Think over the past year: What have you done this year that’s made you feel scared, awkward, shaky, or uncertain (I like to call these the “scary shakies”)?
(Go ahead: Take a moment and really answer this for yourself. What have your “scary shakies” been this year? Listing them will make the rest of this more fun for you)
This year, my “scary shakies” have been…
Hopefully, you have at least a few items on your list of the scary-shakies. Because if you don’t allow yourself into this uncomfortable, unfamiliar territory at least once in a while, you’ll almost certainly be bored. (And maybe people will find you boring, too). It’s hard to grow when you don’t stretch yourself.
Now, look over your list of scary shakies, and ask yourself: What am I (or was I) worried or afraid of?
Me? I used to worry more about what other people thought of me. My focus was outward. In my head, I’d be thinking, “Do you like me? Do you like me? Am I interesting to you? What can I do so you’ll like me more?”
Now, I’m much more attuned inwardly. The questions I ask myself are more along the lines of “Am I sharing what’s in my heart?” “Am I helping light the way for other people?” “How can I use my natural talents to be of service?”
So this week, when I performed on stage for the first time since high school, in a 20-minute piece that I wrote myself, people kept telling me, “I bet you’re nervous.”
And they say things to me like, “You’re so brave. I could never do anything like that.”
When I’d dig deeper, asking what they meant, I’d hear, “Oh, I’d be afraid of messing up. Of making a fool of myself.”
Yes, I remember times in my life when making a fool of myself was my biggest fear. But that wasn’t the issue Monday night. Sure, I had some trepidation about remembering my lines (I sort of forgot I was on stage the first few moments, so it sounds like I’m whispering, when I was really just feeling like I was chatting with the audience). But screwing up?
I didn’t think about falling on my face.
I was more concerned about not connecting with the audience and sharing so they would feel touched and inspired. I wondered if they would understand my point. I was sharing about my angst-filled career decisions. I imagined that most people have had a job that they didn’t like, a career path that they fell into unintentionally, a choice about work that they make with their head instead of their heart.
But really, didn’t I have any fears of making a fool of myself on stage?
Honestly, yes. But they disappeared.
So, here’s the thing I’ve discovered:
When you put your heart into being of service, so many little issues and worries fall away. (Click to tweet this)
Sure, I had some nervousness about how I was dressed. Whether my makeup was messy or nice. And I wondered if I was talking too slowly or too quickly.
But somehow, as soon as I thought about my bigger purpose, that nervousness just melted. It was like I could simply follow my soul’s cues and directions, and those would lead me to drop my worries. My ego wasn’t the director. My soul was.
During rehearsals, which I did in front of an audience as often as I could, I’d consciously remind myself that my purpose was to help others navigate through career confusion by trusting their hearts and guts. Those rehearsals felt so good.
Unfortunately, during one rehearsal, I lost track of my big purpose. My ego felt incredibly bruised each time my director gave me feedback. That time, I was in tears, feeling his words harshly, instead of just taking them as developmental cues, as he’d intended them.
What about you? What is your bigger purpose?
Here’s an experiment for you. This week, think about your bigger purpose. Then, in that context, notice how you feel about any of the work you are doing. When fears, doubts, worries, and such arise, remind yourself of your bigger purpose. And see what happens.
Let us know how your experiment goes.
Here’s to your bigger purpose,
Susan Bernstein, The Unfool
Work from Within