I follow your work and love your messages about braving up and honoring what matters most, but I need your help on that. I’m a 54-year-old professional woman, and I’ve had a great run at a number of professional directions, including writing a series of books that were very successful, to serving on boards of two renowned foundations, and fundraising for several important health causes. All that said, I just don’t feel I’ve really had the “success” I deserve, and I’m still lacking in confidence to determine what I want to do next, and secondly, to take action on these ideas. I find that I’m constantly distracted by a million different projects and new ideas, but I can’t seem to sink my teeth into one and just go for it. What can you suggest to help me figure out what to do?
Thank you for your help,
Thanks for your honesty and openness in sharing your situation. So many people will resonate with your story, and particularly, with your feeling that despite all the amazing successes you have achieved, you lack the confidence and sense of self-worth and value to take yourself to the next level and identify and pursue what you care about most.
I’d like to address here the phenomenon I see in some many women today, which is a blocked vision about how they are amazing, unique, special and important in the world. The first problem is that, when something comes very easily to us – say, writing, or public speaking, or connecting others, or brainstorming fabulous new ideas – we just don’t see our talents for what they are. They seem like “no big deal” and we ask “Well, can’t everyone do this?”
The answer to that is an emphatic “NO!” Very few people have your powerful combination of innate talents, passions, perspective and ability, and your special way of operating, thinking and perceiving. And not everyone can do what you do in the way you do it. You are truly one of a kind. So the first tip is to start looking at what you do with an eye for appreciating how important, needed, and special it really is.
Another important dimension to this is understanding your special style of taking action. My research has shown that there are six dominant action styles that people demonstrate. Honoring your own natural style is critical if you want to love the work you do , as well as achieve lasting reward and success in it. Many people are finding that when they identify exactly how they like to pursue action towards and goal, and what motivates them passionately, they can then better identify the new directions that will bring them fulfillment and satisfaction.
Secondly, regarding confidence, I’d love to share some wonderful insights from my friend and colleague, Richie Norton, the author of the book The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How to Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen & Live Without Regret.
In his book, Richie talks about how to move forward and lean forward into your “stupid” idea – to not shy away from it, but embrace it fully, so you can make your dreams happen and live without regret. Doing what’s necessary to walk into “stupid” helps you do what’s required to come out on the other side -- to stupendous.
Here’s what Richie shares about how to crush your fear:
“It’s not the actual circumstances that we should feel threatened by; it’s the fear of the circumstances that poses the real threat. The bottom line is that people with high aspirations are going to experience a proportionately high level of fear. If high aspirations are equal to high fear, then the flip side to that truth is that overcoming high fear is equal to achieving high aspirations. To crush fear doesn’t mean you eliminate it; crushing fear means you literally crush it down into smaller, more manageable parts and tackle one piece at a time.”
I love this advice for several reasons. First, fear is a given – if you want to achieve anything in this world, you’re going to feel fear around it. So you have to “brave up” and walk into the fear – straight into it – all the while watching yourself in the process, and developing your own personal and effective coping strategies for moving forward despite the fear.
Secondly, Richie talks about “crushing” fear. He doesn’t mean that we’ll obliterate it – that’s not possible (or even desirable). But we can break our goals down into manageable, bit-sized, doable steps, and commit to those, one day at a time. After we accomplish each one, we need to stop and make time to appreciate ourselves and relish what we’ve done, and embrace the bravery inside ourselves to tackle what we were most afraid of.
Finally, I’d love to help you address your question about how to prioritize and not get distracted. Here’s another fabulous tip from Richie’s book: the “Will I regret it when I’m 80?” rule. Regret can cripple our lives, and crush our feelings of hope, purpose and strength. (Here are the top 5 regrets I see in midlife professionals, and they're devastating.) In evaluating all the options in front of you, Richie suggests asking these four questions:
- Do you have a pressing thought or idea that won’t go away? (Make a list of all your pressing ideas.)
- Looking at your list of ideas, what would you regret NOT doing?
- If you had only a short time to live, and were required to rid yourself of all the things from your list but three, which would remain?
- If you had to prioritize these few things in order from most important to least important, which order would you choose?
There you go – you’ve done it! Now you know what’s most important to you, why, and what to focus on first.
So, are you ready to crush your fears and start something “stupid?” Truly, all you have to do is start. Then, you can pivot, adjust, and re-align when you need to. But starting is key.
It’s your time to brave up.
I hope that's helpful to you. Let me know how it goes!