Editor’s Note: Today’s inspiration comes from Tanja Pajevic, who writes the blog Reboot This Marriage: Two adults. Two Kids. One Year to Reboot This Marriage. She lives in Boulder, CO with her long-suffering husband Ken and their kick-ass boys, Nico (5) and Gabriel (3), and is currently finishing the final draft of her book proposal.
So let me tell you about my recent Smackdown with fear. It all started last year, when I began writing a blog about the challenges of keeping my marriage afloat while raising young children. While I was laughing/crying over all the usual stuff, my son was diagnosed with a life-threatening peanut allergy, my mother broke her hip and my father-in-law passed away. About the only things that didn’t befall us were plague and pestilence.
As you might guess, my husband Ken and I lost our minds plenty of times along the way. The good news is that we also found them, along with a renewed sense of what was really important to us both.
Lesson #1: If you’re not clear about your dream, toss in some good ‘ole life challenges and see what rises to the surface.
Once Ken and I were finally over the hump, I decided I was going to start writing a book about all the stuff I didn’t have the guts to put into my blog. Easy enough, right?
To write a traditional book these days, you usually start with a book proposal, an exciting/excruciating business plan for a book. To finish the damn thing, you have to write plenty of actual sections from the book, then jump through all sorts of exciting hoops like figuring out who your competition is and what your marketing plan is going to be. Like any good dream worth its salt, the process is filled with all sorts of wonderful/awful moments, with plenty of setbacks mixed in for flavor.
Lesson #2: Nobody said it was going to be easy. But the good news is that this Awful/Wonderful period often helps distinguish a real dream from a false one.
The closer I got to my goal, the more I began to freak myself out. I decided I needed a sharper-looking blog, a kick-ass Facebook presence and all sorts of Twitter followers. Suddenly, it seemed incredibly important that I funnel all of my time and energy into shoring up the business side of my writing project.
Recognize what I was doing, anyone?
It’s called Moving the Goalpost, and for Lesson #3, I’d highly recommend you stay away from it.
Did I need to be doing all this marketing and business development?
Did I need to do it all right now, while I was trying to finish my damn proposal?
Of course not.
But at the time, I was slightly deranged by the idea that I did, and it wasn’t long before I’d signed up for a free seminar on building your business, taught by a local business woman I’ll call Athena for, you know, legal reasons.
Athena’s free business seminar rocked. I learned all sorts of tips and even got the added bonus of hearing her compliment my project. Now, even though I’ve always believed in the lunacy of my project, I’ve also spent way too much time wondering what others thought of it, and hearing this awesome business woman tell me she believed in my project puffed me up nicely.
Lesson #4: Believe in yourself. Don’t look to someone else—a stranger, no less—for validation.
Then, at the end of the seminar, Athena dangled an exciting carrot before us: to really jumpstart our businesses, she told us, we needed a mastermind group—a group devoted to helping each other succeed through brainstorming, creating goals and holding each other accountable.
Lesson #5: Creating your own mastermind group is the business version of Finding Your Tribe. Done correctly, it rocks.
Now, I know all about mastermind groups—I started two last year. But in that moment, in light of everything Athena had accomplished and everything I wanted to accomplish, my groups started to feel kinda small and piddly. (Sorry, mastermind friends! I was under a spell!)
Of course I wanted what this woman was selling! Who didn’t? She’d started three multi-million dollar businesses and I wasn’t making jack shit these days. Plus, she was charismatic as hell.
There was only one problem. Her mastermind group cost a shitload of money.
But wait! She was offering us a discount, nearly half off, as long as we signed up by the end of the day.
Talk about putting on the pressure. Normally, I would have turned and ran as soon as I got hit by a sell this hard, but I’d really liked everything Athena had said up until this point. And I just so liked the idea that I could hand this woman a boatload of money and have my own little guru/business leader to help me get my act together.
If I believed what she said, I’d turn my business around within a year. I’d be a smashing success in my field and I would have her and her pricey mastermind group to thank.
There was only one problem with all of this: my fear. The entire damn program (not to mention a giant entry fee) was based on the fear that I couldn’t do it on my own. That I couldn’t make any decent money on my own. That I couldn’t come up with a kick-ass book on my own, not to mention a marketing plan, etc., etc., etc.
Now, if this isn’t already clear, here’s where I fess up and remind you I’m a writer, not a business person. And while I’ve spent a lot of time this past year teaching myself about the business side of what I do, I wasn’t feeling particularly confident in my business acumen at that moment.
So why not turn them over to someone who really knew what she was doing?
Isn’t this how a lot of us feel as we’re angling toward our dream? A little unsure about where we’re going, a little insecure about whether or not we can actually pull it off and, hell, maybe even a little bit afraid.
There’s a reason these things are called stretch goals, and part of what makes our dreams so special is that we’re forced to work for them. This, I believe, helps ensure that we really are on the right path and really do want whatever it is we’re gunning for.
But of course I didn’t realize any of this that night. I was too confused/scared/obsessed to think clearly, so my thoughts went like this: I need this mastermind group. I have to do this. But it’s too expensive. Pause. How can I justify spending this much money? And: If I don’t do this, I might not make it. Pause. Then again, I might.
This was the mental loop that consumed the rest of my day. Finally, at about 10:30 p.m. (1.5 hours before the half-off offer expired), I decided to just go for the damn thing. So I walked downstairs to fax in my credit card info, and found there was no fax number on the sheet.
Talk about divine intervention. After a moment of near-shock, my whole body relaxed, and a wave of relief washed over me. I no longer had a hard pit in my stomach and for the first time that day, I felt like I was finally back in my body.
Lesson #7: When you’re having a hard time making a decision, tune in to your body. It will know.
And then the anger started to kick in. At myself. It had been a beautiful day outside, and I’d missed it. I’d been so busy obsessing over my decision that I’d hardly been present with my kids, not to mention my spouse. About the only thing worse than realizing I’d wasted an entire day to my fear was the knowledge that I could have wasted plenty more.
I went to sleep determined not to waste any more. It was time to start living from my power, I decided, not from my fear.
Now, you’re probably wondering if Athena’s mastermind group would have been helpful. Probably. She seemed like a good teacher and I’m sure I would have learned some helpful techniques.
But you know what? For me, that mastermind group would always have been marred by the knowledge that my fear had driven me to it, not my strength.
I didn’t want to live that way any more.