I spent today in what I would, in previous years, called a daze. I drank tea, I wrote, I read. I made a rather pathetic attempt at writing emails. A lot of the day was spent staring into space.
Sounds productive, huh?
Actually, it was. And like so much of life, the difference between utterly unproductive and deeply clarifying, productive work could not be seen on the outside. Had you seen me, you’d have thought I was wasting a day.
On the inside, it felt like I was synthesizing a whole load of ideas, wisdom, thoughts, needs, and wants. Something was shifting, but the only way to allow it to happen was to be quiet and highly unproductive.
By the time I went to bed, a thought had bubbled up from all this contemplation and it said: All you’re doing is trying not to get hurt.
And, reader, it was 100% correct.
All I have been doing this last year is trying to avoid getting hurt. I have played it safe, taken small, calculated risks, mostly about things I don’t care about too much.
I have spent a large proportion of my time this year trying to limit the amount of hurt possible. At the end of last year, I did get hurt — I got hurt in my creative practice. And I have been trying to rebuild things differently, and mostly succeeding, except I haven’t been doing what I’m meant to do.
Fear has distracted me from creating art, writing, from planning things I cannot wait to do, from letting go of the things that are getting in the way.
Social media doesn’t distract me — fear does.
Fear tells me that I’m stuck. That I just can’t find the answer. That perhaps there is no answer and I should go and get a job. (Fear knows how to twist the knife, doesn’t it?)
Fear has kept me tweaking projects, refining things that just don’t matter, because to actually try to do something I really want — that will hurt.
Failing at something I wasn’t really that bothered about in the first place is much less painful than even the idea that I might fail at something important.
Also — failure is inevitable. Fear is the one who tells me it’s awful and avoidable, if only I were good enough. Fear tells me that failing means no one will like me and I’ll never be happy again.
Failure is simply part of the landscape — as certain as breathing, sleeping, waking.
Fear is a feeling. Failure is a lesson, a result of doing something.
So here’s the thing:
This year, for me, has been my life’s lesson in getting back up. The phase I’m in now is how to get beyond survival and into thriving.
Fear has been there every step of the way and, left unchecked, it would keep me stuck and working too hard at things that don’t matter.
And I know that I’ve read articles similar to this one and nodded my head and thought, “Yeah, mustn’t let fear get in the way,” while doing everything fear told me to do. So I know you might do the same, and that’s okay. We can only do it when we can do it.
But in case this hits you at a moment when you’re open to hearing it, I hope you’ll know that failure is part of the bigger picture, and that fear can’t hold it over us for the rest of time.
I hope you’ll see maybe just one small way that you’re holding yourself back because of fear.
I hope you’ll know that you’re not alone. That successful, authentic, creative, ambitious people get all caught up in fear, too.
You don’t have to change a single thing today. You can just notice.
Me? I’m going to start by tipping the balance towards the things that really matter. I can’t wait to fail at them.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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