How to Embrace Your Fears & Live a Meaningful Life (A Simple but Not Easy 5 Step Process)
My knees are stiff, my back aches, my neck is in pain.
Do I really need to wake up right now?
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 aren’t 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 aren’t going to be a teacher, what are you going to do?
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:
- Moves to a far away land
- Trains extensively in martial arts
- 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 don’t acknowledge it, you can’t 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