- Any healthy diet (based around veggies) can work; you just need to find real foods you can enjoy eating, day in and day out.
- Find strength training exercises that are fun, make you feel kick-ass, and get the results you wouldn’t want to live without.
- Do cardio that you would do for fun even if it wasn’t good for you.
Welcome to Awesomeville
I’ve been MIA from my blog for a little while, for a few reasons:
- I’ve been launching a website for ‘How to Come Alive‘ (see last post)
- I’ve been hitting it hard in terms of exercise, eating right, cleaning, and novel writing (more on that soon)
- I wasn’t sure what to write
WHaaa-aat? Yes, I felt clearly this spring that I and my posts were changing. It was time for the dawn of a new era. I first thought I should just power through, and do what had worked before, what I had enjoyed immensely since launching this site three years ago.
But instead, I took a step back. Till I was ready, renewed, excited — till now.
Because part of the slow-up was that I too — in my life — had hit a wall and now had to change.
My ‘perfect year’, which started on ‘Black Friday’ 2014, now has moved into Phase Two — starting May 1st, I have gone paleo for six months, am exercising a bunch, have plans to clean the whole house and give away a ton of stuff, and am moving forward with my writing.
And I have been following the idea of ‘What if THIS is the defining moment of my life?’ Up or down, yes or no — the life I’ve dreamed of or a sad mirrored distortion of my hopes and plans.
I’ve also been on a success streak this year —
- My sister Sarah and I got our first tattoos
- We finished the state park ‘climbers club’
- We started cleaning the whole house
- I trained Sarah so she could join me on the Twilight Gambler Fun Ride (a 34 mile cycle ride) for the first time and she finished with no problem.
So these small successes propelled me forward. I asked myself — what’s next that I want to accomplish? The answer was: I want to reach my ideal shape/weight/strength. Oh, I’ve been improving, but like a lot of us, I’d have ‘big plans’ that didn’t quite happen in the eating right department. So I decided that I’d use the successes of this year to build a ‘perfect shape’ plan.
And it’s working.
It’s also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — but that doesn’t bother me one bit because I look great, feel great, and can’t wait to see where the next day finds me.
Now, you may want the details — but you may already know them. You may have heard them your whole life.
That’s right: exercise and eating right.
I know I’ve heard them my whole life.
So what’s different? Focus. Like I said, absolutely-defining-moment-of-my-life. I’m not trying to make this work in addition to everything else, this is the whole fucking show. My main goal right now is Perfect Shape. Everything else is a hobby, an interest. Every day I want to be better at the end of the day than the day before. And this goal is super-important because, aside from health and happiness, it will prove my ready-aim-fire planning success at one of the biggest goals I’ve ever taken on, a goal a lot of people never reach. And when I reach that goal . . .
I’ll be ready for THE defining goal of my life, my reason for being. Starting after my birthday in November, my #1, most important, all-consuming goal will be PROFESSIONAL WRITER.
I wouldn’t bet against me. And a big part of what makes writing this blog fun is making YOU impossible to bet against also.
So go visit the website version of my book, How to Come Alive.
Get ready for an exciting NEW level of awesome in your life.
And in my next post I’ll dig into the hows and whats-its of my new perfect shape success.
Just know this — my focus has made my current life more exciting than ever before, and I’ll do everything in my power to help you make this the defining moment of your life too.
When you decide to change your life, improve your world, or reclaim your dreams you will come to a time when you get really excited about something you consider ‘silly’ or ‘trivial’ — and in that moment, you have discovered magic.
Think about it — how often do you get excited in the day-to-day? Not pleased, not happy — little kid excited. Won a trip excited. Finished the race excited. And more importantly, what do you do with that information?
Hopefully, you are already feeling happy pretty often, and doing fulfilling things sometimes. But excitement — telling strangers, breathless squealing excitement — true, rousing joy, how often does that happen?
But don’t tell me it doesn’t happen. You may just have ignored your passions for so long that they can only whisper to you. More likely, you think the things you love are silly, pointless, or a waste of time.
For myself, television writing is like that right now. I love, love LOVE watching great shows, and the bit of teleplay writing I’ve done has been very scary and exciting. But I love novel writing too (and blogging!) and maybe do see prose writing as more serious or legit. And teleplay writing scares me, it scares me to death. I wrote half of a pilot, reread it, and it terrified me — because it was good.
Fear doesn’t necessarily accompany this excitement, but the voice of ‘reason’ often does. What moves you is probably something there’s not enough of in the world, at least in your mind, but if you start telling a friend how you spent eight solid hours decorating one cupcake, you may get a lot of push back. Or a look of incredulity.
That’s okay. What you love isn’t for everyone, but if you love it passionately enough, you will transcend ridicule and find admiration. Maybe not from everyone, but if you’re madly into something, there has never been been a better time to find and connect to all the people worldwide that share your passion.
Because, while you don’t have to transmute your excitement to anyone else, many passions (and most of our great art, writing, invention, etc) plus lots of great careers, begin with a desire to share, to inspire (the root word of enthusiasm). So when something excites you more than other people, know that means that you would be willing to work longer, keep perfecting, and dream about this thing more than the average person. And as you know, there’s no traffic jams on the extra mile — there’s only people doing what excites them every day and living out their dreams.
So don’t worry about if your passion could be your paycheck — if it contains any kind of true magic and genius at all, it will probably look like the opposite for quite a long time.
That’s all right, because when you follow the things you love, you’ll be grinning like an idiot and having the time of your life.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a teleplay to write.
I am in love again. It’s only the fifth time in my life. It is with a person I don’t really know, I only know of. It’s not a celebrity (though no shame if you are — they’re probably someone who’s worked hard to achieve their dreams and entertain others) — he’s just someone I’ve talked to a little.
My sister doesn’t like it when the fantasy part of my personality runs away with me — she’s afraid I’ll get hurt. And true enough, I think I cried for two days (at least it felt that way) when the first guy I loved when I was 20 said he liked me as a friend.
But I am confused about how I feel about daydreams, fantasies, and the assorted imaginings that this guy I like will show up at my Best Buy one day, a beautiful smile upon his face.
Also, as a writer, imagining things is very important to me. The difference between two characters having a conversation (in my head) and me imagining me talking to this guy is indescribably small. And love, true indescribable love, is a big part of my storytelling —
“Did love exist? Love as Shepley saw it? Yes, he knew it did. He had experienced it, but he could not now remember if he had seen it in others in real life or only in dreams and novels.”
— A Caged Heart Still Beats
That’s probably the truest thing I’ve ever written that expresses my feelings on the subject.
But outside of books, I get the feeling that fantasies can be very harmful, and even become a substitute for working hard and going after your dreams. Take the lottery: is it harmless fun to buy a ticket and for a dollar envision what you would do, where you would go, and how exciting it would be? On the surface no, but I know people who have played for years then had to awaken to the reality that their real life wasn’t what they wanted, and it probably hadn’t been for a long time.
Also, I’m a big believer in action — the ability to make it so. So if a fantasy ignites your dreams and causes you to make goals and move forward, that’s great. And a lot of motivational leaders believe in the power of affirmations and envisioning yourself in the place, shape, job etc that you desire.
So dreams that become action = great. And everyday five-minute-fantasies, where you and a friend tease about what you’d do on your yacht or how you’d choose between Channing Tatum or Ryan Gosling are probably healthy ways to bond and joke in a fantasy context.
But — what about the gossamer dreams, the ones that seem real as life, the love stories that I believe in my heart of hearts could come true? My dreams about work and jobs I think can happen, if I work hard enough. But this lonely orphan of a dream about love, what to do with him? Will, in time, he just be buried out back, next to his four brothers?
I still fall in love because I still believe in happy endings. I need very little from my beloved, just them to continue rockin’ out the world with their awesomeness. For them to be kind and thoughtful and amazing and give me space and hold me close. I know these things are possible because I would offer these things.
So I’ll keep my fantasies, and keep falling in love. But I’ll also keep working to make my life even more exciting than my dreams —
When you have a dream, it sneaks around the edges of your consciousness, coming to the forefront of your mind in the oddest times — in the shower, listening to radio interviews, when someone asks ‘What do you do?’ But how do you cross over from a dreamer to a doer? With thousands of books and hundreds of methods, how do you find a way that works for you and moves you toward your dreams?
For myself, I both feel like I’m falling short all the time and that I’m making real progress.
I recently heard on the radio that February 8th is when more people cancel their gym memberships than any other day (I could not find anything to corroborate that). And many people give up their New Year’s resolutions far earlier.
But this is about changing your life in a big, permanent way — so keep fighting, keep learning, and know that starting again is still progress. Just a few easy steps can also immeasurably increase your chances of success — for example, almost all very success people (millionaires, famous athletes, etc) have written goals, and yet the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions are never put on paper. Here’s what I’ve learned that has helped me make my life so exciting —
How to reach your goal:
- Make sure it’s a goal worth reaching. This may sound silly but if you’re about to put hundreds of hours (oh yes) and tons of effort into a dream, first make sure it’s your dream (not your parents’ or spouse’s or society’s) and then make sure you really, really want the life you’ll have at the end of it. Want to run a marathon? Are you ready to give up lots of free time, family time, etc to reach that goal? Want to be a lawyer? Go talk to lawyers, read books by them, and decide if the day-to-day is something you’d enjoy. The idea here is not to scare you off but to make sure you really care — that passion will be a key ingredient.
- Find a way to make your dream quantifiable. Jack Canfield suggests that for a goal to work he’d have to be able to show up at a certain date and time to see if you’d accomplished your goal. So if you said ‘I’ll weight 155 pounds on 12:00 pm on September 15th, 2015’, then someone should be able to show up and weigh you on that date, whereas if you said ‘I’ll get in shape in 2015’ there’s no way to test that. Now, I’m a little more flexible with my goals, but a goal that a child could understand will help you immensely.
- Pick a goal that depends only on you. I can’t say “I’ll win a Pulitzer and get a job at Valve Software in 2015” because no matter what I do, it’s in other people’s hands who gets those awards and jobs. Now, something like ‘I will sell 100 copies of my book,’ or ‘I will get 600 followers of my blog’ could be more realistic because you could work toward it and it doesn’t rely upon one or two people deciding to back your goal. For the earlier example, a more self-focused goal would be ‘I’ll write (and complete all drafts of) my best novel ever in 2015,’ or ‘I’ll read two books on resume writing, write a great resume, and send it to fifty companies I would love to work for (including Valve) in 2015’.
- Limit your number of goals. “If you have more than three priorities then you don’t have any.” ~Jim Collins. One site suggests one goal from each category — Health, Finances, Career.
- Understand that willpower is a finite resource. You want a balanced life, and you want to move forward on different goals at once, but realize that you may have more success if you focus your strength. I’m hitting it hard in exercise, writing, and yoga and so I’m allowing myself to have a few extra snacks right now (actually, I’m now into ‘Paleo month’, but this was true when I wrote this piece for a class a few weeks ago 😉 ).
- Make a ‘setback’ plan. You’ll fall off one day — it’s human nature — so why not have an emergency plan to breakout for when that happens? Either make up / replace what you’ve lost (an extra workout later in the week to replace an earlier one) or figure out the best road back after an ‘off’ week. Remember, your goal is progress, not perfection.
First pick three goals. Then break each one down like this —
GOAL: Run a marathon in 2015.
PLAN: Last race in my area is the Xmas Day run. But, I’ll be pretty busy at that time of year, so I’ll plan to run in the Spooktacular Halloween Marathon, with a fallback of the Turkey Day Trot Fun Marathon.
BREAK IT DOWN: It’s January 18th now, so I want to be halfway to my Oct 31st goal by roughly the end of May. So I’ll enter the June 1st, Summer Half Marathon to keep me on track. I’ll need to be able to run 13.1 miles then and I can now run 1 mile. So I want to run 6 and a half miles by the end of April and three miles by March 15th.
HELP: I’ll read two running books and talk to the people at the local shoe running store about training and new shoes. I’ll also read up and buy food to help me feel my best and put on muscle.
WEEKLY PLAN: Go on three runs this week, each a mile long. Next week go on three 1.2 mile runs.
OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Find a running buddy; buy a sports watch, talk to my doctor.
In the end, YOU can change your life. All it takes is determination, hard work, flexibility about your methods, and a burning desire to see your dream become a reality. This is the moment — you got this!
WARNING: A little extra language in the pictures of this post — because I was feeling passionate!
In life there are two pulls — the urge to become more and the necessity of loving yourself as is. I don’t believe these forces are incompatible but we too often tell our story as ‘I’m broken and I must fix myself.’
But we’re not broken. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience and our bodies can shatter, we can grow tired, we may even get lost. And we can definitely make mistakes. But we can’t break. And at our soul level there is something so fundamentally strong and beautiful and full of glorious purpose that it burns brightly our whole lives and we cannot lessen its glow one iota — we can only hide it from the world and even ourselves.
We lose sight of the things that make us beautiful and make us dream. We sell our days for power and money, and give away the peace of night in exchange for fears and insecurity.
There was no grand scheme, no master plan to build a society that told us, from birth to death, that we are not good enough. Companies just sold things, and advertisers discovered that praying on our fears, playing to our vanities, and distorting our dreams sold a lot of soda. And cars. And weight loss devices.
An unintentional side effect of this effective advertising is, on a massive level, unconscious self-loathing (oops!). And before you think I overstate my case, I’ll ask ‘Are you happy with the shape of your body?’ ‘How often do you wish you had more money?’ ‘Do you think other people have more fun, more vibrant social lives than you?’ Or as my sister put it, she grew up thinking you couldn’t be the hero of the story unless you were ‘the pretty one’.
And having to grow up at school, trapped in a building with a bunch of other confused kids doesn’t help. So we emerge, blinking, into the strong sunlight of adulthood and look around, lost. And yet we often still try, still push toward our dreams and our heart’s desires.
But the road is long, and we stumble, then retreat. And somewhere along the way we can grow cold, or even cruel. We gain weight and believe ourselves maybe just the ‘sassy friend’ instead of the luminous heroine. I’ve had pretty good self esteem for a few years now (starting my groups People Who Have Come Alive & the Athens Writers Association was a big turning point for me), but even I was thrown backwards, back to TV show expectations of my youth recently when I fell for someone and wondered ‘Could I even be seen as attractive to him?’ And I’ve worked on this stuff for years! But billions of dollars have been spent in the same time span to tell me I lack something, or many things.
So cover our glow in armor, in hardheartedness, in shrouds. We develop traits we don’t like, and these become the weak places where we also build up our strongest defenses. And somewhere along the way, we believe a myth we have helped write, the story of why we don’t deserve success — in business, in love, or in life.
Before I started my groups, my self publishing, or even a lot of my self improvement, I too had a myth. I was a ‘nice’ girl who was too shy for groups, too boring to have friends, and too ugly (read fat) to have a boyfriend. It hurts and bewilders me now to write these words, because I never expressed them to anyone back then, but none the less, it was a story — a reason — that I used to explain my life. The truth was I was quiet and introspective, and curvy (and still am).
So what changed my outlook? I think I just realized that I had felt and wrestled with these feelings, these ‘lacks’, most of my adult life, so it followed that I could be having exactly the same conversations with myself in 10, or 20, or 30 years. I didn’t want that and so I decided to take action — bringing the people I wanted to know together, speaking even when my voice shook, and building a body I could love — with or without a man to enjoy it with.
So how do you let go of these brainwashed ideals and layers of armor? How do you honor how awesome you are and know how far you can go?
5 Ways to Love Yourself and Reveal Your Awesome
- Start questioning your authorities. When you think, ‘I need to lose weight’ — STOP. Ask yourself where this desire is coming from — love or fear? Do you love dancing around, and feeling great with tons of energy? Or do you read magazines and watch shows that take 1% of the human population and then Photoshop and light them to look like 0% naturally do? If you think you need more success (and money) ask yourself why. Will that really make something inside you different and happier or have you just been told the validation of life is cha-ching! cash? After you start questioning your sources, consider cutting the toxic ones out of your life while looking at things from a new perspective (read blogs about people beating anorexia or helping children in disadvantaged countries, watch foreign films, find quotes and people that build you up, read bios of great historical figures). And when a person you know offers their opinion, always ask yourself, ‘Are they someone I want to emulate, to aspire to be?’
- Make time for what makes you awesome. So often we only work on our weaknesses. In the book Now, Discover Your Strengths, the authors talk about how you want to shore up your weaknesses, but only enough that they don’t slow you down (they use an example of Tiger Woods improving his short game so it would not detract from his amazing long swings that got him to the green so quickly). The takeaway was that you are never going to be amazing because of your weaknesses — it’s your unique strengths that will blow people away. So take pride in the things that come easily to you, delve into the hobbies and sports that you excel at (I once told my sister that I felt like I was ‘made’ for cycling — and that is a powerful feeling, almost like you’re cheating). In the same way, I didn’t really ‘fix’ my character flaws, I just walked away from them and focused on stuff I rock at — and I’ve never looked back.
- Get healthy. Seriously, throw out the scale (it’s a horrible measure of health), and forget about diets (these temporary things you hate) while embracing diet (a lifelong way of eating that makes you feel great). So much self esteem and endorphins lie on the other side of exercise and eating right. Also — weed, drinking, and excessive sugar can all be enjoyed, but they can also become a crutch that makes us feel powerless and reliant on their mood enhancements. And I know smokers already feel beat up upon, but I really do feel like that addiction unfairly makes you feel powerless — a slave to nicotine — many times a day, so I hope, if you smoke, you find out how powerful you are and break that habit into a million pieces.
- Become an inspiration to others. Write a book. Lead a cause. Start a group. Blog about fitness. Mentor a child. Follow your dream so hard that others stare in wonder. When I started my groups, a strange thing happened: people started telling me how awesome I was, and how I was inspiring them. I felt there must be some mistake, but no — I was just living my life but even what I considered small acts — hosting a meeting, sharing what I knew, encouraging people with a few words — others saw a value to that and spoke up about it. This inspired me to do more — publish a book, give a public reading — because I realized that we all have fears and insecurities and the more ‘fake it till you make it’ I did, the more bold and brave they would become in their own lives. Suddenly, being awesome wasn’t about just me.
- Speak to yourself with love. Not get all psychological on you, but there’s only one person watching everything you do and commenting on how you do it. It’s you. And it was a real wake-up call the first time I read something like ‘If you wouldn’t speak to a small child like that, why would you speak to your inner child that way?’ It’s really hard to live an inspiring life if someone is degrading you all the time. So, give yourself a break. It’s been shown in studies that being ‘hard line’ or tough with yourself does not improve your willpower or results. In fact, the opposite is true. You are already doing great things — give yourself some love.
So start seeing yourself as beautiful.
Fall in love with who you are at your silliest and most sublime.
Forgive the actions and thoughts of your past and know they are not you.
Make choices that reveal your inner glory and magnificent joy.
Say “Screw you!” to any society that hasn’t gotten on board with your level of sexy, awesomeness, or lifestyle.
Heal your body and free your mind.
And lastly, when you feel imperfect, remember the words of Leonard Cohen — “There is crack in everything . . .
Recently my sister caught up on reading my last few blog posts and, with a moan, called them ‘challenging’. She wasn’t against the content or the ideas — I think it just seemed like a lot to take in after a month of busyness and bad eating, and sitting here in our unheated house with intermittent water issues.
The journey can seem long and our goals mighty, but what I don’t probably talk enough about here is how freaking amazing, fantastic, gorgeous you are (all of you, not just my sister 😉 ). You are improving, learning, and growing all the time — and you’re still pursuing your hopes and dreams with amazing tenacity.
So here’s ten fantastic, encouraging things you need to hear right now —
1. Change your life today —
2. Trust the process —
3. Stop comparing yourself —
4. This quote forever —
5. You have no idea how amazing you can be —
6. Be passionate, Be present, Be you —
7. Let’s sail beyond the horizon —
8. You are more beautiful because of what you’ve survived —
9. The time has come to actually see the person in the mirror —
10. Take a deep breath (you’ve got this) —
And finally, say to yourself —
This spring I wrote a post called How to Reevaluate Your Life. It talked about asking the right questions when you know you want something different out of this brief, beautiful existence. This is the next step, about answers.
That quote scared me. I have plans — but I always have plans. And I’ve been talking about some of them for ten years or longer. I don’t want to risk my life passing while I dreamed of a different existence I was too scared to even attempt.
Ah, fear. Not fear-of-spiders fear (which is silly because spiders are awesome and eat things that bother you). Instead, when your questions start to give you an idea of what you want, you’ll get afraid. You may even get hostile. You may look for people to blame, reasons it’s too late, or you may re-reevaluate your life and say ‘Hey, this isn’t so bad,’ (hint: If you find yourself saying this — Yes. It. Is.)
So, after you start to get an idea of what you like, and don’t like, about your current life — what the heck do you do now? I’m glad you asked.
THE ‘WHAT THE HECK DO I DO NOW?’ LIST:
- Take a ‘Reevaluation Vacation’. Back in May of 2014, I really felt stuck and wondered if I hated my long term job in retail. Then I decided take an 8 day vacation (the length was based on hearing that it took 8 – 14 days for your body to really rest and recuperate away from work). So I stayed home and did every day whatever sounded most enjoyable, not really ‘movie marathons’ but things like walks and yoga and writing (and making collages!). The point wasn’t just to party but to give myself time away from the hustle-bustle (I tried not to leave the house except for park walks). You might not be able to do as I did, but even a long weekend (or having someone watch your kids for a couple of days) can be very clarifying. For me, I realized I didn’t hate my job I just needed to be doing more of the things I loved.
- Plan the Plan-y Plan. All talk and no action will get you nowhere but… It’s an important first step. Still, like the awesome Larry Winget says, you already know what you need to do. You’ve probably known for years what you need to do. So, now you’re going to do it. That’s it. That’s the plan. It’s as simple as imagining your perfect life (not a vacation or the day you meet Oprah, just a regular day in your extraordinary life), then realizing what would need to happen to get there (healthier weight, advanced degree) and distill it down to something you can do every week and every day to reach that goal. You don’t have to know every step, just the first step.
- Do it with love or not at all. Presumably, you’re reevaluating your life because you’re tired of living a compromised existence, full of activities you hate and things you’d rather not be doing. SO STOP. Really. The life you are supposed to be living, the life you’ll excel at, is doing what you love. All. The. Time. Don’t believe me? Just try to be deliriously happy and not change the world for the better. Betcha can’t do it. When you’re trying to figure out what your life should be like, follow what makes you smile, what makes you excited. Now, in the long term, I’m not talking about pizza and Netflix. I’m talking about the little kid inside you, and what gets them excited, makes them want to leap off the couch, plastic sword in hand, yelling “Yay!’ at the top of their lungs. Because starting right now, you’re closing the door on the mediocre part of your life; you’re through compromising.
- Only spend time on goals that are of Soul-Level importance to you. Really. The big stuff. Not the things you think you should be doing, or will impress other people. Your goals should be change the world / change your life forever achievements. This doesn’t mean you have to be selfless — I want to be in my perfect body for me (and to inspire others to live healthier lives). Writing my novels is completely selfish (and could create works that others will enjoy as much as I do). Even my goal of keeping the house cleaner is no small thing (sometimes we have squirrels) because I want to honor my sister and create a place worthy of both of our artistic dreams. Any goal can have meaning, but its only chance of success is if it has deep meaning for you.
- Ask yourself if this is the defining moment of your life. My sister and visionary, Sarah Cerulean, often talks about ‘The story of your life’. If you were reading or watching a bio of how you achieved all your dreams and came to lead such an inspiring life, what steps would have brought you there? Assuming the outcome is amazing-great-spectacular, when did things start getting exciting? Could you trace it back to these days, this time when you said ‘I deserve more’ and starting working hard for it? The truth is, the clock is running — if you’re ready, you can make your life as great as your fantasies, but if you back away now, you may just let some of those dreams slip away forever. Scary but true. And the vision I have for the rest of my life (and yours) is way too grand and exciting to turn away from now. THIS IS YOUR MOMENT. You have been training your whole life for this leap, for this proof of your awesomeness. Keep going. You’ll make it.
Since Black Friday, I have been working hard every day to launch myself forward toward the life of my dreams. Exercising, yoga, and especially doing a lot of writing (it is my passion and life’s purpose after all!).
What I didn’t plan on, was how freaking scary it was going to be.
It’s scary. It’s scary not to know how you’ll look in a year or where you’ll end up living or what job you’ll be doing. Or who you’ll be with.
As soon as I realized I was creating all this forward momentum, I realized I needed a destination. Boy, then did it hit the fan.
First a little background. Ever since our parents broke up and then my Mother died (about ten years ago) by sister and I have sought stability. Just making things calm, and safe, and comfortable for ourselves and each other. And we’ve been spectacularly successful. Now though, it’s a time of change. And when I started thinking about my future, I realized I wasn’t sure what I really wanted.
Was I still a novelist foremost? What about my inspirational and self help writing? What about my unceasing love of TV and intrigue with the idea of writing teleplays?
Did I want to travel most? Settle down in an amazing new place? Or stay in Athens, GA?
Was I ready for a big new step if I fall in love? Or did I just want to run around the world for a while and have adventures?
Clearly, for all I’d dreamed about my life after retail and working as a full time writer, when faced with the idea of it actually coming to pass, I simply had no idea.
Fear is a natural response to the unknown. But, we are not living in the wild. There are no bears and wolves around (for most of us). Fear should not be a red stop light, a firm ‘No! Go back, you fool!’ Instead, it just tells you that you are stepping onto unknown ground. For me, in the weeks since this started, there have been five main types of fear (see if you too recognize these as you step off the well-worn path toward the life you were destined for) —
Five Fears That Prove You’re Doing Something Right
- Fear of Failure. Right off the bat, I thought “What if I set this big goal, tell people about it, and can’t do it? What if I belly flop? And most importantly, how will I stay positive if I’m a failure? This is probably the fear that stops 90% of cool, amazing, incredible things from being made and stops more discoveries of best friends, soul mates, and mentors than any other. But the truth is, even big failures don’t really get much traction — my Athens Writers Association had a reading once where almost no one showed up. It wasn’t fun at the time, but we learned something about how to do it better, and it doesn’t mean much when held up against all our successes. The best advice for this kind of fear is ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway.’ The only way to do anything worthwhile is to realize the price of failure is small, no one’s getting eaten, and the rest of the world isn’t really going to pay your one act that much mind. What they’re responding to is that you’re living a life of action. I fail in tons of ways all the time (eating habits, not being as perfectly kind as I could be, trying to cheat by counting reading ‘The Hobbit’ as ‘writing time’) and yet many people tell me I inspire them. People will forget the minute and remember that you did something they were afraid to even try.
- Fear of Success. Now this one may seem silly on the surface, but it’s actually quite reasonable: our whole lives are constructed around things we know how to do, and to handle. Think about it — you do what works. You know how to drive but not a stick-shift, so your car’s automatic. You don’t have to like your job, but you probably could do it with your eyes closed. Even bad situations, like being in debt, you’re probably comfortable with. You only change things that fall outside your comfort zone. House’s drafty? That’s fine. Roof fallen in? You’re gonna call someone (my roof is fine BTW 😉 ). So when the idea of wild, mad success comes around (and that’s the kind that falls into your lap when you start living the life of your dreams), of course it’s scary. You don’t know how to do that. How would having a great husband or wife fit into your routine, your relationships with other friends, your alone time? Would you like working at your dream company? Would you be good enough? If it all was going great, would something horrible happen? I recently was reading part of my new novel Society & Civility to finish up my writing time late one night. But then I still had a bit of time left and so opened up my teleplay from the summer, called Family Lines and about a family of demon hunters. I’d only written 20 pages (for an hour long pilot) and had quit, thinking it wasn’t going well and I sucked. But I reread those 20 pages that night and — they scared the crap out of me. They were good, very good (in my approximation). So what does that mean for my future? The best way to dispel this fear is with feelings of gratitude and excitement: you are in this wonderful, unique spot to change your life and make the world a better place (following your dreams always makes the world a better place). And the truth is, you can be comfortable in loving relationships, working your dream job, and having a life of adventures, or you can be comfortable with just what you’re doing, right now, for the rest of your life. Your choice.
- Fear of Looking a Fool /Upsetting People / Inconveniencing People. I’m not cheating by rolling all of these fears into one, I recently felt them all from a single act. I wrote to someone who’s an inspiration to me, someone I’d actually like to be friends with — and then I felt really uncomfortable. I wanted to let them know their work inspired me, but did I go too far, sound over the top? Did I scare them by being weird (I’m on a journey to be more open and honest and that seems to be a little unfiltered and frightening — at least to me)? And worst of all did I seem unhingled? A hanger-on? A stalker? (I’ve been a stocker for years in big box stores, but that’s spelled a little differently). In truth though, I am none of those fears, simply someone inspired, and whether or not they respond, they probably don’t think anything bad about me. This fear is about staying small, nondescript, and not making waves. Your friends, your family, strangers you accost on the internet — they all have a way they’re most more comfortable with you being and that is just how you are now. If you get fit, what does that say about their lives? You move across the country for that dream job, where does that leave Movie Night? You express your feelings (for any one in any way) and suddenly they have a new issue: how to respond to you (and their day was already full up). The only thing I can say here is, treat others how you would want to be treated. Having my friend get fit would be great; having them say ‘You’d look so much better 20 pounds lighter’ would not. Having someone write that I inspired them would be a boon to me; having a ‘fan’ say we must write a novel together, share a house (and more) would get a quick trip to my banned email list. So don’t worry, just be daring and send some good into the world.
- Fear of Hard Work. Now, I’ll expound all day and all night on the importance of working hard, but even I have my limits. And that is what I’m trying to change. I’ve been hitting this exercise/yoga/writing goal for weeks and that’s going okay, but the thought of digging back into editing my two new novels scares me (and writing for TV, well, we don’t even talk about that…). This is related to fear #1 but a little different. It’s knowing you can do something, but being unsure if you want to put into it the Herculean effort required. I’ll never forget how when I started editing my first novel, I was convinced I was doing something wrong; the editing was making the book much better but it was too hard. Surely I’d missed a step, or didn’t know a trick? Truth is, everything you love was created with an inordinate amount of elbow grease. You want to create something people love and will cherish? That’s reason enough to work past this fear.
- Fear of Leaving People Behind. As I mentioned in fear #2, this could be moving across the country, but I’m thinking more in an emotional sense. I like the people I work with at my ‘regular’ job. I love my friends. I worship my sister. And if I change, what happens to them? Will they like who I become? Will our paths diverge? I feel that this period of growth will unsettle a few relationships (just as a child can feel ‘growing pains’ as their legs lengthen), but I also feel strongly that the best thing I can ever do for them, the kindest act I can bestow, is to become as wonderful and amazing and perfect a me as I can be. I didn’t start this. My friends and mentors inspired me to greatness, and I hope to inspire others. Think of yourself as leading the charge into a wonderful new adventure. I’m reluctant when plans suddenly change and my day is altered by a friend’s suggestion, but I’m always happy (after a bit of grumbling) to leap on board and then I have an amazing day, usually one of the best of the year . Give your friends the same time to adjust and a chance to join in the fun.
In the end, it all means that, when you get serious about living your dreams, the world gets big and exciting fast. I’ve only been at this for a few weeks and already it’s getting crazy. What will a few more months bring?
The most exciting thing, the thing I wish I could transmute to you, is how fast you can start to change your life and that each challenge and fear can be met and mastered.
I don’t have all the answers yet. Heck, I don’t even know most of the questions. But I am so scared and so excited.
Because I’m living a life that matters. And I’m getting braver every day.