I listened to Chase Jarvis interview Lewis Howes this week, where he recommends writing a list of your fears as a way to analyse – and potentially overcome – them. I decided to give it a go …
My list included everything from my fears of drowning and dancing in public (in private is a different matter…), through to how I feel about ‘success’ and ‘failure’, and appearing ‘weak’ in front of other people.
(To briefly address the latter: Brene Brown’s fantastic book ‘Daring Greatly’ is helping me to understand that true courage is about revealing your vulnerabilities rather than hiding them, or pretending they don’t exist … which partly explains this post.)
I wrote down how I fear both having too much time, and wasting it by procrastinating, and not having enough time to do all the things I want to get done. I fear both ‘success’ because I don’t want to be seen as arrogant or ‘getting above myself’, and ‘failure’ because I don’t want to be on my deathbed with a sense of unfulfilled potential.
What I noticed with these and the other things on my list was a sense of duality. I fear – and I suspect I’m not the only one – both the positive and negative aspects of concepts like time, hard work and commitment.
There are two key points here. The first is that all my fears contain an element of the ‘success v failure’ debate … and that ‘success’ means different things to all of us. What some may regard as a successful relationship or work situation, others may see as a failure. Each of us needs to take the time to understand our own personal definition of success, in each area of our lives, in order to understand how we’re doing. There’s not a right and wrong: we will all have different ideas on what success means for us, and we need to be comfortable with that.
The second point is closely related. Dealing with each of the things that I am scared of requires finding a balance. Time is a good example. It’s important for me to be able to take time out and do the fun things I want to do … but if I do that too much, then I find myself slipping into a dark place where my inner voice starts berating me for not getting anything important done. And if I go too far in the other direction, I get tired and cranky. I’m not sure we ever get to the point where we can stop thinking about this balance – we need to always be aware of it, and constantly adjusting to the opportunities life throws at us.
The process of listing my fears has definitely helped me think about them differently … there’s obviously now work to be done in confronting the shadows that lurk in some of the darker corners of my mind … but I can see them now – I know they are there, and I’ve been able to give them a name.