Follow Your Own Path — How to Step Forward with Confidence, Despite Fears
As you follow your own path, you will experience internal and external resistance, but you can learn to tolerate fear and turn it to your advantage…“If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.” ~ Joseph Campbell.
Do you have a strong urge to follow your own path? It’s an innate desire to express ourselves as individuals. And, in fact, your family and community need you to show up as your authentic self. However, is it sometimes a struggle? Can you relate to this woman’s experience…
“By the time I was 35, I expected, as did my mama, that I would be married, working a part-time job and raising a family. Instead I’m living with a cat, trying to make a living as a self-employed life coach and I absolutely love it! I didn’t take the path all of my siblings did. I didn’t follow in daddy’s footsteps. I didn’t go to college. All those were someone else’s dreams, not mine. Did I meet resistance from family and friends? YES! Did I experience terror at times? YES! But that fear was exhilarating to me, not a roadblock.”
Whoa…did you come to a screeching halt at the last sentence, “fear exhilarated me”? Can fears be exciting? Aren’t fears always scary? What can you do if your fears stop you from stepping forward because they feel insurmountable?
Fear Can Be a Force for Good as You Follow Your Own Path
Fear is recognized as a good thing when it keeps you safe from falling off the edge of a cliff or stepping on a rattlesnake. However, and this may sound harsh, most often fear is a powerful nothing.
I’m not minimizing the realness of your feelings. Your feeling of fear and anxiety is real, as is mine. However, when we stop running away from it, and when we stop trying not to experience that uncomfortable feeling, we find that the “reality” of our fear is not real. Can you reach out and touch the thing you fear? No, it’s in our imagination. And while imagination can be a powerful tool for good, if left unchecked, it can create a huge roadblock to Stepping Forward.
To be clear, I’m not discussing clinically diagnosed mental disorders of anxiety and fear. I’m talking about the everyday fear that EVERYBODY experiences. Yes, everybody! Even the people who seem fearless…the ones who have it all together. The difference is that they’ve learned to tolerate those feelings and use them to get what they want out of life.
Feelings of fear and anxiety are part of the human condition and we expend too much energy trying not to feel them. Instead, we can learn to navigate them more successfully, thereby preserving our inner peace.
We’ve heard that life is a learning process, and that’s true. However, if we don’t learn the lesson that’s expected we might feel like a failure.
How much better to view our lives as our own little laboratories where we get to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. It really takes the pressure off, if you tell yourself,
“I’m practicing to be a good partner in my love relationship, I’m practicing to be a successful entrepreneur or business leader. Of course, I didn’t get it totally right today. I’m just practicing. And, yes, I can learn from what happened today. Tomorrow I will do better.”
As Dante Alighieri said, “Follow your path, and let the people talk.” This approach gives you permission to practice, mess up, and try again. It means if what you tried today doesn’t work, it’s okay. There will be another opportunity to get it right. It allows you to look INWARD, move ONWARD, and have the courage to be WAYWARD.
Right about now you may be asking yourself these questions…
- How do I work with my fears, to trust myself?
- What does it take?
- What are the steps?
If fear has been stopping you from Stepping Forward into creating and following your own path, here are some helpful adjustments you can make…
Please….make a daily routine for unplugging from tech and checking in with yourself. Much of our fear and anxiety stems from being connected to the internet. A lot more than you probably realize! When you mindfully limit your exposure to social media and constant incoming information, you give your brain a chance to slow down, so you can hear yourself think. It’s so important to have set daily times that you unplug and really listen to yourself.
It’s especially helpful to have three times during the day — as you begin and end your day, and once in the middle to recenter and ground yourself. Deep breathing exercises and journaling are great tools to help you focus on yourself.
Take tiny acts of courage, instead of trying to be more confident. You will be amazed by the progress you make if you chunk everything into a small, achievable bite. If you practice this, I guarantee that overwhelming projects will become manageable and achievable.
Cultivate resilience and sustainability in your life and work. Sometimes self-care is a bubble bath, but often it’s prevention. What do I mean? Self-care is proactive. You don’t wait to have a heart attack, before you exercise and eat nutritious food.
Similarly, you prevent excessive fear and anxiety when you:
- set firm and clear boundaries from the beginning,
- manage your emotions daily,
- are fully aware of what you need and want and you’re going after it as in your life depends on it, because it does ☺,
- are taking action in baby steps,
- resting, as needed, instead of quitting,
- connecting and hanging out with supportive people,
- decluttering often (things, people, outdated to-do lists, ought-tos).
Give yourself permission to be different. Intuitively you know what’s the right course for you.
Don’t be stopped by fear or anxiety. Greater self-awareness will tell you that these body sensations are indicators that you’re venturing into something new. We have to be exposed to new things to grow. And isn’t that what you want?
Practice with a safety net. Highwire performers know that they will fall, as they practice new routines. Likewise, we will have moments where we fall and need a fallback plan, plus a supportive circle of people to pick us up. There’s no shame in adjusting your course or relying on others at times.
Life is a journey, a process, a practice in which you’ll encounter unexpected results. If you’re focused on results, you’ll lose heart when your expectations aren’t met. If however, you focus on living the best way you can TODAY, under any circumstances, you’ll achieve inner peace, and ultimately isn’t that what success is all about?
Would you like to know some more things that can help you more easily follow your own path? I’ve documented the processes and systems that have created the greatest impact in my life. Some are seemingly insignificant; some are major breakthroughs. Combined, they form a road map for Stepping Forward into creating a life of meaning and fulfillment. If this interests you, feel free to download an Introduction to The Stepping Forward Program.
Thank you for the photo Paolo Bendandi