by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
If I could go back in time to speak to myself in my youth, or, if there’s one thing I could say to those remaining after I’m gone, the message would be, “Don’t waste your time being afraid.”
Fear has been the one internal opponent that has slowed me down, held me back, or blocked my ideas and actions. Not external obstacles or misfortunes, but this inner voice of anxiety.
In the past 2 years, I’ve started living Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice to do something everyday that scares me. I’ve learned it’s liberating to challenge myself to experience new things, ideas or experiences, or go for higher, different goals as a way to grow my courage overall.
But I’ve also learned that getting to the root of fear is hugely important.
The inner energy of my intent or feeling while taking action makes a powerful impact on the outcome.
It is important to act. Yes, do that.
But go deeper. Look at that fear. Deal with that emotion. Get to the core of it. Spell it out. Analyze it. Ask yourself what you’re afraid of.
Once you get to the root of that fear and dissect it, you find clarity. When you see clearly what your fear is based on, you can use reason to counter each fear.
Let’s use an example:
I’m launching my new online business. This new venture requires that I learn things I’ve never done. That alone has caused me fear.
But when I look at that fear through the lens of reason, I find it’s absolutely reasonable to feel fear simply because this is a new experience for me. Things we haven’t challenged before often naturally make us anxious.
This helps me see my fear as normal for my situation. This viewpoint relaxes me and diminishes my fear. I feel calmer and a bit proud that I’m pushing myself into new things and beyond my comfort zone.
One way to decrease fear is to acknowledge your courage in taking on new endeavors, in pushing yourself to feel the fear and take action anyway. It’s important to take a moment to celebrate that kind of victory. Celebrations of personal accomplishment are also a strong deterrent to feeling fearful!
As a new entrepreneur, and a highly sensitive person with OCD tendencies, I have many things that make me feel anxious. I start a cascade of inner questions to myself:
As a new business owner, the stress can seem relentless and unending. But by getting all my worries in focus in front of me, I can begin to break things down into a clear plan with my critical priorities mapped out.
I'm learning that having all my fears written down allows me a chance to face each one and brainstorm a solution for it. Next, I brainstorm ideas for a contingency plan in case my first solution doesn't work or something else happens to derail it. Sometimes this process enlightens me to a need to re-prioritize or shift my plans to accommodate additional issues and/or time.
Keeping my daily plan and inner intent in line with these priorities allows my mind to find ease, knowing I’m actively addressing everything necessary for reaching my goals. One of the most powerful anecdotes to any fear is taking concrete action. Taking action based on a plan through which I've faced my fears puts me back in the driver's seat of my life and my business success.
How To Get Back Up After A Failure
But, yes, sometimes I flat-out fail to reach goals. Or, I get out of rhythm with my priorities. Sometimes, I start spiraling into a downward stress mode where insomnia rears its head. I get run-down, and out of whack.
Yes, other personal, family or health issues distract my focus or throw me for a loop. I’m human.
When any of this happens--and things will happen--I get back to self-care basics. I refresh my determination. I refresh my determination again. And again. I go back to review my fears and center myself on my values.
As an entrepreneur, and hell, as a human being, I’m learning that it’s not a straight line to happiness and success. Rather, it’s a dramatic, magnificent drama with these crazy, off-the-beaten-path excursions, unexpected adventures, and hurdles that appear from out of nowhere. It’s heavy storms and strong gales of unforeseen problems that completely drench and knock me down into the sloppy mud.
That’s the story.
That’s the part of life that creates the dynamic arch of climactic engagement. It’s also the fuel for catalytic flow to unleash new, fresh, robust, colorful creative juice that leads to a view of an amazing, vast vista.
That new vista is a vision of your joyful fulfillment and the start of a new chapter for previously unimaginable victories.
But, this up-and-down, twisty, turning story cannot emerge without dealing head-on with fear, or without hitting plateaus of illusive limitations that cause you to rear back or stop dead in your tracks.
These obstacles force you to take three steps back, like the lion prepares an attack on his prey, to regroup. Assess. Take care of your inner world. Do whatever you need to refresh yourself and rebuild your inner fortitude.
Then, you may lunge forward, with all your might. That momentum gained from ripping out each fear by their roots will propel you forward in a way that you’ve not experienced until this moment.
Fear makes you face your problems to break through your self-imposed limitations so you may unleash your massive, unlimited, creative, beautiful human potential.
Fear makes you better yourself, both for your own happiness and for others in your life.
I’m learning that for every negative emotion, problem or experience, there is a positive. A way to convert whatever it is into value, inner strength and a source for deeper personal growth and wider progress.
It all goes back to nurturing creativity and inspiration, based on self-care. When we truly do the things that are beneficial for ourselves, we spur positive health, creative energy and the inner qualities we need to improve ourselves and for others.
How Dealing With Your Fear Buoys Your Success
That’s why I’m becoming grateful for my bouts with fear.
After wholeheartedly, directly wrestling with my fear, I find that interaction miraculously morphs into a kind of bearhug, leading me to a moment of gratitude.
This shift is an amazing metamorphosis that allows me a more informed view of my true self and my situation. I feel a burst of powerful confidence, with the strength to go after my goals with clear action.
This mood change propels the reach of my actions. The energy behind my actions grows more confident, joyful, compassionate, deliberate and resilient.
This personal development process reveals how dealing with fear buoys powerful action toward success and growth.
When you see fear as a part of your necessary growth process, it has the potential to be your friend. Fear becomes your guiding voice of wisdom to do the things you must do for a richer, happier life.
So let’s embrace our fears. Addressing our fear is the way to successful, enlightened living.
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
People think I have a large life. My energy commands a room. But it’s not intentional. In fact, sometimes I think I have two personalities.
And, no, I'm not schizophrenic.
I developed my exterior confidence through my job as a music educator, and my role as a Buddhist facilitator. Directing, leading and teaching large groups of people performing music, and facilitating faith-based activities with diverse groups provided abundant training.
When I’ve had the opportunity to lead, there was no room for ego or attention to myself. There was a task to do. I’ve honed that skill to focus on the task at hand without regard to my personal feelings.
I appreciate this skill.
It enabled me to achieve more as a teacher, chorus conductor, faith leader and performing musician. It allowed me to see beyond myself and do more than I would have otherwise envisioned had I stopped to ponder my capability.
Battling An Attack of Self-Doubt
On the flip side, my alter-ego is debilitatingly shy and constantly fighting doubt. Through sheer life experience and in particular debt to my SGI-USA Buddhist philosophy, I’ve managed to function well—beyond my insecurity.
But it relentlessly attacked me when least expected with insomnia. Even when I thought I’d confronted my inner demons, fear and doubt insidiously assaulted my thoughts until the wee hours of morning.
I’d combat it with my intellect, of course. I spoke to myself with a voice of calmness about reality and fool-proof strategies to turn away my inner demons. I distracted myself with reading, deep breathing and imagery of relaxed, happy visions.
I chanted my Buddhist mantra while attempting to empty the barrage of negativity swirling in my brain. I got out of bed and stretched. I wrote my thoughts in my journal. I fought the battle until 3am, despite exhaustion.
Finally, I’d drift off for about three hours of rest.
In the morning, it would all seem perfectly stupid. In the light of day, my evening struggle seemed like a mirage. Except that I was depleted for two days afterwards.
Making Headway By Forging Inner Strength
This darkness beat at my inner doors all my life. I’ve dramatically lessened the effects of it. It used to cause such stomach-upset agony I couldn’t function beyond bed-rest. It caused me to develop respiratory issues. I had no stamina against this demon.
I continued consistently battling it from the inside out with my determined prayer. I forced myself through the exact experiences that caused me anxiety, repeatedly. I forged directly through anxiety until I incrementally gained strength over it.
I no longer have those anxiety attacks that shook my whole body with nausea or stomach pain. I no longer get respiratory illness or stage fright. I have no qualms about public speaking, performing, or facilitating. I've led hundreds of groups as a music educator and chorus conductor, performed in front of thousands as a vocalist/pianist, and spoken in front of countless audiences from musical to community events, from weddings to funerals and beyond.
I don’t worry about what people think of me anymore. All those battles forged my strength and grew my confidence.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'
Notably, when I’m striving to reach a personal goal, or break through to a new level of success in any aspect of my life, my doubts rear their ugliness to challenge me.
That’s how I know I’m on the right track.
A Strong Opponent Builds Your Spiritual Muscle
My Buddhist practice confirms this is a sign of my inner growth; I’m pushing myself beyond comfort and growing my capacity larger than before. There should be some fear or doubt because...I’m human. I’m tackling new and bold territory.
I’m on to these twin evils (fear and doubt). They appear so I may open the path to my future with my true essence—my inner power fueled by belief in the human heart. My heart.
There’s resistance so I may develop spiritual muscle. These most powerful opponents enable me to forge my full potential. Anything easy would not warrant a victory celebration.
I wage on—with a resolute vow to never give up until I win absolute victory over every new challenge. I know it is always a test of my faith. A chance for me to see how my determined prayer—starting from the inner realm—manifests in tangible, conspicuous external proof, based on the interconnectedness of life.
I just have to do the inner work first.
Take that, doubt and fear. Take THAT.
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By Jenny Leigh Hodgins
I recently read a Buddhist reference to a mythical insect called the kalakula that inspired me to see problems in a completely different way. Legend has it that the kalakula grows larger while resisting strong winds. The wind increases its size until the insect becomes big enough to devour any living thing. Quite the image, right?
(I don’t intend to go heavily into Buddhist theory here, but feel free to ask me anything about my 32+ year SGI-USA* Buddhist practice in the comments. Explore SGI-USA and SGI for more info.)
The More Problems You Have--The Closer You Are To Fulfillment
This Buddhist bug story alerted me that I’ve held an unenlightened view of my struggles. I’ve been falsely looking at my problems as;
The latter has sent me into many a tailspin of negative self-talk.
But this Buddhist analogy explains that the more handicaps, persecutions, obstacles or challenges thrown my way, the closer I actually am to developing my true potential.
What Does A Bug Story Have To Do With Your Potential?
Ok, sorry, I didn’t exactly explain what the bug and the wind are all about. The insect represents me (or you), my (your) progress, potential, capability and strength. The wind symbolizes all the crap in life that happens (relationship troubles, grief, financial struggle, illness, etc.).
The more heavily the wind (problems in life) attacks the bug (you or me), the larger it (we) grows, until it’s able to devour any opponent! The wind triggers the bug’s strength and growth.
Obstacles do the same for you and me, IF we are able to use them as a catalyst for tapping our full potential. All the difficulties we face are the mark of our impending potential and the barometer of the progress we’ve made.
This simple analogy shows me the wonderful result of shifting my perspective. Life’s challenges are not insurmountable and are not indicative of my inadequacy or inability. They are also not a burden.
Problems Point To Opportunities For Your Potential
Challenges are the complete opposite. They reveal how much strength my life contains, and that I’m powerful enough to handle what’s happening next. Difficulties point to my opportunity to unleash my full potential.
Forging my full potential by facing my problems through this enlightened perspective brings the benefit of confidence, and the joy of victory. This shift of my viewpoint provides energy to reach my goals and feel a kind of happiness that’s independent of inevitable ups and downs.
Recognizing that problems can be the powerful catalyst for inspired growth ignites my determination. This awareness deepens my faith in my capacity for empowerment. Seeing myself as a worthy opponent to life’s obstacles leads me to encourage and lead others on the same path.
Your Pretend Rival Helps You Succeed
Mystically, this same point came up today while listening to a podcast I randomly selected. The podcast, Optimal Living Daily, hosted by Benjamin Hardy, featured Nir Eyal on the topic How To Achieve Your Goals By Creating An Enemy. The episode was about how creating a fake opponent actually helps people “summon the tenacity to succeed” and “work harder to attain goals.”
Easy paths don’t lead to accomplishing goals or dreams. Defeating a weak rival is no real victory. But, rebelling against our problems by seeing them as ‘the enemy’ can spur us to pull out the necessary qualities for victory. A fierce adversary (or difficult situation/person) is one that forces me to develop my full potential so I can win.
Resistance is critical to strengthen oneself. The more difficult the challenge, the greater the chance to forge strength for undeniable victory. Having this kind of fighting spirit is what it takes to overcome challenges and win success.
Problems Make You A Worthy Opponent
Doubting myself or others means I’m disbelieving in the greater potential that resides in every life. I now recognize that seeing my obstacles as indicative of my flaws, propensity toward failure, or as punishment for past negative karma (effects received through having made negative causes) is self-slander. That is the worst negative cause because it essentially denies the true potential of my life, other’s lives, and the sanctity of life itself.
How To Win Over Your Negativity
Treasuring life is the way to replace negative causes. Making good causes is the way to create a pattern for good effects in the future. Learning to treasure my life, which includes actually embracing my every flaw, shortcoming, arduous circumstance, or mistake, is an enlightened perspective. Viewing difficulties this way honors my life and others.
I had been mulling on past failures and setbacks. But the Buddhist wind versus bug story changed my viewpoint. It showed me that life’s snags are not there to reveal my mediocrity. My personal battle, and yours, is rather more about how we can fulfill our potential by using everything to create value.
When I use my struggles as a springboard toward deepening my commitment to develop myself, I become stronger than my opponent (hardship). This creates momentum for confident decision-making, and manifests itself in one small victory after another.
Obstacles Are The Path Itself
I’ve learned that troubles are not an indication of my tendency to fall short. Nor are they there to highlight my distance from success. Instead, obstacles, failures, setbacks, and/or handicaps are the path itself to success, happiness, and enlightenment.
The most valuable way I can live is to show proof of how remaining undefeated by obstructions along life’s road leads to a more meaningful life, successful contribution to the world, and the joy of believing in human potential.
I’d love to hear from you. It means a lot to me that my content is helpful and empowers you. Please take a moment to join the conversation below to let me know if this blog is helpful or if you have questions or suggestions!
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My Top Tips For Winning Over Your Insomnia
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**Although I'm a proud member of SGI-USA, I'm not an official spokesperson for SGI-USA. Though I base my actions on my personal Buddhist practice as an SGI-USA member, my online business and content associated with YourCreativeChord is not in any way affiliated with SGI-USA.
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In my INSPIRATION blogs, you’ll find ways to overcome obstacles, reach goals, and experience more joy in the moment with spiritual awareness and inner transformation.