When you get stuck behind a mountain of fear, what do you do? Often I get frustrated I’m not just braving the terror, sucking it up, and moving forward.
Lately, I’ve come to see that yelling at myself is not terribly helpful. And there’s more than one way to get up a mountain.
With that in mind, here are several approaches to take when you are stuck, terrified, and unsure of how to proceed.
Throw something on the wall and see if it sticks.
Lately, experimenting has been my method of choice for pushing past what Steven Pressfield calls “resistance”. I’d like to have everything perfectly thought through, prepared, and foolproof before I press send, publish or tell anyone about my idea. But that perfectionism can be paralyzing. Trying something, even if I’m not sure it’s the best idea, is one way to get started. Even if it doesn’t turn out well, I have some answers about why it didn’t work, and what I might do better next time. Experimenting is often my answer to feeling like a novice: how can I learn unless I give something a try?
Break down the terrifying baby step into five infant steps.
If I’m terrified of the next step, maybe I haven’t lowered the bar enough. Is there a way to break it down into smaller pieces? Maybe if an email seems frightening, I can compose it today and push “send” tomorrow. Can I write one sentence, or set a timer for five minutes? Can I give myself a mini-deadline–see what I can accomplish in the next ten minutes or by the end of today?
Think about your values.
Sometimes I feel pressure to do something a certain way because everyone around me does it that way. If I take a few minutes to think about my goals, my priorities, and my values, I can rise above the temptation to parrot and copy. What would bring me joy? How could I encourage my audience? What is right for this season in my life, this month, this day? Once I have a handle on what’s joyful and realistic for me, it’s easier to let go of plans that don’t fit–or pursue the ones that seem counter-intuitive.
Write down what worries you, worst-case scenario.
I learned this idea when preparing for childbirth. In our birth-prep class, we listed our five absolute worst fears. Then we listed how we would react if they came true, how we would cope, who we would call on to help us through.
Another idea is to ask “Why?” when you list your fears. If you’re afraid people will hate the piece, why? If hating the piece means they don’t respect you, why does that frighten you? Getting to the root insecurities and having a plan for managing them helps me look my fears in the eye and get acquainted. Making them specific removes a lot of their power.
Ask for advice.
This is a hard one for me, because I tend to keep new ideas close to my chest until I’m absolutely confident about them. But when I’m trying something new, that isn’t realistic. I ask my friend Melissa about blog planning, my friend Caleb about website marketing or my friend Megan about interviewing people. I buy an e-book on blog design or do a Google search about Facebook. Seeking expert help has helped me gain skills more quickly, even if it makes me feel horribly self-conscious.
I’ve learned that sometimes, resistance is telling me something important. If I take minuscule steps, ask for advice, try new things, and feel increasingly terrified, anxious, or oppressed, it might be time to take a break. Maybe it’s the wrong season to try it. Maybe I’m not emotionally healthy enough. Maybe it’s just not the right fit for me. When risk is going well, the ratio of exhilaration to anxiety is manageable. If you feel overwhelmed and unhappy, listen. Table the idea for a week, a month, or a year. Write the idea down later in your calendar or ask someone to ask you about it later. Take care of your soul and don’t push yourself past your limits.