Let’s talk for a minute about your dreams. Not the dream where you are standing in the middle of English class stark naked. Or the one where you hit it off with your celebrity crush, fall madly in love, and live happily ever after. I’m also not talking about the one where you’re being chased by a grizzly. No, I’m talking about the dream which lives in the daytime. The one you keep hidden way down deep inside where no one can see it because it’s too big and scary to admit even to yourself.
But what makes this dream so big and scary? And if you feel called toward this dream, what is stopping you from going after it?
“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.” -Marilyn Ferguson
Fear. The constant questioning and self-doubt produced from unchecked fear kills more dreams than failure ever would because it keeps you from even starting. And the more you think about the obstacles ahead of you, the bigger and scarier they seem. Fear paralyzes and prevents action by clouding your vision and blinding you to the possibility that you just might succeed. But in order to succeed, you have to move through the dark shadow of fear.
Fear has a way of clouding over even the sunniest parts of life. It’s impossible to focus on anything other than the tiny dark cloud in an otherwise spotless sky which will somehow turn into a raging thunderstorm. In this place, all reason and logic flies out the window, chasing the tail of impending and certain doom. Failure is not only possible, it’s probable.
Under the dark clouds of fear and apprehension, I recently prepared to take the exam to become a nurse practitioner. The more I thought about taking the exam, the more I built it up to be a terrifying and quite frankly, an impossible task. Despite a strong track record of passing exams, the fear persevered and I somehow convinced myself that this test was different. This test was infinitely tougher than anything I had ever encountered before. Failure was inevitable.
Although fear worked its way deep inside, there was also a tiny shred of logic left inside. This small ray of hope reasoned that perhaps preparation would enhance my chances of passing. And so I began feverishly preparing for impending doom. I spent all my spare time with my head in the books, trying to cram every last piece of information in. I shut out everything around me as fear took hold and I vacillated between hopelessness and a vague sense that pass or fail, this torture would soon be over with.
Finally, the morning of the test dawned. The day of reckoning was here. Still convinced I would never pass, I walked into the test center, sat down, and waited for the first question to pop up on the screen. Five questions in I began to wonder whether this was the actual test or practice questions because shockingly, I felt like I knew the answers. A tiny ray of hope broke through my cloudy existence.
Two hundred questions later, I waited as the screen went blank. My fate had now been decided and was out of my hands. Were the hours upon hours of preparation enough? Could I have done more? Waves of fear washed over me as I waited to see which way it would go.
And then, just like that, I had my answer. I fought back tears of intense emotion as I walked out of the test center and to my car. How was this possible? I had been convinced I would fail. That this was an impossible goal. And yet … against the odds … I had passed!
The clouds parted, the sun came out, and I was finally free. Free from frenzied thoughts about the best test preparation method. Free from feeling compelled to spend every waking moment jamming information into my already overloaded brain. Free from the fear of failure that I had carried around for so long. Freedom was mine!
In this moment, I realized that on the other side of the profound fear I had carried around for so long lay freedom. I conquered fear by pushing through instead of shying away and had become stronger in the process. In the end, fear and lack of confidence in myself had been worse than the test.
In countless situations, the avoidance of fear rather than focus on the outcome stalls progress and smothers dreams. Stretching yourself beyond fear brings freedom and strength in knowing that you can and will crush whatever stands between you and your biggest, most audacious dreams.
So get out there and push through to the other side of fear. Find your own version of freedom and I promise that you will definitely not regret it!