Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Next Step

I want to make a confession. When I first shared this blog on Facebook, even though I had already been writing it for a year, I was scared to death. I remember my heart pounding as I made that first post three weeks ago. I had no idea if my writing would resonate with other people, if people would find it helpful, if it would even make sense. What if people didn't like it? What if they said so publicly?

Since then, two wonderful things have happened. First, a small but very supportive community of readers has developed. Some of them surprised me. I heard from people I've not talked to in 25 years.

Second, the people who don't read it, who don't find value in it, have simply gone elsewhere. And that, too, seems to be exactly as it should be. In some ways, what this blog proposes is the easy way--that we can be happy now, regardless of whether we have everything on our lists. But at its core, that happiness requires an honesty with ourselves that can be a bit daunting. It requires us to challenge our own thinking, sometimes assumptions that we've been making for our entire lives.

I wrote a blog entry a week or so back called "Follow Your Fear." And I've been trying to live that in my own life. Right now, this is what life seems to present to me. There are some things that simply scare me to death, but I feel compelled to do them anyway.

I think that might be true for a lot of us. We have ideas of ways we can contribute in the world but we are deathly afraid to do anything about them. We delay, we make excuses, we avoid stepping into the light. But at some point, if we're lucky, our inspiration overwhelms our fear. And usually, we find that the thing we thought so scary turned out not to be so bad. It often turns out to be exactly what we needed.

Today I want to hear from you. What are the things that have scared you? When is a time that your fear led you to the next step? How did it turn out?

Thanks for sharing--both the time you spend reading these thoughts, and the comments and support you provide to me and to this community.


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  1. Hi there,

    Tomorrow may be a step towards something that is calling my name, and yet, something that scares me too. I met a woman tonight who works for the Montgomery County Homeless Coalition, and I told her about my desire to teach yoga in a transitional home for battered women and children. I'm calling her tomorrow so that she can put me in touch with someone who can give me this opportunity. One scary step at a time, one step forward to make a change, in ourselves and in our community.

    Thanks for the difference you make in this community Jeff.

  2. Thanks, Jen. Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in a community that so needs our help. I wish you the very best.


  3. I'm not really comfortable going into detail, but I very recently came to the conclusion that some things that were causing me considerable pain weren't going to go away unless I took some scary and very uncomfortable steps. It has involved revealing to some key people how very imperfect and vulnerable I am in some important areas, and risking being judged harshly, instead of continuing my safer but fairly counter-productive efforts to try to just muscle through. The judgment I feared hasn't materialized (or at least, not much--maybe just enough to know that I'm being taken seriously), and opening myself to that fear of 'exposure' and inadequacy has felt a little like opening the vent on a pressure cooker. The work is still there to do, but the pressure and shame have eased a little. I'm seeing some things that looked insurmountable or unchangeable soften just a bit. Communication with people that I felt obligated to protect from the consequences of my weak spots--but which I hadn't really been able to do-- has opened up, and we seem to be doing pretty well with it. To be honest, the process is painful, but for the first time I'm seeing the possibility that the situation could transform, rather than just be imperfectly endured. Working on the ideas of having the courage to sit with pain and discomfort, rather than trying to quick-fix or ignore or numb them, has been key to starting on this path.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing. It IS hard to take these steps, and it takes a lot of courage, both to take them, and then to share your journey. I'm sure this post will mean a lot to others--I know it has for me. My best wishes--please write again as things develop for you.


  5. Jeff,

    Niccolo Machievelli wrote: "A return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. His good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example."

    Stepping into a world of unknowns should trigger the amygdala to strike fear into the heart of man. Hence, think before you act is always a wise admonition! However, throughout history those who made the greatest impact on the world overcame that fear. I think you're right on in recognizing it for what it is and pressing on to the limits.

    It is truly liberating! Think of Christ, Galileo, King James, Thomas Jefferson, Ghandi all overcoming the fear to do what their hearts provoked.

    Best Wishes on your journey, I will be following!

    Les Roggenbauer

  6. Jeff,

    Recently I applied for a new job within my company and I can still remember the feeling of fear and utter excitement as I pressed the send button on my resume. The job was a newly developed global position and not only was the competition stiff but the process was daunting. I had back-to-back interviews with several high level people in the organization and they required me to do a 60 minute presentation on what I would accomplish in my first 90 days of the job in front of a panel of judges. The pressure was on and as soon as I plunged forward, I wondered if I had made the right decision to put myself out there. I remember talking to you shortly after I applied for the job and telling you that I was fearful. You responded with—“if you are afraid, it probably means you are right where you need to be.” That stuck in my mind and I have shared it with others since then. It really comforted me in a time of uncertainty. The funny thing is—although I didn’t get the job due to a specific set of circumstances that were already in play, I received tremendous positive feedback on my interview and presentation. I got recognition for raising my hand for the job and I am well positioned in the company for future opportunities. Even when things don’t work out how you would like—and in fact some of your fears do come true (like not “winning”)—it really doesn’t matter anyway. Which reminds me of a quote I saw recently--- “Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”

    Great work-- keep up the dialog!


  7. Thanks for sharing that story, JoAnna--it's a great reminder that taking risks can pay off, even if it's not always how we expect.