't have to be on the other side of the world. As well, I sit ten months post-gastric sleeve surgery. None of the fearful complications happened. I've lost over 85#, and it's been months since I've had to use a seat extender on a flight. I've personally proved that the cost of doing nothing is far higher than shooting for what I wanted.