Tag Archives: advice

Life practices: Moving beyond fear

(A follow-up to my last blog past, “Fear and Sitting,” with a focus on what you can do to move past fear.)

Over the years, I’ve discovered many ways to deal with fear—for myself and for my clients. Here are a few that I’m reminded of when I watch William.

1) Feel

I’ve found that the best way to get beyond fear is to let myself feel it.

Here’s what to do:
a) Acknowledge that you’re afraid or anxious. Notice what that feels like in your body. (If you don’t consciously acknowledge fear and anxiety, they will unconsciously run the show. That’s usually when you sabotage yourself.)

b) File these bodily feelings away in your memory. Any time you notice similar feelings, ask yourself, “Am I feeling fear or anxiety?”

2) Take baby steps

Instead of trying to push my fear away, I take huge (fear-inducing!) goals (like “write my novel”) and break them into baby steps—actions so small they don’t trigger (much) fear. I do those steps one by one, focusing only on that one action. (When I started doing this, it changed my life! I started making real progress on goals I’d been struggling with for years.)

It helps to combine this practice with the practice of feeling your fears. If big, apocalyptic fears start coming up, tell yourself, “Yes, I’m afraid. And I’m just going to make a list of people to e-mail.” “Yes, I’m afraid. And I’m just going to outline the points I want to make in this e-mail.” “Yes, I’m afraid. And I’m just going to write a bad rough draft.” Step by baby step, you’ll go from someone who dreams to someone who’s living her dream.

3) Fill up with joy

There’s nothing like a baby who’s showing happiness with every ounce of his body. (As a mother, I’ve realized that there is absolute truth to the words “bundle of joy”!)

William reminds me that filling up with happiness is one of the best ways to dispel fear. Focus on what brings you joy—and really let it fill you. This isn’t just a little positive thinking here and there—it’s a conscious decision to immerse yourself, heart and body and mind, in happiness.

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Fear and sitting

I’ve been deep in the middle of work on my “tea stories” and my coaching business. It’s incredibly exciting and energizing. And, at the same time, I’ll be honest–a lot of fear comes up: the fierce fear of failure that comes up when I go for my dreams.

Along with looking fear in the face, I’m watching my baby grow–and out of this mix come certain thoughts. Here are a few from the period (a few months ago) when William was learning to sit.


My baby is learning to sit. At first he sat precariously posed like a little frog–his arms and hands splayed out to keep from toppling over. He wobbled there for a moment, and then, in slow motion, tipped over.

Sometimes, after toppling to the floor, he cries. At other times he tumbles over without complaint, only to find himself on his stomach–and then begins to cry.


Each time he cries, I remember a lesson I’ve learned over the years: how important it is to feel my feelings. Whenever I try to stifle fear, frustration, or other “negative” feelings, they go underground, where they sabotage me in other ways: Instead of writing or working on my business, I fritter away time on administrative tasks. I hyperfocus on some minor issue until it drains my emotional energy, read articles on the web for hours, get sidetracked by Facebook, or spend the day “researching” with a barely-relevant historical novel. But when I actually let myself feel my feelings, they run through me. I’m borne along in their intensity, drenched in the storm. And then, when the storm passes, I feel a deep, clean calm.

This is what I see in William. When he’s upset, he cries. He doesn’t suppress his feelings. He doesn’t stew. He lets his feelings out, and then he moves on.


He keeps trying, keeps failing, and keeps learning. As he learns, I learn too. There’s the obvious lesson: he’s learning because he’s willing to fail again and again. There’s another lesson: even though every attempt to sit ends in failure (he always topples over eventually), in the overall scheme of things, he is succeeding. As time passes, he sits for longer and longer without wobbling–longer and longer before he tumbles to the floor. Day by day, he’s transforming from a baby who can’t sit to one who can.

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Write or Die

Sometimes, as writers, we need a little structure to keep us going. And some lighthearted humor doesn’t hurt either.

Write or Die is a great website that provides both. You open a text box and type into it. As long as you keep writing, all is well. But stop for too long, and the consequences begin: annoying sounds, grating music… or something even more dire.

Personally, I find it really helpful on those days when it’s hard to get going–or keep going. As Dr. Wicked (the mastermind behind the idea) would say, Write or Die helps “put the ‘prod’ in productivity.”