What’s a better way to move through the world – from a fear of failure, or genuine enthusiasm and passion for a path?
I belong to a writing group – a group of women who get together to talk about our individual projects, our creative breakthroughs, hopes and fears.
At our last meeting, Leanne, who is writing a fantasy novel for teens, discussed her main character, a 16 year old girl who will one day be queen. Leanne had used the word ‘energetically’ to describe the way her heroine moved, and someone asked her to define what that meant. Leanne said that energy was a sort of purposefulness, a look of clarity in her eye, like she was born to be queen and there was no doubt in her, no fear.
It made me think of young sports people, like Australia’s newest young cricket hero Ashton Agar, or Stephanie Rice when she won three gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. Both had a confidence that this was meant to be – here I am doing my thing, there can be no other way. No fear.
I was talking to a young friend recently – Rojina McDonald, or Reggie. Reggie was just accepted into Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in London on a scholarship. Reggie had her suitcase packed months in advance of her actually winning the scholarship. She was that sure she was going. As if she willed it to happen. Perhaps she did. The judges said it was her passion and enthusiasm that made them choose her above all the other contenders around the world.
Reggie, who runs her own cupcake business, told me one day she had heard on the radio that they were looking for people to go into schools to give motivational talks. Reggie signed up immediately and off she went to talk to the kids. I asked her if she was nervous – knowing that public speaking is the number one fear for most people. Reggie said that she didn’t fear anything. It seems to me that her passion and enthusiasm carry her past any kind of self-doubt – if that even exists in her. She’s the kind of person who picks up the phone to call strangers all the time, if she thinks it will help her get to where she wants to go. And it’s not as if she is calling them just to see what she can get from them, she brings all kinds of gifts in return. That’s how I met her – she read a bio in a magazine about me, that I’d lived in London, and wanted to meet me because she was going to London (even though she hadn’t heard from Le Cordon Bleu at that point). We instantly became friends. She reminds me to think positively and expect the best in life.
It’s this clear-eyed enthusiasm and passion that interests me. Growing up, my sisters and I were athletes. Our dad was our coach. We were talented – my sister was in the Olympics. But we were not like Ashton Agar and Stephanie Rice. We were plagued with self-doubt. And often times it was that that in major competitions caused us to perform less well than expected. Dad used reverse psychology. ‘Prove to me you’re better than that.’ Was it that that caused the self-doubt? Was it trying too hard to please him? Were we born with nervous dispositions that didn’t in the end lend itself to the kind of no-fear nerves of steel that all the best athletes have?
The other side of fear is, of course, a healthy thing, to keep you safe from danger. Fear can also be used as a tool – probably what my father was trying to achieve with his version of reverse psychology. It can be a tool to propel you forward, that fear of failure. But what’s a better way to move through the world – from a fear of failure, or genuine enthusiasm and passion for a path? Methinks the latter.
This is one of the things that interest me to examine here in the Bliss Files. How much fear can a person carry in their system, and still manage to do their thing, follow their bliss, anyway? At what point does the fear get in the way, clouding judgment and perceptions, and possibly even stopping that forward movement altogether? Are there tools and means for actively increasing enthusiasm and passion, and reducing fear? Of course there are.
As the Reverend Tim Costello said when I interviewed him about following your bliss, it takes a lot of courage to actually stick it out. He said courage is the biggest thing, that a lot of people have strong inklings about what they want to do in life, but in the end “there’s too many other, utterly reasonable, but at the end of the day, quite deadening, reasons why you don’t follow your bliss”.