I recently finished work on a book proposal. This is a proposal that I’d spent most of 2012 knowing I needed to write, and…just not writing. This is a proposal that I ended up completely finishing in early January of 2013…and then I promptly sat on it.
Why? The work wasn’t ready.
Also? There was some fear that I wasn’t really being conscious about.
An interviewer recently asked me how one tells the difference between actual, true, “not being ready/it’s not the right time,” and when fear is telling you that it’s “not ready” as a delay tactic.
This is a really, really good question. To answer it, I turn to the concept of “Somatic Awareness.”
Somatic Awareness is learning to recognize what sensations in your body mean what. You can actually learn that the sensation of fear in your body has a slightly different flavor than the sensation of “not right timing.” Get present enough, and you’ll start to see how guilt and shame are different sensory experiences. Attachment/ “wanting to be right” feel different in the body than being frank or straightforward. Integrity feels different than rationalizing.
Some people would call this “trusting your gut” or “using your intuition.” Whatever you call it, it all has to do with getting present to what’s happening within you. What the sensation feels like in my own body is different than yours, so I can’t propose a road map (i.e., it would be impossible for me to say “that sensation in your upper right stomach means XYZ” for all people). What I can do is guide someone in practices that help them to tap into that somatic awareness and learn what it means, for them.
What’s your truth? And instead of trying to verbalize it, what sensations do you notice? What do those sensations in your body “tell” you? This is the type of thing that I love to work on with coaching clients, particularly because…well, I just don’t think our bodies lie. They’re pretty accurate with giving us feedback. When one of my clients gains confidence in her Somatic Awareness, I know that she’s just gained a powerful tool in totally trusting herself.
I mentioned that there was a part of me that was experiencing fear that I wasn’t really conscious of. I’ll share how I know that this was happening for me, in the hopes that sharing will help you to see any places in your own life where this happens.
First things first: I consider not acknowledging fear to be a huge waste of time. Whether you acknowledge it or not, it’s there. So pretending not to be afraid, or noticing fear and not dealing with it? That’s not efficient.
I know that fear must have been operating on some level in the eight-month span between when I finished the proposal and when I finally sent it out, because there were times where I thought about sending out the proposal and I thought, “I’ll do that later.”
I’d be working on other projects. It would occur to me that I hadn’t sent out my proposal. I’d think, “Oh, yeah, I need to do that! But I’ll do that later. Right now I need to…”
I’ve talked about how chronic forgetting can be a sign of ‘faux fear.’ I was experiencing chronic forgetting. It was slipping off of my radar that I had intended to do this thing that I had said I would do, over and over and over.
I was also procrastinating (“I’ll do that later.”)
So here’s the takeaway: Examine what you notice yourself chronically forgetting. If you tell yourself that you’re going to start meditating for five minutes every morning, and day after day it’s lunchtime when you suddenly think, “Oh, gosh! Right! I was going to do that, wasn’t I?” then you’re chronically forgetting. If something within you considers meditating right then and there, and then you think, “I’ll start, tomorrow,” then–bingo!–fear is totally at work.
So What’s Next?
Let’s say that right now, you’re seeing how you’ve done this in your own life. You’ve told yourself a million times that you’ll start.. being more patient with your partner, stop comparing yourself to other people on the internet, start a yoga practice, or…write a book proposal. Everyone’s got something. You have all the good intentions, but then you don’t do it. Fear is totally at work.
So what do you do?
I wish that I could say something less glib, but it’s this: you simply start. That’s what I needed to do. I set a deadline for submitting the proposal (today) and then I blocked out time on my calendar, and then I started.
Three Courageous Approaches
Here are three things I did that made “starting” much easier:
#1: Reframing the idea of a “deadline.” My definition of “deadline” is anything that I do my absolute best to finish by an intended date. I rarely beat myself up with future-tripping over the possibility of missing a deadline, because I have released (most) of my internal narratives that it means anything bad about me if I miss a deadline. Paradoxically, this means that I make 99.9% of all deadlines, because I don’t spend a lot of time in fear or overwhelm about them.
Set a deadline. Do your best. Understand that no children in third world countries die if you do miss your deadline. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or a failure, either. You do your best, and you let go.
#2: I made it fun. I listened to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky a few times before writing. I went out for a chai before I settled in to write. I used Danielle LaPorte’s Your Big Beautiful Book Plan and kept feeling filled up and inspired by all of the amazing examples of totally ordinary people who had written their proposals and now had published books, and this excited me.
Also fun? Reveling in all that I’ve done. Actually going through the process of assessing all the places where I’ve guest posted, all the times I’ve had a speaking engagement, the collaborative interviews, and all the people I’ve worked with, made me feel puffed up n’ proud.
There’s a little girl within who grew up wondering what she was capable of, and perpetually feeling inadequate and afraid. There was a sense of tender celebration as I realized just how much I have done.
#3: I was grounded in my truth: acceptance of the proposal does not equal my success or worth as a person.
Lemmetellyasomethin’: This is the third book proposal I’ve ever submitted. Translation: I’ve been rejected…twice before. First was in 2006; a work of fiction, rejected outright. Second was sometime in 2008; I received a personal response from the editor, who liked the idea but who felt my platform was not sufficiently big enough.
This is my third proposal submission…and this is the first time that I’ve ever been open about submitting one. Why? Because the thought of making big announcements about such things before, and potentially having to admit months later that the book wasn’t picked up? That horrified me. I would have been too embarrassed to admit to anyone who asked that I’d been…rejected.
Today, I understand that whether the proposal is accepted or not has nothing to do with my worth as a person. If it’s not accepted, my day-to-day life changes very little. I still canoodle with my husband, perpetually fight the good fight of trying to get myself into a better groove about cooking meals instead of going out to dinner, and go on drives through wine country on a Saturday afternoon.
If it is accepted…my day-to-day life also changes very little. I still work with clients, write blog posts, and have Skype coffee dates with friends who live far away. (I just might *also* have a little PR tour somewhere in the midst of all of that and get to meet some of you lovelies in person!)
We take ourselves with us, wherever we go. My pleasure in an accepted book proposal would only be genuine if it were rooted in excitement about the work itself, and it would always be false if a published book would equal “something” about me: That I were smart enough or talented enough; that other people would like me or look up to me; that it would mean I’d get money or recognition.
I like being smart, talented, loved, and receiving money and recognition, but the moment I attach to it, that becomes externalized happiness. It would just have me on the perpetual hamster wheel of trying to do more, to prove more, so that I could feel like I was more.
I’ve lived that way, before. It’s an exhausting way to live.
(“So you won’t be disappointed if it isn’t accepted, Kate?” Answer: Hmmm…in this moment, I don’t feel connected to that as being true. If it’s rejected, it’ll just mean that what I currently offer isn’t a match for the publisher. That’s okay. I’m sure there is a day, a time, or a publisher somewhere for whom my work is a match. And, of course, I’m not reliant on a publisher. Hundreds of people have received The Courageous Living Program and The Coaching Blueprint, all without a traditional publisher.)
It’s not the actual doing of the thing that causes us so much fear, as it is all of our Stories about what it means if we do or don’t finish, or if we are or are not “accepted” by some external standard.
Go within. Get present to the truth of what you feel (meditation is a great path to Somatic Awareness, as is presence practice during yoga or other forms of movement). Question your Stories. You’ve got nothing to lose–except some extra time spent suffering.
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When dreams are slow in coming, it’s heartbreaking. It’s easy to lose faith. You’ll ask yourself fifteen times whether or not you should give up. You start perusing articles online that tell you when to let go of something, give it up for lost.
My favorite scene in the movie Moneyball is when Billy Bean (Brad Pitt’s character) and Ron Washington go over to Scott Hatteberg’s house to ask him to play first base for the Oakland A’s. (I tried to find the scene on YouTube, but it didn’t turn up).
Hatteberg was a catcher who thought he was finished in baseball after nerve damage to his arm that kept him from catching. But Bean saw something different: this guy could play first base.
What always makes me cry is the look on Hatteberg’s face (or the actor who portrays him, of course) after Bean and Washington have left and he’s dumbfounded, new contract in hand, looking at his wife.
He thought he was done, finished, over, finito. And now the whole entire world has just opened up for him to do what he loves.
Most times in life, no one is going to walk up to us with a contract in hand, to turn things around for us–but this is something you can orchestrate.
When your dreams are slow in coming, it’s time to create a new “contract” so to speak–to do something different.
In 2010, I was terrified when it came to running a successful business. I’d really put myself full steam ahead on developing my business and things just weren’t moving. I was trying to decide whether or not I should give up. Finally, I decided: I didn’t like the idea that I would walk away from doing this without having tried every single thing that I possibly could, to make it work.
The one thing I hadn’t tried? Hiring Danielle LaPorte, who was doing one on one consulting sessions at that time, for business advice. I was afraid to invest the money ($500 at the time) because I didn’t have a lot of money. I didn’t want to pay for anything that wouldn’t have a guaranteed return on investment. Those of you who have read The Coaching Blueprint know the story of how I had been badly burned by investing in someone for such a session, early on in my practice.
Also, I’d spent a few years in entrepreneurial “DIY” mode. If I could do it myself (i.e., read articles and subscribe to newsletters to learn about business) then why pay someone else to teach me about business?
Now I was armed with this one idea, though: I knew I was close to walking away, but I didn’t want to do that without saying that I knew I had absolutely tried every single thing that I could think of.
Danielle’s expertise (and her support and encouragement) were one of the first business revolutions that I experienced. I’ve thanked her before, but words never do justice. Within a month of that session, business had doubled. Within a few more months, coaches were writing in to me asking me for business help. By the end of 2011, things had turned around so massively that I had written The Coaching Blueprint and sharing what I knew in Blueprint Sessions.
She wasn’t my “contract,” though, walking into my life to make things better.
I was the creator of my own contract.
I created my new contract the moment I decided that if I wanted a different result, then something different had to be done. I made good on that contract when I started implementing Danielle’s suggestions within 24 hours of our call, taking immediate action.
When dreams are slow in coming, consider what you’ve resisted doing. For so many people, the thing they resist the most is admitting that they’re a little bit exhausted by their dreams and taking a necessary break (I’ve been there, too). For others, they know that there’s an investment that they’ve needed to make, but have been hesitating to make. For still others, it really all boils down to asking for help.
Try something you haven’t tried before, and look out for the contracts that are about to walk into your life–and if they aren’t immediately visible on the horizon, start to create your own.
You can use all of the right words.
You can use “I” statements.
You can have the gentlest tone of voice.
But–if you are judging people–they can feel it.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Let’s stop pretending that other people “can’t tell.” Of course they can tell. Even people you might think are stupid or not paying attention–they can tell.
“But Kate, everyone judges. It’s what people do.”
Roger that. But not everyone is self-righteous about it. Not everyone thinks that their take on life should be everyone else’s. There’s assessing a perspective to see if it aligns with your world-view, and then there’s “I’m going to say things in just a certain way to let you know what I really think you should be doing, all while pretending to be supportive or objective.”
Tres manipulative, non?
People who self-righteously judge keep wondering why they aren’t closer to the people in their lives, why there’s a subtle distance that they can’t quite put their finger on between themselves and other people, why someone doesn’t trust them enough to come to them as a close confidante.
Since it can be hard for others to pinpoint as well, someone who self-righteously judges others might not realize that the judgments that they hold about others, no matter how slight they might say they are, keep everyone at arm’s length.
Even if they think that they hide it well, or have arrived at a place where everyone can agree to disagree, if they carry judgments about how others do it wrong or should do it differently or could have made a smarter, more intelligent choice, other people are going to feel that.
Other people are going to feel it, and they don’t like it.
How I Know This
This is difficult for me to share: I’ve been “that person.”
I’ve been the one who, after a friend told me a course of action, said, “But are you sure that’s really a better choice than [insert what I think the better choice is]?” in neutral tones, keeping my face blank (as if facial expression and tone would be enough to mask what I was thinking: she should do XYZ!).
I know. I shake my head at that. How manipulative. How ego-driven. And to think–I thought I was being helpful, trying to keep a friend from making a mistake!
Compassion time: I was trying to be helpful. This all arose from lack; from feeling that I wasn’t enough just as I was.
I thought that I had to be the brilliant, intelligent, articulate one. I was more interested in getting the credit for helping someone arrive at a brilliant realization than I was in simply being with them, so that they would know they were not alone.
I used to rationalize it as “tough love.” Sometimes I chalked it up to simply having a “straightforward” personality and as a defense, I thought that if other people couldn’t take it, they weren’t true friends.
When enough relationships crashed and burned, I realized that it was time to change. It took me years to figure out. I didn’t even fully see the pattern at work until I started life coaching training, and realized: Oh, heya, look at that. Clients aren’t actually best helped when you try to save them from their suffering.
Since everyone suffers, they’re best helped when they know that they’re not alone.
It’s a very sane act to meet people where they are, without trying in any way to impose our unsolicited opinions (no matter how well-intentioned).
I’ve learned that trying to subtly judge someone into my point of view might “work,” but never in the way I really wanted it to.
What happens? This sort of behavior leaves people feeling like disagreeing with you means they’ll be viewed as less intelligent, less savvy. This is not a feeling that inspires intimacy and connection. More than likely, what will shout louder than anything that you say is something that the recipient feels: This person is judging me.
This isn’t to say that you should agree with everything, nor that you should never speak up. I’m not talking extremes. If someone is being hurt or abused, please–speak up. I’m speaking now to those little, daily pinpricks.
You know what I mean. The little undertones, here and there. The subtle comments. It’s “Mean Girls syndrome” transplanted from the brains of catty 13-year-olds to actual adults, and it needs to stop. I needed to stop.
Really, we all just want to know that we are loved, and that we are okay, and that we are not alone.
At the end of the day, I don’t want to be around the people with the brilliant insights, if it means that when I have a difference of opinion, I’m going to be judged for it (all while they pretend otherwise, wanting me to go along with the charade. Puh-leeze).
We want to be around the people who cultivate safety and trust by letting us know that who we are is enough, for them. That’s who I endeavor to be in my life, today.
Let’s try to be that, for each other.