Listening to our fears

A deeply held belief of mine is that we are all here on planet Earth to make a positive difference at this exact time in history.

I believe that those of us who are alive today are here because every one of us is a potential hero with a unique power that will be needed to build peace and restore environmental harmony in the decades to come.

I believe it is incumbent on any capable person to look deeply into themselves and to ask themselves a simple question: Why am I here? What am I here to do? What is my Life's Work, and what do I want to leave behind when I'm no longer here?

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I define "Life's Work" to mean the positive and unique legacy that any person can leave behind after they are gone. When we speak of famous artists, their Life's Work is easy to identify -- Shakespeare's plays, Mozart's concertos, Lennon's lyrics. But we can also speak of the Life's Work of people like Gandhi, Einstein, and King -- people whose moral compass and capacity to be true to themselves left the world a much better place, and who also provided an example for those who wanted to accomplish their own Life's Work.

The biggest challenge a person runs into when they are trying to uncover their Life's Work is fear. There is so much fear that runs around in our heads! It is a big demon and naysayer. When a person begins to uncover their Life's Work, and to build it, they will need to embark on a path that is different and unique from every other person. In so doing, fear will inevitably present itself. The fear will say that you're not good enough, that you will fail, that people will laugh at you, and that your world will end if you decide to pursue a path that is not what other people are pursuing.

So in uncovering your Life's Work, and in accomplishing your Life's Work, you have to learn how to deal with fear. And the reason for this is that fear is actually something you can never get rid of. Fear is always there, a silent partner throughout your entire life. This is a scary thing to think about for a million different reasons. But it is true.

The challenge then isn't to avoid fear -- the challenge is to create a different type of relationship with fear.

Instead of avoiding it, and being scared by it, you have to learn to speak to it. You have to learn to sit with fear, like you would with a friend or family member, and ask fear what it is it wants to say.

In my own journey to discover my Life's Work, fear told me that I would be laughed at by my colleagues from law school and university if I attempted to start my own practice, that I would fail, that I would unemployable and homeless, that I would run out of money, that I would never find any clients, and that I would be a complete embarrassment to myself if I decided to undertake the path of an entrepreneur.

Seven years later, and dozens and dozens of clients later, things have worked out okay. But, amazingly, fear is still there -- still saying somewhat ridiculous things, sometimes keeping me up at night, and sometimes making me a little batty. Even after all these years of actively engaging in my Life's Work, I still deal with fear, and I have realized that I will have to deal with fear for the rest of my life.

What was fear really trying to tell me so many years ago? It was trying to tell me to be careful, to have enough money saved up for a business-runway, to think hard about marketing and about the law I wanted to practice. That was fear's advice to me at the time. But it was couched in a parade of horribles. In fact, fear's counsel and advice will always be clothed in a terrifying specter. So you have to learn the skill of listening to fear and uncloaking it so you can get at what's really important, and then discard the rest. 

As you begin to listen to your deepest feelings about why you are here at this time, you will encounter deep fears.  Listen to those fears. And then, after you've heard what they have to say, take whatever is meaningful and kick everything to the curb. There are far more important things we all need to start doing rather than living a life of fear.