We all know that the primary barrier blocking us from soaring to the heights of our dreams is fear.
Fear of what exactly? Who is this illusive Boogeyman that keeps us so firmly rooted in a life that feels distinctly un-ours?
To move from the life we have to the life we crave, we must be willing to take risks and bet on ourselves.
So, if risk taking is required, perhaps its fear of failure that's holding us back? Is it that we find the risk of putting money on the table and losing it so undesirable that we don't even try the odds?
Of course that's part of the equation. None of us wants to fail. So it makes perfect sense that we would go to great lengths to avoid it.
After all, we all carry around embarrassment, shame, resentment and regret about past gambles that didn't pay off.
This shared human experience reveals the impact of our biological hard-wiring to focus on the painful parts of our past experiences to prevent them from recurring. While a critical trait for early human survival, this negativity trap is a detriment to modern life.
Being tormented by the negative aspects of our past "unsuccesses", we miss the opportunity to applaud ourselves for taking a risk and to learn from the things that didn't go our way.
With this pattern, our past failures become heavy anchors that ground us to the life we have. After all, why should we try something new or exciting when the past clearly evidences the inevitability of failure?
But, what if we allow ourselves to challenge the assumption that fear of failure is really what's holding us back?
What is really at risk when we try and fail in the modern world? Our wealth, our time, our reputation, our self-worth. Only in rare cases is our health put at risk.
The stakes? Losing what we already have. Assuming we've earned what we risk, it's entirely likely that we'll be able to recuperate any loses.
This will certainly cause pain. However, if we allow ourselves to see past the negativity trap, recouping our loses is only a temporary setback. In reality, our loses are an investment in the experience of learning how to succeed.
Sure, the prospect of failure is scary. However, if the game of betting on ourselves were a table in Vegas, we would happily play. The capital we put at risk pales in comparison to the life-changing payoff we're guaranteed if we stay at the table long enough.
So there must be a more insidious Boogeyman that hides behind our fears.
What about fear of success? Do we fear placing a bet that pays off so big that our lives are irrevocably changed?
Undoubtedly, most of us have at least considered the ramifications of success, with thoughts like:
"If I succeed and become famous, I won't be able to live a "normal" life anymore. Everyone will be watching my every move."
"If I succeed and make a lot of money, I won't have "normal" relationships anymore. Everyone will be after my money."
"If I succeed and create a successful enterprise, I'll be too busy to be happy. I'll be pulled in a million directions."
Allowing ourselves to believe that success will be worse that our current lives is disingenuous. While there may be validity to these intellectualized drawbacks of success, they aren't what's keeping us from taking a leap.
If its not fear of failure or success that's holding us back, then what is?
It is the knowing that we may actually succeed. We fear that we will become the person who dares greatly and is rewarded with a luminous future.
I suspect that you may be skeptical, but let's dig a little here.
For most of us, anytime we allow ourselves to dream, the excitement of "what if" is immediately followed by a "reality check". We say to ourselves things like "Who are you to think you could ever achieve that?"
Perhaps that's not you, but for most of us, it is.
To move past the fear that is grounding us, we must acknowledge the competing forces at play. We have the dreamer who fills us with hope and enthusiasm and the critic who tells us that we're not good enough to be anything more than we are.
Who should win in your life? Who is it that actually wins?
For most of us its the critic. Why exactly is that? Shouldn't it be the dreamer?
Below the surface of our dreams is the truth that we see our current lives as not good enough. We've worked hard to build the life that we have -- complete with all of the wonderful relationships and things that bring us joy. So this is a tough pill to swallow.
The more tied we are to the life we've already achieved, the harder the road to pursue of our dreams.
Because our lives are full. Therefore, in order for our dreams to become reality we most let go of parts our existing life to make room for the new.
What is really at play here is that our critic is the voice that is unwilling to let go of the life that we have. Our critic is deeply tied to the life we've fought and struggled to build, with our treasured relationships, careers, lifestyles, habits and beliefs.
Our unwillingness to let go of our current life is the fear that keeps us firmly rooted where we are.
In a world where most of us are chasing the illusion of a perpetual state of happiness, letting go is not a viable option.
After all, releasing what we have requires us to endure the deep sadness and grief that accompanies the permanent loss of any part of our lives.
Since the pursuit of our dreams requires us to let go, we must allow sadness and grief to play their necessary role in helping us to honor and appreciate our past.
Our grieving opens up space to move into a new beginning. The opportunity for living out our dreams is directly proportional to what we're willing to let go and mourn.
Boogeyman, we see you.