I’ll never forget how I felt as I was driving to the first day of my yoga teacher training program. It was a combination of fear, nervousness, and apprehension. I wondered why I was doing it. I kept thinking; I don’t look like a yogi, I’m not strong enough, I don’t know what I’m doing, I should be going home to my kids, who am I kidding?
But my heart kept telling me I was doing the right thing. I had felt a call to learn more about yoga and although the timing didn’t seem ideal (I had a 1 year old at the time) I couldn’t shake the feeling that now was when I needed to take the leap.
In retrospect I can see that it put me on a trajectory to be exactly where I am today, living my life’s dharma. At the time, however, all logical signs were pointing me in another direction.
I sometimes wonder, had I not listened to my heart, what would I be doing today? Where would I be? Would I be as happy and fulfilled? I don’t know the answers to that but I do know that often times our fears get in the way of us living the lives we are meant to live.
Fear of change is not uncommon. In fact, it is so common it even has a phobia named after it (metathesiophobia). For some, just the idea of change can be debilitating and greatly impact their life. For others it might cause a milder, yet still frustrating reaction. Either way, it often keeps us from moving forward and continues to rear its ugly head at the most inopportune times.
Why is it that we have such fear of change?
Because, maintaining habits or patterns of behavior help us feel safe. The predictability of our lives provide a structure that can help us feel comforted and in control.
If patterns and routine help us feel safe, why should we invite change into our lives?
Because breaking through the patterns helps us to reach our goals and to live the life that we are craving for ourselves. Inviting change into our lives can allow us to continuously learn and grow.
In a blog post on Psychology Today, Dr. Susan Biali writes about fear and how it gets in the way of living our best life. She shared two insightful thoughts on how and when fear will show up in our lives. She says;
1) Fear will show up EVERY time you're growing or going where you dream of
2) Everyone who has done anything unique and wonderful was probably terrified much of the time, and very likely still is
I know this to be very true in my life. If you think about all the times fear has shown up for you, I would venture a guess it is true for you as well.
So what do we do when that four letter word shows up for us? Gabby Bernstein, author and yogi, writes that many people respond to F.E.A.R with F Everything And Run. When you take a real look at yourself and those around you, you might realize that that’s what most of us do. We recognize the fear as uncomfortable and scary so we walk or run away from it, without looking back.
Many of us know that our pattern of running/ignoring/pretending like our lives are fine, just the way they are, are keeping us from learning and growing.
In my coaching practice I work with people who are faced with this daily. The fear of change keeps people from leaving a job that is no longer fulfilling or they down-right hate. Fear of change keeps people from being true to their hearts messages and daily decisions to live a life on-purpose so they can be their best self.
In my own life I work with this as I’m faced with it regularly as well. I’ve used the following steps as a framework for moving through fear and creating new patterns to change.
1. Recognize the Fear
The first step is to recognize what we are feeling. When I was driving to my yoga teacher training and had all those negative thoughts going through my head, I recognized that I was scared, uncertain, and nervous. I quieted the thoughts in my brain (my inner gremlins) long enough to say to myself, “I’m feeling scared. I’m feeling nervous. I’m feeling worried.”
2. Name the Fear
After recognizing the fear, we can then call it what it is: FEAR. As I recognized the myriad of emotions I was feeling as I was stepping into the unknown and doing something different, I was able to say to my self, “all those emotions you are feeling are coming from a place of fear.”
3. Embrace the Fear
This is the tricky part. This is the step that will show your true strength and courage. Once you name the fear you can choose to run away from it or you can choose to embrace it for what it is. If you know that it’s fear and that it is keeping you from living in a way that you desire, or is in your best interest, then it’s time to learn how to embrace the fear.
As we often say during yoga, find comfort in the uncomfortable or find ease in the challenge. If we never face our fears and move through them, we will never know the beauty that rests on the other side.
4. Make a Conscious Choice to Move Through the Fear
Albert Einstein is attributed with saying, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Our patterns of behavior keep us comfortable. When we are making a conscious decision to do something different than what we are used to, it’s hard. It’s scary. It’s unsettling. It’s progress and growth. It’s beautiful. It’s fulfilling.
Making the decision to go through my teacher training program while I was working full-time and raising two little kids was hard. It wasn’t an easy decision to make but at the time I realized I had two choices. I could continue down the path that didn’t feel right for me anymore; or acknowledge my fear, embrace it and try something different that did feel right.
It hasn’t been easy but I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling.
Where in your life is fear keeping you from moving forward?