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  • jeniferfoster2

Why do we get in our own way?

Being at home has been hard. I’ve been forced to face the fact that I don’t have a specific plan for the future. That is hard. While in Roatan I started reading this rather random book that I found at the resort, “On Trails: an Exploration” by Robert Moor. He talks about his time hiking the Appalachian Trail, and how people believe that there is freedom to being out in nature hiking a trail; but, that in reality, a pathway is restrictive. Everything is predefined. He compares it to the anxiety of being in the woods without a path, and how anxiety-provoking that is: every single step has to be examined for possible pitfalls. It’s rather providential that this book fell into my hands at this stage of my life.

I got into a fight with my significant other (it seems appropriate to call him this, because I’m still mad at him). I think he is frustrated with me because I’ve talked about starting retreats for years, but I have yet to take any specific steps towards actually doing them. That isn’t completely true. I’ve been compiling information and ideas, but I have yet to put them together into a coherent product. I always seem to get stuck in the minutiae. He said some things which triggered a lot of feelings, not the least of which is hurt. If I’m honest, he isn’t wrong.

This morning I’ve been thinking about this journey I’m on. It’s exciting. Don’t get me wrong. There are so many possibilities moving forward. It is fantastic in its possibility. And, it is absolutely terrifying! Just like being in the woods without a path, every single step forward has (in what feels like equal part) both potential and risk.

What has given me pause this morning is thinking about why I feel so absolutely glued in place. I said I feel that potential and risk are equally possible, but it isn’t really true. See, the truth is, I’m not a young kid starting off on this journey. I have had lots of jobs in the past. Lots and lots of jobs. (The longest-lasting position was for about 9 years, so not exactly short-term). I have worked in multiple arenas. I was in charge of a program that went through a significant transformation under my watch. I certainly did not do the work alone, and I had mentors along the way, and much help from my team. But, we changed a program that had been operating the same way for a long time into something fairly different. I also created a brand new program that didn’t exist before. Again, it wasn’t completely single-handedly. But, it was definitely my brain-child. It turned into a pretty successful program.

Why, then, am I so frozen with fear and doubt?

Because the stakes are higher. Because it is me being vulnerable and putting my own time, money, and energy into something. What happens if I fail? Those safety nets aren’t in place.

But, when I think about it – it’s a bit ridiculous, isn’t it? I can put more than my all into building something for someone else. At my last job, my boyfriend always questioned why I stayed there. He kept saying, “they don’t care about you. They would get rid of you in a moment if they thought it was beneficial to them.” (This was based in some history there). I had also taken a rather sizeable pay-cut when I started working there. The thing is, he wasn’t wrong. I knew it too. But, I was so invested! I cared so much about my program and the people I worked with (both colleagues and clients). The work was compelling and exciting.

It wasn’t mine though. Not really.

Interesting and sad that we can build something for someone, but it is so challenging to do it for ourselves. I have also seen this time and again with friends. I have to brag a little. I have amazing, intelligent, funny and talented friends. Seriously. I’m pretty picky when it comes to friends, especially close friends. I don’t let just anyone into this weird little orbit of mine. However, so many of my friends have put their own ideas to the side in order to build something for someone else.

Why? Fear. Anxiety. Doubt.

I remember the first time I was put in a management position. I had a lot of doubt then too. I had a friend say, “I think you forget how smart you really are.” (You can see why I pick the friends I do. Kidding, kidding). That is part of it though. Doubt. Self-doubt. It is real. It is thick. It is challenging.

How do we get over it? How do we get over it enough to move forward?

We take a step. We ask for support. We breathe. We feel the feelings. We take another step.

This is hard.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” (Maryanne Williamson).

That quote just sprung to mind as I was writing. The irony of it, is that it is often attributed to Nelson Mandela. See. Sometimes you put yourself out there, and your work is attributed to someone else.

But, we can do this. Whether it is changing something in your life, or starting something new. Yes, there is doubt. It feels weird. It feels risky. It feels hard. It is. Right? There is risk in change. That is why so many people stay on the “path” that society gives us. Sometimes that means not changing maladaptive behaviors you were raised with. Sometimes that means not moving geographically from an area where you feel safe. Sometimes that means not challenging yourself professionally. Sometimes it means not making yourself vulnerable when it comes to relationships. Ultimately, all of these come from the same place. Fear and self-doubt.

Life is harder when you aren’t following a path. But, it can also be more rewarding and happy.

So, don’t be like Robert Frost, and take the path less traveled. Be a pioneer, and create your own path.

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