How many times have we stopped ourselves from doing something we really really wanted to do, but were afraid to? If you think back, imagine where the road would have taken you had you had the courage to do what your heart wanted you to do, or not do... or to say, or not say.
Yet, so often we haven't followed the prompting of our heart because of our fear... fear of failure, fear of others mocking us or putting us down, fear of criticism, fear of not doing it right, and maybe even fear of our dreams coming true and not being sure that we would really like the new life we created.
So take a minute now and see what it is in your life that you're stopping yourself from doing because you're afraid. Is it of entering into a new relationship? a new job? a new career? moving to a new location, even a new country?
What's The Best That Could Happen?
Usually people recommend asking yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?" if you made that risky choice. Yet, perhaps, what we need to ask ourselves is "What's the best that could happen?" Think of (visualize) what you'd love to have take place if you took the new job, moved, or whatever it is you're afraid of doing for whatever reason.
If we based our decisions on the best that could happen instead of the fear of the worst that could happen, perhaps our lives would be completely different than they are now. Think of the person who's a doctor who really wanted to be an artist. Or the woman who's a paralegal, when she really wanted to be a lawyer. Or the employee who really wanted to start his/her own business, or the cook who wanted to create a specialty line of baked goods. There are so many dreams that we had that perhaps we aborted because we were afraid. Lack of self-confidence is also a form of fear... fear of not being good enough, fear of failing.
A Girl From My Home Town
There's a girl from my home town who started out as a hairdresser. Then she opened her own salon, then she opened more salons, then she started a line of products, and now she's a very successful businesswoman with very a successful business chain to her name.
What gave her the courage to do that when a lot of other people in her class and her home town took the safe road? What gave her the guts to go for her vision when other people hesitated? Sometimes, it's not knowing that we "shouldn't" take such big risks, sometimes it's just not seeing it as a risk, but even more than that, most times it's just something that feels right, something we want to do...and then we follow through and do it!
Feel No Fear, and Go!
I remember when I was 20, I had planned a trip to Europe with my very good friend. At the last minute, she decided not to go because her father said he would not pay for her nursing school studies if she went to Europe (with me). So, I decided to go anyway, by myself.
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I remember people asking me, "aren't you afraid?", and I also remember not understanding what they were talking about. Having been raised on a farm 6 miles outside of a town of 1000 people, I didn't know about fear of the outside world. I was raised in the days where TV was not a constant daily presence (at least not in my household), so I didn't have all these fearful images in my head of why I should be afraid to travel to Europe by myself. And we didn't have 24-hour news channels that use fear as a motivator to keep people watching... fear of whatever gets people hooked to watching the news over and over...
So off I went. Twenty years old, a backpack, and some traveler's checks... and great expectations. I flew to Rome (because it was October and I am not a big fan of cold weather). I didn't really have any concrete plans. I had a list of youth hostels, a travel book, "Europe on $5 a day" (this was 40 years ago and a much different economy) and that's pretty much as far as it went for plans.
And the greatest benefit I found of traveling by myself is that it opened many doors for me. I met people that I probably would not have met had I been involved in conversation with a traveling partner. I was invited into local's homes. I even spent several days in a Moroccan home at the invitation of a girl I met in Fez. I was "adopted" by a Spanish woman and her daughter who welcomed me into their home in Northern Spain and made themselves my own personal travel guides for 3 weeks.
The trip was fantastic. I traveled (i.e. hitchhiked) through Italy with an Austrian, through Greece with a new Australian friend and her brother, through Southern Spain with another Australian girl, etc. etc. During portions of the voyage I was alone (which is when I met locals) and at other times I was with other international wanderers.
If I had stayed home because of my fear, I would have missed all of the wonderful experiences and discoveries. I was able to wander through the ruins of Pompeii, walk in the Roman Colosseum, see Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and marvel in awe at his David and La Pieta.
I was invited on a trip with the Israeli members of a kibbutz into the mountains of the Sinai desert and to snorkel the coral reefs (2nd most beautiful in the world) at the tip of the Sinai peninsula. I was given a tour of a family-owned essential oil distillery in Southern France (ah! the scent of pure rose essential oil...) I would have missed out on all of this had I been afraid to follow my dream of going to Europe.
So What About You?
What do you think would have happened to you had you risked taking the path that frightened you? Where would you be today? What profession would you be in? What would your life look like?
The point of this exercise is not to dredge up regrets, but rather to discover that many times you've stopped yourself from living your dream. And once you've woken up to that reality, make a new choice to no longer stop from being true to yourself because of any imagined fears.
And all fears are imagined... because they haven't happened. They are just thought projections into the future of the "worst case scenario". They aren't real. A quote attributed to Wayne Dyer states that fear (F.E.A.R.) is simply "false expectations appearing real". And yet we have let these illusions, these scary movie projections of our fearful ego stop us from living our dream.
I've done a lot of things in my life because I wasn't afraid of trying, and there are other things I didn't do because I was fearful. (After all I'm human too.) I moved to Jamaica because I was drawn to the lifestyle "promised" by Reggae music (one love, one heart, let's get together and feel alright... as per Bob Marley). I knew no one there, but I just had a yearning to live there, and decided to go for it. What's the worst that could have happened? Well, frankly, I never asked myself that question. I was just looking forward to the new adventure, the new experiences.
The one good thing about following your heart is that you have no regrets. Which doesn't mean things always work out the way you thought or hoped they would, but at least you honored your inner desire to do something. My adventure in Jamaica only lasted 2 years at which point I had to leave due to Visa difficulties (that's the short version of the story). But in those two years I amassed a lot of experiences and friendships that enriched my life. Then I moved to Florida, where I was inspired to start InnerSelf as a monthly print magazine.
Did I get financially rich? No. But then, for me, that's not the purpose of life. The purpose of life (as I see it) is to experience it fully and with joy, and to love your life, yourself, and the people around you. And when you deny yourself your dreams, you're not loving the first person you need to love: yourself. Think of it this way. If every single time your child asked you for something they really really wanted (ballet lessons, swimming lessons, a bicycle, or whatever) you always said no, how would that make them feel? Sad, dejected, and feeling unloved and not supported.
So every time you refuse to give yourself an open door to making your dreams come true, you're doing the same thing. You're making yourself feel sad, dejected, and not loved and supported. Why do you think so many of us are obese and depressed and TV/Facebook/alcohol/drug/gambling junkies? Because we're not happy! It's that simple. A happy person doesn't feel the need to try to fill their emptiness with food, or distractions. A happy person is not depressed!
So "be happy'! Follow your heart! Whatever it is! You don't have to jump off the boat you're on, you can start by dipping your toe in the water. But do something today that you've been afraid to do... or at least start looking at ways that you could do it.
What's The Worst That Could Happen?
What's the worst that could happen? The worst is that you don't do anything and you end up sad and depressed, sick and tired, and old and miserable. That's the worst that could happen! So, be good to yourself and don't let that happen. You're the only one that can change your life. If you think someone else is stopping you, remember that no one has any power over you or your life unless you give it to them.
Take your own life and your own happiness in your own hands. This is your life. Make it wonderful. Make it happy. And to give you a hand along, listen to this wonderful song (daily if you can):
This article was inspired by the Inquiry Card,
"What if I wasn't afraid?"
Inquiry Cards: 48-card Deck, Guidebook and Stand
by Jim Hayes (Artist) and Sylvia Nibley (Author).
About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com