I learnt recently that Susan Jeffers had died from cancer. She wrote the best-selling book, ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’, first published in 1987. I read this book earlier on the year, and it helped me to feel confident enough to head off on my travels with no job to come back to, trusting that things would be OK, and to start to progress some of the things that had been floating round my head for years, but that I’d never had the courage to take seriously before. Things like teaching yoga, working for myself and writing. So, in her honour, I thought I’d share with you some of her wisdom, with my own take on how it’s worked for me.
The basic premise of Susan’s teachings is that we ALL feel fear as soon as we push the boundaries of our comfort zone – it is a fundamental human emotion. However, the key to a successful and happy life is to accept and embrace the fear, and not let it stop you growing your sphere of comfort, as that’s how you develop as a person.
Her book offers all kinds of techniques for achieving this trick, but most of them are based on positive thinking, and developing an inner self-confidence so that you know you’ll be able to handle the situation, no matter what happens. If you are able to see the positive side of every situation that you find yourself in, then you’re laughing. Perhaps not at the time, whilst the shit’s still dripping down the fan, but cumulatively, throughout your life. We have a choice every time we deal with a situation: am I going to see this as a negative or am I going to seek out the positives, for example by learning from the experience? Often the toughest times can reveal a strength in yourself that you didn’t know was there, or can spark a life-changing moment of revelation or kick-off a much-needed exploration into yourself, to audit your life and work out what’s really going on in there. This has certainly been the case for me over what has been my most difficult year yet.
So for me, on the brink of self-employment, I am thinking a lot about Susan’s words at the moment. I am very much out of my comfort zone, having always had a sensible 9-5 job and never having had to worry about money much before. Lots of slightly panicked thoughts are looping through my head: I don’t come from an entrepreneurial family, I suspect I don’t have the best business head, yoga teaching is not the obvious route to financial security, will I be able to pay the rent? etc – I am definitely feeling the fear. But I also feel strangely calm, with a deep-seated knowledge that it’ll all turn out fine in the end one way or t’other. If it’s a success then brilliant. If it’s not, then I’ll roll with the punches, learn loads of lessons about myself, business and living on a tight budget, and will be a stronger, better person at the end of it. And I’ll be glad that I didn’t let fear stop me from trying. The alternative is to remain in my fearful prison of ‘but I couldn’t possibly’ and ‘it’s too crazy, irresponsible’ and all the other millions of reasons not to try that I’ve been haranguing myself with for years. The problem with that is that I would still be feeling the same frustrations of self-inflicted imprisonment a few more years down the line, and I wouldn’t have allowed myself to develop positively from the experience, no matter how it pans out. Plus, stirrings of excitement are bubbling up, which I’m taking as a positive sign that I am starting to move towards my ‘true path’. (Spot the girl who has maxed out on self-help books this year!)
Anyway, obviously I’ll keep you posted on how it all develops. I have no doubt there will be times where I’m in a crumpled pile on the floor, wailing, ‘What the hell am I doing?’, but I also have huge excitement and enthusiasm about the adventures to come. I’m aiming for a ‘portfolio career’ (I love the forgiving gravitas of this phrase!) of yoga teaching, massage, freelance ecology and, the most nebulous prong, writing. Classic beckymayhem, but then I guess that’s the point of seeking out what works for you.
So, thanks Susan – I’m scared but I’m doing it anyway, eek!