Hello you brazen soul, you spunky and spirited spark of fire, you beautiful ball of love! How are you?
A little birdie told me you’re bubbling over with fun ideas, creativity, and bold expression, but something’s getting in the way of bringing it all to fruition. You’re feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and uncertainty about your future and that yours and others’ expectations and desires are playing a mean game of tug of war with your mind? Does your belly start to turn into knots and do beads of sweat begin forming on your brow at the thought of getting it wrong, only to leave you back at square one– no decision made, no action taken? A safe state of neutrality, I’ll call it.
I’ve so been there. As a perfectionist who has wasted more time than I want to admit on “getting it right” and judging myself and beating myself up, I want to let you know you’re definitely not alone!
THE TRUTH ABOUT FEAR
Have you been playing the same convoluted and lame story in your head to convince yourself that “it’s not possible” “I could never do that because I don’t have enough: money, experience, time, support, confidence, connections, etc etc etc? Bla bla bla. BS.
Whenever I am feeling stuck in neutral due to complacency \\ comfort \\ apathy \\ self-judgment \\ perfectionism \\ self-victimization \\ essentially all descendants and close relatives of fear, I know that it’s time to take action.
Take a deep breath and have a chat with public frenemy #1.
YOUR FRENEMY, FEAR
Sssshhhh. Quiet that voice, girl. That’s your frenemy speaking. She’s known around town as FEAR and boy is she a b*tch. Just like that one very real human frenemy in the group that you run with, she’ll never really go away.
The first step is always acknowledging its presence. I hate when people talk about fear and refer to it as something that you can just get rid of. Wouldn’t we all like it to vanish into thin air? The truth of the matter is, fear is never ever going away. The best we can do is understand that it is there to protect us and then talk to it in a nice, inside voice to step aside for a moment. Fear is always going to be in our lives, which is kind of a good thing, because it means we care deeply about whatever is happening to us. Once we are able to identify when it’s rearing its ugly head, we can use it as a motivator.
THE CHOICE IS YOURS
What do you mean Ashley? Good thing? Motivator? Yes, my friend! There are generally two choices you have when dealing with fear.
Let’s continue with the frenemy analogy I’ve created. You generally have two choices when it comes to annoying people like this.
Path # 1: You can take FEAR along on your journey to greatness (show her how awesome and fabulous you are, but make it clear that you’re the boss)
Path #2: you can let FEAR control you and take you on a long, bumpy, and miserable journey in a whole other direction, far, far away from your desired destination (a long scary circle where you end up back in the same place over and over again)
I don’t know about you, but I’d choose Path #1. You know what they say? Insanity is the act of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Something like that.
LETTING FEAR WIN
Imagine yourself 20 years from now.
Complacency, comfort, apathy, self-judgment, perfectionism, or self-victimization \\ all of fear’s cousin’s have attributed to your actions, or lack thereof.
Every year you shrug off that “thing” you never did, for one reason or another. Next year, you say. And suddenly, some major life event or tragedy has shaken you to your core and demanded you take hold of your existence on this earth. Suddenly, you’re driven to action because of a sobering experience you had that woke you up and out of autopilot mode. Or worse yet, perhaps that sobering experience has created a situation in which you are no longer able to do that “thing” and you’re eager to pass the message onto a younger, less experienced brazen, spunky and spirited spark of fire, like you once were.
You’re struggling, overthinking and overanalyzing where it went wrong and how you can undo years of “not doing.”
“How did I become so complacent?”
Imagine your brazenness and spunk has worn off, because you kept saying “one day” and “I’ll get to it.” In fact, it has now been 20 years of “one day” and “I’ll get to it tomorrow.”
Your children are probing into your distant dreams and the life you once imagined for yourself, and all of your stories and memories start with:
“I should’ve applied to that program, but…[———]” “I would’ve gone to travel the world, but…[———]” “I could’ve gone to conservatory for acting, but…[———]”
Fill in the blanks.
Does this sound like a nightmare? It sure as hell does to me.
This is a story that has silenced some people into the darkness of their own memories, while it has inspired others to share their wisdom and speak out on their death beds, oftentimes, to let us know that it doesn’t have to be our story to tell.
Better yet, don’t fill in the blanks. Just erase the sentences altogether. Never bring yourself to a place where you have to utter the words.
So why does it seem like we recreate that same story of regret and shame over and over again when really, at the very core of our being, we just want to transcend the bullsh*t and accomplish our wildest dreams?
I’ll give you a big F-ing hint. No, no, not that one.
I’m talking about FEAR. I’m no fortune teller, but I am willing to bet that fear will keep you from growing, evolving, discovering, and really living.
On the other hand, you might find yourself being one of those people who chose a very safe life, sitting in front of your children and grandchildren saying “well, I shoulda, coulda, woulda, but…”
I’m not saying you won’t and can’t have a happy life if you play it safe, but you’ll find yourself always wondering, never knowing how life could have turned out, and often thinking in your head or out loud “woulda coulda shoulda.” I’ve grown up around a lot of wise human beings who happen to be older than me and have years of experience on me, and I’ve heard this story way too many times to count.
LOOK TO THOSE WHO ARE #WINNING
The sh*t that life throws at us is sometimes plain unfair and cruel. I know firsthand how sobering it is to experience setbacks and tragedies, but life is also full of heartwarming miracles and people who decided to defy the odds, when everything and everyone was telling them it wasn’t possible. These are the people whose strength, clarity of vision, and passion you’ll want to channel to tell fear to step aside when you’re in the process of reaching big goals and generally being a BOSS. I don’t know everyone’s story, but chances are, if someone is successful, they had to get over a huge hurdle to get to where they are today.
ENVISION YOUR FUTURE
Using visualization is all about future-thinking. It’s about framing your hopes and dreams through a future lens, and watching all of the possibilities flourish in your mind. Anything is possible. Several studies have shown the power of visualization for people all over the world. People who practice visualizing future scenarios in addition to intentional action are much more likely to achieve their goal, as opposed to people who just put in the work without that visualization component. Interesting huh?
So let’s go on a journey together to the future. Oh yes, girl. This is a journey I often take when I am feeling anxious, confused, and ultimately overtaken by analysis paralysis, when fear traps me in a corner and makes it tough for me to do anything.
I’ve adopted a few different habits that make a huge difference in my ability to overcome fear. It all derives from smart planning through visualization.
Meditation \\ The Calm App is how I stay sane everyday! They not only provide guided and self-guided meditations, but also a plethora of white noise options, plus bedtime stories. The app is generally amazing for stress reduction, as well as aiding in deep sleep. I talked to the folks over at Calm and they agreed to give my readers a 25% discount on the paid version of the app (worth every penny!). If you’ve been wanting to get into the practice of meditation, here is your chance.
Affirmations \\ Affirmations are incredibly effective and powerful if you’re wanting to make a big leap in any area of your life. Affirmations are usually mantras used to bridge the gap between you in the present and you in the future. It is important to phrase your affirmations in the present tense as if the things you are hoping for are actually happening in the here and now. You can really go down a rabbit hole with affirmations, because there is more to it than one would think.
I have affirmations written down on notecards that I keep on my desk right near my calendar, so that I see them right when I sit down. Some people are downright dedicated and serious with their affirmations, posting them on their bathroom mirrors, bedroom walls, kitchen cabinets, the fridge. If it’s eye level, there is an affirmation posted there. Perhaps the most important part of affirmations is speaking them out loud. The idea is to say them out loud every day, especially if you’re lacking the confidence, so that eventually, you will enter into the world of “oh sh*t, I actually believe this can happen in real life.”
Check out more about affirmations, including the science and practice, here.
Personal and Business Planning \\ I am a planning fiend, so this is one of the first things I do to create a vision for the year. Things change and life happens, so the planning is more of a guideline and the calendar often changes. It’s a great place to start, however, and being organized gives me that extra pep in my step. You can create and fill out an annual calendar, which you can find and download easily online or create yourself for FREE.
Creating a Vision Board \\ I have started the year with the creation of a vision board for the past 3 years. I no longer collect magazines, nor do I want to deal with tons of paper, so I create gorgeous digital vision boards. They can then be cleanly printed and posted on your walls or set as your computer wallpaper. For those of you who are super visual like myself, a vision board is a fun way to take the anxiety out of “figuring out your future” and create an exciting picture of how the next phase of life appears.
If you’re interested in joining a small group of dedicated #goaldiggers in a day of planning and goal-setting, join me for my first ever Reset + Refocus. Get ready to throw away the old paradigm of making (and failing at) resolutions and press the reset button so that you can kill it in the second half of 2017. Digital Vision Boarding included. Oh yeah. If that sounds like a dream, I’ll be posting the official event details really soon. In the meantime, send over a little message saying HEY Ashley girl, I’m ready to reset and refocus. I need more info!
All of these tools have been incredibly useful in my process toward becoming a creative entrepreneur. I am working hard on making these practices a part of my normal workflow, so that I can move past the overwhelm and doubt that create my debilitating fear. As I inch closer to the big 3-0, I become more and more conscious of the fact that the work must start NOW for any dream that I want to become a reality in 6 months or 5 years. I have to start showing up for myself today, so that shoulda woulda coulda doesn’t become my story instead.
With that said, I invite you to step into your greatness. Right now, right here. Why wait?
In sharing my experiences, did you feel like I was describing your life too? Need a fire lit under your booty? If so, throw your hands up because you are clearly not alone and I’d love to be your cheerleader.
Check out my FREE 7-day email course “PASS ON PERMISSION” delivered straight to your inbox. Squash the fear. Knock down doors. Do the damn thang.