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The Biggest Obstacle to Following Your Passions

It’s scary to be your real self. It’s scary to take the leap and follow your passion.

That was a credo I used to ascribe to.  Not so much any more.  Now I see it differently.

Being my real self has mean following my inner guidance, even when I was uncertain of the outcome.

Being my real self has meant leaving an abusive marriage of 12 years so that I may discover who I truly am.

Being my real self has meant leaving a job that didn’t feed me after 20 years so that I may find my passion and pursue it fiercely.

Being my real self has meant cutting ties with my family of origin so that I may heal from the wounds inflicted by alcoholism, co-dependency and dysfunction.

Taking leaps isn’t easy.

Often, when I’m working with a coaching client, we’ll uncover something core to who they are: a dream that makes their heart sing, a brilliant vision for their future, or words that give voice to a longing they’ve been afraid to hear.

A moment or two later, they usually say something like: “Oh my God. It feels really scary to say that out loud.”

I used to try to reassure them by saying things like, “Yes, you’re on the right track.   Feeling fear is bound to happen when you tap into your authentic self. Stepping into an authentic life and going for your dreams means leaving your comfort zone, risking failure, and being vulnerable. It’s your fight/flight reaction to something new.  Your primitive, lizard like brain running the show.”

I’m sure you’ve heard versions of these statements.

But how do you explain the fear that shows itself when you are about to make great change, and, despite the emotion involved, you heart feels pulled in its direction?  How do explain that feeling of expansion in the fear?

There are two kinds of fear: one that is fueled by your primitive lizard brain, the other by a calling of your heart.

We experience Lizard fear when we imagine stepping out of our comfort zones. Lizard fear is irrational.  It creates panic, anxiety and makes up stories that have no real basis.  Lizard fear has us believing we will end up in a cardboard box under a bridge, failing at our jobs and our lives, rejected by our partners, and dying before our time.

Many of us hang out in the Lizard Lounge holding ourselves back from pursuing our dreams.

But there’s a second kind of fear, one that was written about by Rabbi Alan Lew.  It is the kind of “fear that overcomes us when we suddenly find ourselves in possession of considerably more energy that we are used to, inhabiting a larger spaced than we are used to inhabiting.”  It is the kind of fear that is a strange combination of awe, fear and reverence.  The alchemy of the three makes for Greatness.

Yeah.  That.

If you’ve felt a flutter and a calling of your heart, uncovered an authentic dream for your life, or felt inspired about a project or idea, this description might feel familiar to you.

It is the kind of fear that shows up the moment we awaken a dream, are moved by our real feelings about an important situation, or decide to take a big leap toward a more authentic life. We feel awe, fear and reverence.  Acting upon this revelation feels sacred and can leave us trembling.

No matter the differing qualities, in the English language we clump them all together and call “fear.”  The truth is that one will move you forward, the other, keep you stuck.  Know which one you’re dealing with.  You’ll be able to act more authentically.

The next time you feel fear:

1. If it’s panic stricken and irrational, recognize it as lizard brain.  Ask yourself what aspect of this is imagined?  Take the time acknowledge the fear and give it a chance to voice its concerns. Let your lizard have its say and write it all down.  You’ll recognize the thoughts as being off center, and will most likely come up with some solutions in the process.

2. If it feels different, has a tinge of exhilaration, awe, and feels expansive, then you’re on the right track.  Relax into it.  Know this is a signal that tells you are on sacred ground.  This is the stuff callings and dreams are made of.  Lean in and enjoy.

How do you deal with fear?  When do you know that what you are experiencing is either lizard brain or expansive fear?

Leave a comment below and let me know. Remember, the more specific you can be, the better. Your experience and insight helps us all.

Thank you, as always, for reading, commenting and sharing!

P.S. While this material doesn’t cost you a cent, I am building my Right Livelihood, after all.  So all I ask from you is to share this article with at least 3 friends.  Fair trade, right? xoxo

4 Responses to “The Biggest Obstacle to Following Your Passions”

  1. Jesica Davis says:

    Really powerful distinction, Joelle. Thank you. I had that feeling of exhilarating, expansive fear today and had a hard time putting my finger on it. Thanks for reminding me that it was a sign I was taking a step in the right direction.

    • Joëlle says:

      Jesica, Once we can recognize the distinction between the qualities of fear and have the correct language to express it, it makes complete sense, right? xoxo Joëlle

  2. I love to view fear as passion. When I get those feelings of fear, I have come to associate them with thrill. Hahaha! It has made me move forward in leaps and bounds lately. Just creating a new association to the feelings. Yes! Beautiful post Joelle!

    • Joëlle says:

      My Sweetes Phenomenal Lauren G,

      Thrill – that’s it. It’s uplifting, inspiring and makes you buzz all over. Love, LOve, LOVe, LOVE!!!! xoxo Joëlle

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