Making friends with fear

Today, I want you to think about something you really want to accomplish.

Maybe you want to launch a new business in the next six months.

Maybe you want to run a marathon next year.

Maybe you want to learn a new language.

Maybe you want to write an album, or a book, or build an artistic career.

Whatever it is, I want you to hold onto it for a moment.

What does fear have to do with your goal? Maybe it influences your actions a little, or a lot. Maybe fear is what is keeping you from moving forward right now.

Maybe you’ve found yourself thinking, “If I knew there a good chance this plan would work out, I would do it for sure.”

Maybe you’re waiting for that sign, confirmation, or guarantee.

I think I’m a pretty good person to talk to about fear, though probably not for the same reasons people expect.

In my work as a tarot reader, I often answer questions about goals: People look to tarot for certainty, outcomes, and predictions.

“Will this work out?”

“Am I on the right path?”

“Will I be successful?”

Sure, I can read cards on these questions and offer some answers based on what I see. But that’s not what makes for a good conversation about fear.

Because fear is usually what drives these questions.

I know, because I’ve live with these questions all the time.

Do you not think I went through the same worries and concerns when I first opened my business? You bet I did.

And I go through the same cycle of fear every time I start a new project, offer a new course or workshop, or do pretty much anything I haven’t done already.

And what I’ve learned from my own experience as an author and entrepreneur is this:

Fear is always there. Whenever you set a new goal, fear will be right beside you. Whenever you start to grow, or move towards a new chapter in your life, fear will be there, too.

I was 24 when I started writing my first book. I was fresh out of journalism school and was full of pressure to make something of myself.

The book I was writing was an intensive research project – a history of the first wave punk scene in Toronto. No one had done a book on the subject before, and there was very little documentation to go on.

I had to track down almost 200 people, all strangers to me, to do the research.

Was I scared? Absolutely – and for so many reasons. For one, I didn’t know if I could write a book. I’d never done that before.

Second, I was reaching out to people I’d never met. I didn’t know if they wanted to talk to me, or how they would treat me. Some were great. Some were terrible.

I took a lot of crap. Some of my interviewees told me I was too young. One told me I had no business writing about the “boys club” he perceived himself to be part of. Some people told me the book would never get published because nobody cared about the subject.

And those things stung, because they stirred up the doubts I already had within myself. I often wondered, “Am I wasting my time? Can I really pull this off? Will this become what I want it to be, or am I deluding myself?”

I had a lot of nights when I would wake up at three a.m. thinking of the book, unable to go back to sleep. It consumed me. I worked on it every day, not making a dime off the work along the way. It took me about two years to get a completed first draft because there was so much groundwork to do.

And while some days were exciting, others were disappointing. I did get rejections of all kinds. I applied for grant applications to help fund the project and got nowhere. Every publisher and agent I reached out to turned me down in Canada, and the U.S. and the U.K.

Yup, I was rejected on international levels.

I did eventually get approached by someone who offered to publish it. And the book sold out of its first print run within days – which was extremely validating.

You would think that would alleviate fears that this project wasn’t going anywhere, but you know what? It just created more fear:

What will people think of the book?

What will people think of me?

Will it get reviewed?

Will the critics say nice things?

“New levels, new devils,” the saying goes, and that’s exactly what happens when you set a goal and then reach it.

Fear does get easier to live with after a while, but it doesn’t go away altogether. Sometimes, you might think that once you reach a certain level in your life you’ll be fine.

But we are always going back to the beginning somehow.

This summer, I’ve found myself going through many of the same questions that have confronted my writing before.

I just finished writing a novel that I spent seven years working on, on and off.

It’s a long time to commit to a creative project.

Do I know if the book will get published? No. Do I know if anyone will like it? No. Do I know if it will sell? No.

Having experience in writing and publishing doesn’t mean I question things any less than I did when I was just starting out:

“Am I wasting my time? Am I focus on the right project? Is this the book I should be writing, or is there something else I should be doing instead?”

I know these questions are common for many of us because I hear them all the time in my tarot practice. While the goals my clients are setting are not always about writing, the fear behind them is the same: “I don’t want to waste my time.”

As we all get older, this fear can become even more pressing. You start to learn how long something takes to get off the ground.

You start to feel like you can’t afford the kinds of mistakes you might have made in the past. You start to feel like your life is passing you by and you haven’t found your “thing” yet.

I get it, because I have those same thoughts for myself.

Hell, I run a tarot business. You don’t think I understand what it means to be afraid?

My first book gave me sleepless nights, but my business has given me all that and more.

Tarot is a weird thing to do. It’s not seen as an acceptable job by mainstream standards. A lot of people don’t understand it, and when I started my business I knew I would have a lot to prove.

Even though I had total confidence in my abilities as a tarot reader, there was a lot of uncertainty for me in terms of how to survive in this industry.

And just as I experienced in my writing, I found that as soon as I got one aspect of my business established, a whole new crop of fears would show up.

Which is why quelling fear is pointless.

Living with fear is a more realistic state of mind.

People come to me for tarot readings because they want affirmation that a plan will work out perfectly: “Will my business be profitable? Will I succeed? Will I become known as an artist?”

But tarot doesn’t take fear away. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read on these questions where the cards are screaming, “YES! DO THIS!”– I’m talking about the most positive, affirming readings that tell you everything you’re hoping for.

And you would think that might be enough for someone to hear.

But then I hear from some of those clients a year or so later and find they are in the same place they were before – not having taken any risks or steps towards their goals.

Why? Because they stayed with their fear.

If you’re not willing to still move forward with a plan, no matter what kinds of challenges or opportunities are on the horizon, it doesn’t matter what a tarot reading tells you.

Tarot readings are not antidotes to fear. Neither is success a lot of the time.

That might sound surprising, but it’s true. Achieving a goal, making a difficult change, or taking risks can get easier the more you push yourself and the more you accomplish. But I don’t know a single successful person who doesn’t wrestle with uncertainty.

When we ask questions about our goals, the best ones to start with are, “What do I need to do to make this happen?”

Knowing the steps you need to take can help you to see what’s within your control in regards to your goal.

So, let’s go back to the goal I asked to hold a few moments ago. Now, instead of asking yourself, “Will this work out?” Ask instead, “What do I need to do to make this happen?”

All goals require some kind commitment and a sacrifice of time and energy. Even if you hit on something that’s a sure bet, it will still take work, and it might still feel scary at times. No amount of reassurance can determine the outcome of your goal, and reassurance won’t keep you protected from the tough days.

There will be obstacles and challenges. There will be people who tell you you’re wrong.

At the end of the day, you’re the one who needs to decide to do what it takes to make a plan work.


Until next time,

Liz xo

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