Taking Risks and Doing the Scary Things

This week I celebrate the 4th anniversary of leaving my day job. That’s 4+ years of constantly trying to play bigger. It’s just as exhilarating and exhausting as it sounds.

At Ali Edwards’s Story Camp event recently, she opened the workshop with writing exercises including a letter to our younger self.

I don’t have a lot of ‘regrets,’ per se, but there are certainly things I would have chosen differently if I had the chance now. Things like recognizing what I’m good at earlier in life, or learning not to care so much about other people’s opinions. There are a lot of mindset evolutions that I would have liked to have had at different stages of my life.

But the main advice I kept coming back to over and over in this letter to my younger self was “Do the scary thing.”

It makes me sad to think about it now … how many things I missed out on because too scared. How many opportunities I talked myself out of because even just dealing with the awesomeness was too overwhelming. I could name a bunch of examples, big and small. All the times that I played small and safe and avoided the possibility of failure by also avoiding the possibility of success and adventure.

I mean … I have a Masters degree in English. One of the most useless ways I could have spent those years and those thousands of dollars? Why? A few reasons, but also because I was hiding in grad school, not ready or willing to decide what I really wanted to do with my life.

I don’t know when I finally recognized that I was sabotaging myself in this way. But I do know that in 2013 I chose BRAVE for my One Little Word as a way to help train myself to make braver choices.

To do the scary thing.

All that year I consciously tried to always make the BRAVE choice. When I was given a set of options, what was the brave choice? When I was in a situation, how would a brave person react?

That’s the year that I finally quit my day job. That’s the year I went camping for the first time in decades. That’s the year I wrote a couple books and I launched a big course and I declared myself an expert in something.

Since then, BRAVE has migrated from my One Little Word to one of my Core Desired Feelings. because it is still — now four years later — something I struggle with. It is still a conscious decision. It is still a deliberate, thoughtful rebelling against my natural instincts.

I still have to make myself do scary things.

It does get easier. It doesn’t get less scary, but overcoming the fear gets easier with more practice. So I have been deliberately seeking out scary things and big overwhelming opportunities. If nothing else, then to just practice overcoming the fear.

Sometimes the scary thing is applying for a month-long writers’ residency. Sometimes it’s just going to a meet-up on a Sunday night where I don’t know anyone. Sometimes the scary thing is letting myself be emotionally vulnerable.

This week, do something for me, please? When you’re faced with a choice try to make the brave choice. Don’t assume what ‘should’ be done, question the safe choice.

Do the scary thing.

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