Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it… The more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.
—Steven Pressfield

Do you feel called to change the way you work?

Do you feel scared or stressed when you think about making this change?

If so, you’re not alone. Here are just some of the ways I see fear and stress showing up for my clients when they first start working with me—

Having a big dream but not going after it.

Getting stuck in analysis paralysis.

Drawing a blank anytime someone asks what you want.

Getting nervous and awkward at a networking event or an interview.

Going back and forth about an important decision.

Putting off an important conversation.

Putting everyone else’s needs first.

Engaging in all sorts of productive-appearing tasks, but not prioritizing true desires.

Comparing yourself to other people who do similar work.

Avoiding thinking about important stuff.

Next to clarity, the word my new clients use most often to describe what they want is “confidence.”

Following a calling can feel really scary and uncomfortable. When they first come to me, most of my clients want to get rid of their stress and fear. They see their fear, doubt, anxiety, and stress as obstacles to following their callings.

However, if you’re afraid, the solution isn’t to try to get rid of your fear. In fact, that’s impossible.

The truth is, fear is an inevitable part of any great journey.

I invite you to think back to a time in your life when you discovered a newfound sense of purpose or experienced significant personal growth.

Would you describe this time as stressful?

If you’re like most people who answer this question, you probably answered yes.

Although they’re deeply uncomfortable, our moments of greatest stress and fear are often the moments we discover our strength, deepen our relationships, and experience the most profound appreciation for life.

Fear and stress do not mean you’re on the wrong path. Instead, they’re a sign that you’re on the edge of something new. They are the unavoidable consequences of working towards something important to you, your body’s natural response to the unknown. Fear and stress are often signs that you’re moving in the right direction.

Your task is, therefore, not to try to avoid fear. Instead, it is to shift your relationship to fear.

Although Western culture teaches that the only thing to fear is fear itself, Rabbi Alan Lew shares a different perspective on fear.

In his book, Be Still and Keep Going, Rabbi Lew writes that there are two Hebrew words for fear— pachad and norah. Pachad is imagined fear, being afraid of something that we don’t have to fear. It’s fear of the Judge, worst case scenarios, and threats to the status quo.

Norah, on the other hand, “is the fear that overcomes us when we suddenly find ourselves in possession of considerably more energy than we are used to, inhabiting a larger space than we are used to inhabiting.” It’s the sense of awe that can overcome us when we’re stepping into our calling and expressing our truth. Norah is the fear you feel when you’re moving towards what you most desire and playing at your learning edge.

When you seek out opportunities to experience norah, you create a life rich with meaning and fulfillment.

How you respond to fear and stress depends largely on whether you think you can handle them.

If you think stress is a problem, it likely will be. When people believe their stress and fear are a problem, they are much more likely to try to avoid stressful situations or pursue meaningful goals. If you believe that stress is harmful, you might conclude there’s something wrong with your goals when they bring you stress. You might withdraw your energy from the source of stress and lower your goals back down to your current reality. This can lead to overall lower levels of meaning and fulfillment because a meaningful and fulfilling life necessarily requires coping with some level of fear.

On the other hand, research shows that if you believe that stress is a normal part of a meaningful life, you’ll be healthier and more fulfilled than people who don’t experience much stress at all. People who don’t view their stress as a problem report greater satisfaction, energy, productivity, and meaning at work and life. (I recommend checking out Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk, How to Make Stress Your Friend to learn more.)

Embracing stress and fear as opportunities to grow won’t make your problems go away, but it will make them easier to face. You’ll probably still feel anxious when facing a big risk. But when you stop making your anxiety a problem, you will more easily recognize your own strength, trust yourself to handle difficulty, and persevere in the face of challenge.

Let’s practice reframing your stress and fear now.

I invite you to grab a pen and a piece of paper. Then, get centered and comfortable. Think about a project that you care about deeply but are feeling stressed out about. This may be a project with a literal end-date or ongoing work like building a business or changing careers or organizing your community.

Then, do the following—

  1. See if you can feel the stress related to the challenge you face in your body.
  2. Then, welcome your stress. Recognize that it’s a natural response to something you care about.
  3. Finally, reflect on the following questions and write down what comes up—
    • How do I feel in my body when I think about this project?
    • What am I telling myself about what I feel?
    • What do I need to help me move through this challenge?
    • What strengths and resources do I already have that might help me face this challenge?
    • What’s my next step to working through this challenge?
    • Do I have any new thoughts about stress and fear that I want to write down after reading this article?

I’d love to hear from you!

What big challenge are you facing right now? And, how might your stress help you rise to the challenge?


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