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A 2017 Challenge: Do More of What Scares You

Amanda Sollman

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"Creativity is a path for the brave, yes, but it is not a path for the fearless, and it's important to recognize the distinction. Bravery means doing something scary. Fearlessness means not even understanding what the word scary means." – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

It's funny how, sometimes, the words you need to hear appear out of thin air exactly when you need them. I read these words from Elizabeth Gilbert in the book Big Magic this morning. And, funny enough, doing more things that scare me is exactly what I have challenged myself to do more of in 2017. It's like the Universe stood up and said, "Hey! Listen up! I know you said this, but - just in case - here's some reinforcement!"

The trouble with being Afraid

I've always been a bit of a perfectionist.

(Actually, if you know me and you just read that sentence, you're probably thinking, "Only a bit, huh?" with either an eye roll or a wink depending on your style.)

I work hard to do things well, do things right and eliminate any bit of uncertainty that might exist. The result? I'm pretty darn good at what I do. But here's the tradeoff: I'm also afraid a lot of the time.

I'm afraid to...

  • ...try new things.
  • ...go out on a limb.
  • ...send a proposal if I'm not 99.9% sure the client will like it.
  • ...apply for a job if I don't think I 100% qualify.
  • ...write a blog post if it might rub someone the wrong way.

You get the picture. Uncertainty = bad.

Over the past few years, though, I've started to notice more and more negative impacts of these perfectionism-created fears. Sure, they protect me from failure, disappointment, sadness, anger. But they also keep me in a box. They keep me from experiencing new and, potentially, better things.

My fears aren't a safety net. They're a straight jacket.

And that just doesn't work for me anymore.

When you're scared - and do it anyways

Last March, I went with my husband to our district Farm Bureau discussion meet. If you're not familiar with the contest, it's a panel of 4-8 people who take on the role of a committee and discuss a current issue facing agriculture, with the goal of working in collaboration to find some possible solutions to address said problem. The person who facilitates the best discussion and comes up with the most/best solutions wins.

In any case, I went to this district contest to watch my husband compete – and do no more than that.

Sure, I was familiar with the format and purpose of a discussion meet. After all, my dad had been a national finalist back in the 90s and, in our state, there are youth and collegiate versions of the contest. But I had never, ever, ever competed. Even the idea of sitting on that panel - with people who farm full-time and are far more familiar with the challenges facing our industry than I am - was enough to send me running in the opposite direction.

But this night ended up being different.

In Michigan, depending on the number of people you have compete at the district contest, you either get to send three or four people to the state contest. We were short only 1-2 people to be eligible to send 4 people on to states. And so, the manager of the contest (who happens to be one of my best friends) was doing her sales pitch to get a few more of us - who had no intention of competing - to just jump on the panel last minute. After all, what have you got to lose? Even if you don't make it on, you got a free meal out of the deal. And (enter guilt trip), you don't really want to be the person who keeps someone else from the state contest...do you?

So, I caved and jumped on the panel. And, low-and-behold, I made it on to states.

And then, this past December, I won the state contest.

And then, this past weekend, I ended up as one of the top four in the national contest – where I won a Case IH tractor, $2,500 cash and $500 in Stihl equipment.

All because I let down my guard and did something scary.

Do more of what scares you

There's no question that, in the case of the discussion meet, doing something that scared the living daylights out of me had HUGE rewards (remember: TRACTOR. CASH. UTILITY EQUIPMENT.). So, as I was looking ahead to 2017, it occurred to me:

What could life look like if I committed to doing more things that scare me, more often?

Now, it won't always look like a contest with tens of thousands of dollars in prizes. "Scary" things could look like:

  • A hard conversation with your spouse or family that makes you feel vulnerable
  • Going to the movies or dinner by yourself
  • Signing up for coaching and not totally knowing how you'll make it work financially
  • Applying for a job that you think you'd be great at, even if you don't have the years of experience they're asking for
  • Committing to working out more, even though you're afraid of what people at the gym might think
  • Booking that trip around the world
  • Selling your house

Scary has a different definition for all of us. And, it's true, if we don't try the scary stuff, we'll never have to face what happens if we fail or are disappointed in the outcome. But here's the other reality:

If we don't try the scary stuff, we'll never experience the potentially awesome outcome either.

So, I'm challenging everyone reading this: do more of what scares you in 2017 and dare to find out what the results will be.


If investing in yourself through training and/or coaching is the scary stuff you want to do in 2017, give us a shout– we'd love to help!

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