The opposite* of fear is not a lack of fear. The opposite* of fear is presence in the present.
Are you present to the person you are with?
Are you present to the intentions that you set?
The goal you are pursuing?
Are you present to the opportunity of now?
Well, if you ARE present in the present then there is something you can DO.
There is a way to concretely impact “the situation.” You can start to write, or smile at the person in front of you, or take a break and read a novel, or hop on zoom with a potential client and deliver value however you can.
When you’re fully in the present, “the situation” you’re thinking about is yours to work on and it’s grounded in the real world.
If you are, instead, present to FEAR then you feel like you are wandering.
When you find yourself carried away by fear and absorbed by the tides of panic, your goal is to bring yourself back to presence in the present.
Finally, I want to set some clear expectations: there’s a very good chance (like 99.9%) that you WILL BE carried away by fear; I get carried away at least once a day.
It’s going to happen and then happen again.
Fear isn’t an artifact of this moment. As I said yesterday, there is nothing more ALIVE than feeling fear. We’ve been afraid since the day we were born and our last day on earth will be marked by fear as well. And that’s a good thing- fear is an important, life-saving part of life.
Every day, as many times as it happens, we can recognize where we are (wandering in the fields of fear), and then ground back down into the present through expressing love, pursuing an intention in a concrete way, and indulging in some self-care.
… If those feel a bit hard to access in the throes of the coronavirus press conference (note: stop watching those), then go primitive and forcibly push yourself back into your body. The fastest way out of the fields of fear is to experience your body in the now: do some jumping jacks, dance, run in place, shake it off, watch a Zumba video, do some yoga, walk the dog, try to do a single push up, see how long you can plank, ride your bike or “JUMP JUMP.”
… If that doesn’t feel accessible, SHUT YOUR SHIT DOWN. Meditation, hypnosis or a good old fashioned nap is in order, immediately.
… If that doesn’t feel accessible then you’ve probably pushed yourself a bit too far: take a hot shower, put on the sad movie, make some popcorn, have a good cry, and fall asleep in your middle of the day pajamas.
(PS- All of this applies to you mamas and poppas out there, no one needs to be better resourced than the parents, so take care of yourself).
But you have to choose it.
PS- *Opposite is not the right word… counterweight is better… or opposing force.
Here’s a boring story: “He was good at it and he succeeded.”
And let’s be honest, you’re yawning because that’s not a human story.
Here’s a kick ass story: She sucked, she got better, she fell down, she got back up, she was chosen in a crazy twist of fate, and after she managed not to sabotage her success, she’s become your role model.” What!? Fascinating! Even without details,
So… who are you trying to be? Are you trying to be boring? Or are you willing to be fascinating and real?
Do you struggle to market your therapy and coaching services? You’re not alone. The truth is, the better you are at therapy and coaching, the worse you probably are at selling your services. It all comes down to “the curse of understanding,” which basically means that the expert (who has the deepest, most nuanced understanding of how to solve the problem) is cursed by her knowledge when she tries to sell her services.
Why? I’ve got a story for you …
A third-year teacher had great, innovative ideas about how to help her English Language Learner students, but she was never given an opportunity to try them out. Finally, she decided to partner up with the teacher across the hall and just get started. As they gained ground with the ELL students, the administration took notice, offering them the opportunity to share with the rest of the team.
A churchgoer wished her church had a choir. She had been in show choir in high school and missed singing in public. She mentioned it to her pastor but was told her there wasn’t enough interest. She finally decided to get a few friends together and meet at the church on Saturday afternoons to sing and play instruments together. Over time others at the church started coming until the pastor had to admit that he had been wrong, and the group was invited to sing and play at the weekly service.
A woman told her husband for years that she would love to learn to speak French. For two years, she dropped hints around the holidays and her birthday about a French class at the local travel bookstore, and the French Cultivation Society that does movie nights, but nothing ever came of it. Finally, she confronted him. “I know you don’t want me to, but I am going to learn French! I’d like to sign up for this class.” Her husband looked at her, dumbfounded. “What makes you think I don’t want you to learn French? That class sounds like fun, you should do it.”
Those of us in the helping professions (therapy, coaching, education, nursing, social work, etc) are really, really good at taking care of others…. and really, really bad at taking care of ourselves. We give everything we have to our clients and if we aren’t careful, we can end up wrung out and miserable.
This has to stop. And the first step is the hardest.
Last year I published an article in Quartz arguing that teacher burnout is one of the biggest social justice issues of our time. I really meant it. If our passionate teachers continue to burn out and leave education, our most vulnerable kids will suffer, the opportunity and achievement gaps will widen, and the health of our economy will continue to erode.
But do you know who else is suffering from burnout? Therapists. And that’s at least as important; burnout is so painful when you are passionate about your work. It feels like a major betrayal to the part of you that loves your role as the caretaker.
A friend of mine recently got an article accepted in the journal Science. That’s a BIG deal. When you get something into Science you are pretty much guaranteed a job at a research institution, or at least a really, really good post-doctoral fellowship. It opens big-time doors, for real.
This is one my very good friends and she does really interesting research. She DESERVES this break… and yet, when she was telling me her good news, it went like this:
Her: “You’ll never guess what happened! Remember that study I was doing about …?” <– that ellipse is for your sake. We researchers really go into detail.
Me: ‘Yes, of course!”
Her: “Well, my advisor suggested that we submit it to Science, but of course I NEVER thought it would get in.”
Me: “Right.” No, really. Like, 1% of things are accepted to Science.
Her: “BUT IT DID! I can’t believe it! It’s crazy… I really didn’t expect it to, but it got accepted. They don’t even want very many revisions!” That’s pretty rare.
Me: “That’s so, so great!”
Her: “I know!” then she seemed to lose a little steam. “It is, right? I’m sorry… I should have asked you about your work.” She looked down and then at me, nervously. She didn’t want me to feel bad about where I was, in light of her good news.
Me: “You’re SORRY!? Oh, no you are not! Awesome? Yes. Proud? Yes. Amazing? Yes! But SORRY? Oh, hell, no.”
This post was originally published on Quartz, on August 5, 2016.
I’ve never been an athletic or active person. My entire history of sports involved one season of track in high school and a brief flirtation with what I thought was a yoga studio but turned out to be more of a cult. But then, in my mid-30s, I had two children and gained 30 pounds. I was suffering from chronic back pain, and I knew something needed to change.
There was just one problem: When it came down to it, I didn’t really want to exercise. When my husband suggested I take up running, I said I’d do it if—and only if—a bear was chasing me. And yet, last fall, I did both a half marathon and a triathlon for the first time. How did I evolve from a self-proclaimed couch potato to endurance athletics enthusiast? I learned how to change my attitude.
One of the most frustrating things about trying to change your money habits is how hard it is! It’s not only hard, it’s mysterious.
How many times have you experienced this scenario:
Sunday night: “I am going to pack my lunch every single day this week!”
Monday at lunch: “I forgot to pack my lunch. How about Chipotle?”
Tuesday morning, en route to work: “Oh, I didn’t pack a lunch! Oh well, I’ll just grab a quick salad.”
Friday night: “I didn’t pack a lunch at all this week. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do what I say I will do?!”
There are a lot of ways to interpret this kind of (very common) failure. Some will point out that you didn’t really have a process or a plan. Others may argue that you need systems and structures to support you in your lunch making. I wholeheartedly agree with both of them, but when I hear a story like that, an alarm bell goes off in my mind:
I spent my 20s in hot pursuit of a tenured professorship. I was in my sophomore year of college when the first person (my undergraduate advisor) suggested that being a professor would be a good idea. In my junior year of college I took a test that suggested what careers would be a good fit: 3 different suggestions were professor (economic professor, sociology professor, psychology professor). It seemed so obvious; it felt meant to be.
Between 2000 (when I graduated from college) and 2011 (when I earned my PhD) I was on a clear, well-trodden path. As long as I was getting closer to a PhD, I felt I could relax. There weren’t any major cross-roads; so long as I stayed the course I would inevitably end up where I wanted to be. Or so I thought.
Once I had a PhD, I got accepted to a post-doctoral fellowship and began to look around. It was time to find that professorship!