Last summer, during the phenomenal BlogHer’13 conference, Lean In‘s Sheryl Sandberg spoke at a breakfast, challenging attendees to think about what they would do if they weren’t afraid…and then do it.
While hundreds of bloggers filled out the large cards found at their tables and stepped into a photo booth to announce their new goals, many of us were too afraid to openly share our fears.
Since that time, though, I have contemplated what changes I would make, or how I would live my life differently, if I had no fear.
I think I’m fairly brave and I have taken some risks in my life, but I have to admit, I have let fear call the shots far too often.
For instance, decades ago I set out to write a novel, and was taking a fiction-writing class at New York University when I met my husband.
In retrospect, I recognize I kept myself busy with paid work, because I was afraid to fail on my own time.
How about the rest of you?
Given the popularity of Sandberg’s book, as well as a new release from former Today show host Jane Pauley and a moving Bing commercial celebrating brave women, let’s call this the year of living fearlessly.
And, in that vein, I’m going to start my year’s soundtrack with a song by the alternative rock band Incubus.
Several years ago, a friend hosted a graduation party for her college-bound daughter, who I had grown close to through our summer swim and dive club.
Instead of presents, my friend urged party-goers to give her daughter a quote that held special meaning or might guide her through the coming years. After much thought, I decided to transcribe a few lines from the Incubus song “Drive” (1999): “Whatever tomorrow brings ill be there, with open arms and open eyes.”
Those words seemed very appropriate for Brenna, who has a beautiful, positive spirit and definitely greets each day with enthusiasm and an open heart.
However, I later realized the song resonated on another level; it’s about taking control of your own life, of not making choices based on others’ expectations: “Lately I’m beginning to find that when I drive myself, my light is found.”
But perhaps most important, lead singer/ songwriter Brandon Boyd is speaking of courage; of not letting fear dictate how we live our lives:
“Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear,
And I can’t help but ask myself how much I’ll let the fear take the wheel and steer.”
So, this year my goal is to live more courageously, and to stay in the driver’s seat.
I think it’s a valid objective for all of us. Are any fears controlling you?
- Are you afraid to get out of a difficult relationship, or to give up a dysfunctional friendship? Do you worry about being alone, or about the repercussions of casting out a negative influence?
- Have you refrained from confronting a friend or relative about something that truly bothers you, for fear of their reaction?
- Have you stayed in a job too long? Have you stopped growing through your work? Do you dread going to the office each day, or watch the hours tick by slowly?
- Is it difficult to ask for the promotion or raise you believe you deserve?
- Are you letting the lack of funds keep you from traveling? Are you waiting for that “perfect time” to see the world?
- Do you need a push to start over in a new city?
- Are you afraid to take the necessary steps to give up drinking or smoking, wondering how you’ll live without those crutches?
- If you need to lose weight or want to get into shape, are you afraid to take that first step with a gym membership?
- Do you worry that if you are honest with your friends about your struggles, concerns or worries, they will think less of you?
If any of those worries resonate in your life, consider the amazing women who have overcome their own fears to attain goals and reach new heights, several of whom are celebrated in the new Microsoft Bing commercial:
This ode to some of 2013’s bravest women — including Malala Yousafzai, Gabrielle Giffords and Deb Cohen (who danced with her surgical team prior to a double mastectomy) — celebrates “a courageous group of women who have changed the world and shown us all what the human spirit can achieve.”
If they can overcome obstacles and live without fear, what’s stopping you?
Even Jane Pauley has jumped on the “fearless” bandwagon, with a new book that was mentioned in Sunday’s Parade magazine. In Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life (Simon & Schuster) Pauley shares advice for baby boomers – the youngest of which will turn 50 this year. She advises women to “remain engaged and take risks,” stressing that “Life is scary wonderful. It’s great to learn how resilient you can be.”
Okay, if you haven’t reached mid-life and have no idea who Jane Pauley is, perhaps actress Amy Adams might inspire you. In accepting her Best Actress Golden Globe award last night, Adams thanked her young daughter for “teaching me to accept joy and to let go of fear.”
That’s a great goal for all of us, don’t you think? Here’s to a joyful, fearless 2014.
– Linda Williams Rorem, 13 Jan. 2014
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