How to Embrace Your Fears & Live a Meaningful Life (A Simple but Not Easy 5 Step Process)

meaningful life

My knees are stiff, my back aches, my neck is in pain.

Do I really need to wake up right now?

It’s 5am.

My mind wanders for a second, but I already know the answer.

If I want to live my dream, then yes, I have to wake up.

So I get out of bed, stare out the window, and smile.

4 years ago, I did not believe this life was possible.

What is Success?

Let me back up for a moment. My name is Izzy. It’s nice to meet you.

About 4 years ago, at the age of 26, I seemed to have it made.

I was a middle school science teacher. I was in the midst of getting a masters degree in education. I would soon be qualified to run my own school.

I was making more money every year. My resume looked fantastic.

Friends, family, coworkers… everyone was impressed.

But there was a problem.

The Tears I Could No Longer Hide

It was the middle of a Saturday.

The emotions were too strong.

I pulled over.

And the tears came falling down.

Questions came to my mind. Scary questions, questions I could no longer hide from:

Why do you feel this?

Why arent you happy?

What are you going to do?

Are You Telling Your Truth?

I could no longer deny it, fake it, or “put on a face”.

Here was my reality: I hated my life.  I was depressed, anxious, and stressed.

Night after night, lying awake at 2am unable to fall asleep.

Crying by myself. Crying to my parents.

What am I going to do?

As you read this, you may feel compelled to have sympathy. Please don’t. There is no need.

In fact, those tears, that stress, the insomnia… was one of the greatest gifts of my life.

I Was So Scared

My whole identity revolved around becoming a teacher.

But here I was, openly admitting I wanted to leave this career behind.

Friends would ask:

Izzy, if you arent going to be a teacher, what are you going to do?

I’d smile.

I want to be a ninja

They’d laugh, I’d laugh. We’d laugh.

But as time would prove… I wasn’t joking.

What is A Ninja?

At some point I felt compelled to write it down.

I put the question on paper:

What is a ninja?

As I reflected the answer revealed itself. This is a childhood dream, my childhood dream. So I define it according to my 8 year old brain.

A ninja does 3 specific things:

  1. Moves to a far away land
  2.  Trains extensively in martial arts
  3. Challenges the traditional rules of work and life

As I looked at this list, one thing stuck out to me.

I can do this.

Is The “Impossible” Possible?

Let’s fast forward 4 years, to present day.

I’m now 30 years old. I live in the historical capital of Japan, Kyoto.

I’ve given my life to martial arts.

I train in Aikido 4 to 6 hours a day 5 days a week.

I’ve dealt with language barriers, visa issues, cultural struggles, the list goes on and on.

This all started with a crazy dream, a dream that most people told me “is impossible.”

But as my life has shown. The impossible is possible.

5 Steps to Face Your Fears

The amount of fear you have to face when you dare to follow your dreams can be overwhelming.

Here’s the reality: fear stops you from moving forward. It’s the killer of meaning, purpose and fulfillment.

Fear wants you to be average, to stay at home, to quit.

Fear wants you to buy into the lie. The lie that dreams aren’t possible.

Below I share with you the exact 6 steps I have followed to push through my fears.

Step 1: Write Down Your Fears

When I first decided to leave education I had many fears. To this day I remember the wisdom of my father:

Fear is a reality. If you dont acknowledge it, you cant conquer it.

Fear is not something to be avoided. Acknowledge it, then you can conquer it.

Take out a piece of paper and write down all your fears.

Step 2: Identify Your Top Fears

Looking at your list of fears, answer this question:

Which of these fears would have the greatest positive impact on your life, if you could find the courage to push past them?

Circle the number 1 fear.

Step 3: Imagine Your Life Without The Fear

What is courage?

In my eyes, courage is the ability to move forward in the face of fear.

If there is no fear, there is no courage.

Write down what your life would be like if you conquered this fear.

In doing this you are establishing a purpose to conquer these fears.

Step 4: Break Your Fear Into Baby Steps

Fear often tells us exactly what we need to do.

When I was in Japan, I made a big decision. I decided to quit my job in the countryside and move to Kyoto so I could train full time in Aikido.

My fear said “But what about the visa… If you lose your visa you can’t stay in Japan.” So that drove my actions.

I developed an action plan to get my visa.

4 years ago when I first began this whole journey I never could have imagined moving to Kyoto, training in Aikido 6 hours a day, running a blog with over 1000 readers and learning Japanese.

It all started with simple baby steps.

Once you know what you want to do, break it into small baby steps.

Step 5: Take Action

You can run through steps 1 through 4 but it won’t do a darn thing if you don’t’ take action.

Whatever plans you developed from steps 1 through 4, go out and make it happen.

Courage, Purpose, and Fear Go Hand in Hand

Living the life you were meant to live requires courage.

Courage is the not absence of fear. Courage is the ability to move forward in the face of your fears.

For the comments below I would love to hear your thoughts on the following questions. (I’ll reply to every comment)

What fears have been holding you back from living the life of your dreams?

What actions can you take today to start conquering your fears?

Photo by jeronimo sanz

39 thoughts on “How to Embrace Your Fears & Live a Meaningful Life (A Simple but Not Easy 5 Step Process)”

  1. Such a great story Izzy. Thanks so much for sharing. I love that you were able to find the kid in you again. This is something that I am working on now and I think it’s something that we all must tap into. Being able to surface our curiosity, passion, connectedness – all of the things that we were at our purest form – the kid we once were. Your step one is the foundation to a lot of things; “Fear is a reality. If you don’t acknowledge it, you can’t conquer it”. Acknowledging it, owning it, accepting it. Love it! Thanks Izzy! And best of luck with your training :)

    1. Yo Eric! Such deep and important questions you bring up man:

      How do we tap into our curiosity, passion, connectedness?

      I guess it starts by identifying our own curiosity and passion. Once we identify our curiosity and passion we can we can use that to connect.

      Eric I would love to give you some more personalized guidance. If you shoot an email to: sharing your most pressing challenge I’d be able to shoot you some thoughts to ponder.

      Peace brother.

  2. I’ve been struggling with this fear of change, but the biggest fear holding me back is failure. What if I try, really try, to reach my goal and I fail? Then I’m stuck where I don’t want to be. I know this is silly, but it’s the big one that keeps holding me back.
    I think acknowledging that failure is my biggest fear is a big step. For today, I can write out my goals and the baby steps I’ll need to take to get there.
    Great post by the way!

    1. Yo Carissa! Thank you for being so vulnerable and open.

      The fear of failure is something I know that I definitely battle with. It’s ever present.

      One question for you to reflect on is:

      What is failure?

      If we are going to move past our fear of failure, we must fully understand this fear. By answering the question above it allows us to understand it :).

      Feel free to reply here in the comments or shoot me an email at Would love to hear you thoughts.

  3. Seems I’m also on the same path. While I don’t want to become a ninja, I too am an educator and somehow along the way I’m feeling that there’s so much more to be done.

    I’m eager to take up this challenge :)

    1. Yo Kalesha :).

      Based on your comment a question comes to mind:

      If you could wave a magic wand and fix 1 thing in your life, what would it be?

      I love that question! Feel free to reply here in the comments or shoot me an email at

      Would be awesome to hear what you have to say.

  4. The first part of the story happened to me. I quit everything, I was sad. Only difference is: I am not quite sure what I want to do with with my life.
    How do yo know what you want to do? What makes you happy?

    1. Hi Nat,

      What some do when not sure what they want to do with their lives is: Explore your passions.

      Know that there are somethings that really, really excite you. And other things which don’t. Look at yourself and the activities. Go deep, and feel.

      One of the keys Izzy shared, was overcoming “apparent” obstacles. In the face of high energy, and passion he found those obstacles were learning experiences which fed his passion even more.

      Bottom line: Your first passion is discovering your passions: Exploration.
      Aloha.. Allen

  5. Hi Izzy, thanks for an excellent & well written article. I did not feel sympathy for you only empathy because I can totally relate even down to the “what am I going to do?” I have been struggling for a few years now especially since I found what I wanted to do. I have very little
    support which I know does not help. But too, I know I must find it within me. At one time the fear was so thick it felt like a brick wall. My fears… fear of failing, am I good enough? Although I have taken action, I think I need to break it into smaller steps. I sometimes feel defeated & end up reworking my plan, though getting closer but not getting to where I really should be. Maybe I am not setting my plan well enough?

    1. Yo Sue!

      The first step to change is knowing that we want to change :).

      Sue, I would love to further help you explore ‘what you want to do’ shoot an email to sharing more of your journey and I can give you some questions or guidance.

      Be glad to help in any way I can.

  6. Nice to meet you, too, Izzy. I remember reading a bit of your story in Change Blog’s free eBook when I first came aboard. I think it’s beyond awesome that you’re living your dream. Thanks for the great tips on batting our fears!

    1. Yo Marcy!

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad my journey resonates with you.

      I hope you have an insanely epic day Marcy (and you beat a few fears in the process)!

      1. Yo back atcha, Izzy. I’m still battling FEAR, but am also still taking baby steps each day toward one of my dreams. That still counts. Good luck to us all!

  7. Congratulations on taking a journey that brought you to this fulfilling and meaningful place. I am heartened to read that you made this realization at a young age and faced the uncertainties by recognizing what was in your way. I was helped in my life by realizing that fear is a natural emotion and will arise when i go out of my comfort zone and so to “expect” to feel fear, not to be afraid or put off when it comes, (being afraid of being afraid – yikes).

  8. Great article…I think what’s held me back for years is the fear of asking for help. Trying to do it alone is not cool. So that plan is not to do that anymore…need people in your life to succeed.

  9. What an engaging and exciting piece. Thank you for sharing your courage. It is inspiring to read about your journey, your ability to move forward, in the face of fear, and to live boldly. Also, I love reading about people moving to Japan. Kyoto is one of the destinations my soul is pulling me to :)

    1. Yo Jackie! Thank you for those kind words.

      It’s awesome to see you took so much out of it.

      So you’re soul is pulling you towards Kyoto? Very cool!

      My soul has brought me here, and I must confess, this is a very special place. No matter where my life takes me, Kyoto will always have a very special place in my heart.

      If you have any questions about Kyoto or want to share your journey feel free to email me at:

  10. Great post Izzy. I love hearing personal stories, especially ones which deal with overcoming adversity. Becoming a ninja is not your average career change, which makes it all the more admirable. Well done!

  11. Hi, Izzy:

    It takes courage to beat back fear. Training to be a ninja may have helped you to battle your fears; as a warrior you know the importance of discipline. Thank you for sharing your battle with fear and how you conquered it with the rest of us.

  12. Hi, Izzy!
    There’s nothing more frustrating then allowing our fears to keep us stuck.
    In the past, I let my fear of writing and drawing badly prevent me from even trying to do what I love.

    Now I’ve overcome my fear of failure by allowing myself to write and draw badly in order to at least get something onto the page that I can come back to.
    I can’t revise what I haven’t written and I can’t improve my drawing skills if I don’t practice and draw what interests me.

    It’s the day to day victories for me as I chip away at my fear a little at a time.

  13. Fear stops most people from realizing their dreams. Why? They do not have enough belief in themselves in the first place.

  14. Hey Izzy! I love that you had the courage to leave your life behind for the sake of growth and happiness. Pretty awesome. My biggest fear is simply of talking to people. This goes back to my childhood, part of me if still afraid people will call me stupid or ugly if I open up to them. Intellectually, I know this is ridiculous as I no longer converse with 8 year olds often. but I know with time and practice I can be confident again.

  15. Wow Izzy.I feel so related.Fear can actually put a stop to all our dreams.Thank you for sharing an awe-inspiring article.

  16. Nearly 5 years ago my 3 month old son was brain damaged and nearly died at the hands of his father. I try to forget the immense amount of guilt I feel that in some way I let this happen but I know and i’ve been told that the guilt I feel is present in all of my actions. I’m now a full time mum and although my son is at a special needs school full time, I feel like I have to be here for him ALL the time. That means not going out of an evening, not finding a job that means I won’t be there for him before/after school, not accepting help from anyone, etc. I also know this life is killing me and I always think ‘there must be more to life than this’. I know I can’t carry on like this for the rest of my life. I need to do something for me and not everything for my son

  17. I am 63 years old, and my first major fear occurred when I was 3 years old….remember it vividly. The another incident when I was about 5 years old. Fear has been the ruler of my life…have been on medications since 1982. It is like fear stopped me in my tracks and have had a hard time living and enjoying life. Medication helps, but it is just a band aid for the real problem. Thank you for the article How to Embrace Your Fears and Live A Meaningful Life. This is a great post, and I am seriously working on those baby steps. Thank you!

  18. Nice to read your story once again, the story was in Free e-Book as well, Izzy, I feel I am still where u were four years ago. Its not just the fear within but the external thrust as well which keeps me distant from my dreams. I am jumbled in the baby steps and am confused which step to take first….

  19. Thanks for the post! In the past year, I moved to LA from Seattle to pursue my dream of being a TV actor and writer. So much of my path has become clearer to me after doing that, even though it was a terrifying proposition.

    Thanks so much for this post!

  20. Carolynne Melnyk

    Great story and great advice Izzy! I left teaching after 25 years. I know what some of you are thinking, “Oh, she had a pension.” Wrong! I had a good sum of savings but, I was a free lance international educator for most of my career, so no union pension. This was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. The fear was HUGE and I used a method very similar to yours to take that step. It doesn’t matter what age you are, if you are miserable then follow Izzy’s advice and take that first step to freedom and a greater life. As Peter said, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.”

  21. Reverend Galileo

    ((((HUGS)))) and smiles to you. Just what i needed to keep me on my path to freedom and peace.

  22. Hi Izzy, glad to find you here. But, how about the people, who are not so determined as you were? I am feeling the same as you, at the beginning , depressed, crying and so on. I am full of fears, and don’t know how to beat them. Or, I can say I beat the fear when I take the action, or resolve the problem which I am dealing with, and after I am so chilled. But, in the period of time, which requires to solve the issue, I am so stressed, impatient, too impatient, irrational, if is not ended as I want, if, and if… maybe, my expectations as too, high, that’s why I am disappointed. Thanks for listening , Simone from Romania.

  23. I know this article was written over a year ago, but I’d like to respond anyway. I wish I had even a tenth of the courage that you’ve shown in your life. It seems my life is ruled by fear, shame, guilt, self hatred and self pity. I don’t know what exactly I even want to do with my life(and I’m not exactly a kid anymore), but if I don’t do something, life will continue to pass me by. I know this, yet I continue to hide out in my little apartment and isolate myself from the world. So what am I afraid of? Just about everything. I’m afraid I’m not worthy, I’m not good enough, I’m afraid of people and at the same time afraid of being alone(yet, I’m more alone then ever). It gets to the point where I see no reason to go on, except for the fact that I have a 10 year old son, whom I adore. I thought I knew what guilt was before having a child, but once you have a kid, it seems you feel it tenfold. I want to be a good role model for him, but I know I’m not. I feel like even my own kid thinks I’m a loser. I can’t stop beating myself up, I can’t seem to forgive myself for my past and just let it go. I read these self help/self improvement articles and can relate to so many of them, but when it comes to taking action, that is where I get stuck(fear?). Sometimes it’s not only fear, but lack of motivation and the feeling of “why bother?”. I don’t know why I have so much self hatred inside, but I do know it’s killing me and it’s definitely not helping my son. I think I’m beginning to ramble, so I’m gonna cut it short here. Thanks for the post. You write very well. Kim

  24. Thank you! Very inspiring. Fear of self and success has kept me from my aspirations of becoming a professional writer, artist and singer. I love your piece for its depths of simplicity and am here sitting in the library working through. I feel blessed as I have been on the path of purpose for some time and embracing fear is penultimate to achieving my goals of success. Once again, thank you very much

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