This article was originally published for Health Coach Connect in Transformation Magazine.
One of my biggest fears is stagnation.
For years, I quieted this fear by embarking on epic adventures a few times per year, from a balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey, to summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, to running one of my overall 25 marathons up volcanoes around Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. After each of these adventures, I returned home to my comfortable (but extremely small!) New York apartment, settled into my 50 hour/week work grind and plugged away diligently as a nurse practitioner. When the feeling of stagnation settled in again, I would just book my next adventure to overcome it once more.
This past summer I realized that these adventures, while still transformative and impactful, only served to quiet my urges and ignore my core desires on a day-to-day basis. I didn’t look beyond the surface to understand why these urges appeared so regularly. Sure, I lived out my dreams in some of my adventures, but did that really matter if it didn’t translate to “real life?”
Although I felt respected by my colleagues and appreciated by my patients, I couldn’t help but feel trapped in a backwards healthcare vortex that was more of a “sick care” system than a forward-looking, health-promoting model. I realized that what I really wanted was to forge deeper cultural connections, build bridges against gaps in inequality, lead a life outside normative social constructs and transform healthcare on a much more meaningful level.
At the end of July, 2016, I applied for a program called Remote Year, in which up to 75 people spend a year working and living as digital nomads in a different country each month. People come from all different professional and ethnic backgrounds, many of them entrepreneurs and freelancers, to work and live a life without the boundaries of a particular location—networking, innovating and forming collaborations all while immersing in and giving back to each of the communities they’re traveling in.
At the time of my application there were 300,000 candidates, so I never expected to get in. But then I did, and suddenly paralyzing fear engulfed me. I had two weeks to make a decision—this was exactly the life change and opportunity I was seeking, but it would mean giving up my position as a nurse practitioner at a world-renowned hospital, forfeiting a very comfortable salary and benefits in pursuit of my own business endeavors, and leaving my friends and family for a FULL YEAR to spend all of my time with complete strangers in unfamiliar territory. Committing would mean abandoning the comforts of my daily life for a year of “the unknown.” What if I wasn’t emotionally strong enough to do it? What if I took a nosedive into financial instability? What would my colleagues, friends and family—all of whom had a more traditional view of success—think?
Fear is inevitable, but we can choose how to react to it. We can let it keep us stagnant or we can embrace it with open arms and use it to grow. When we allow fear to tell us we aren’t good enough or strong enough, we let life happen TO us. All of us are capable of more than we imagine, but these capabilities can’t flourish until we challenge our fears and shift our mindset.
A powerful way of shifting our focus is not to ask, “What if I fail?” but, instead, “What if I succeed?” By shifting, we instantly inch closer to our goals and redefine our view of failure. Life begins to happen FROM us and the concept of failure dissolves when we realize that anytime we reach beyond our perceived boundaries we become stronger and more capable, learning more about ourselves along the way. The outcome may not be exactly what we planned, but any growth that arises is a success in my book. Better still, the outcome may be far beyond what we had hoped for.
Fear is inevitable, but you can chose how you react to it.
Ultimately, I decided to push beyond my fear and judgment and made my decision, confident that I could make it work even if I didn’t know ex-actly how yet. On February 1st, I moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the first of my 12 destinations with my Remote Year community. At the time of writing, I am just over five weeks into my journey. I have cried multiple times, including in semi-public places like an Uber car ride and while meditating in a Buddhist temple. I’ve felt the strain of relationships and stress at home, and I’m constantly monitoring my bank account, while desperately trying to build a health coaching practice that doesn’t force me to plow through my life savings. It has been a test in adaptability and minimalist living and a challenge to balance self-care.
But I am also making meaningful professional connections, and I’ve met a diverse, amazing, accomplished and kind group of people from all over the world who will serve as my travel family (or as we affectionately call it, tramily) for the rest of the year. While the speed at which I hope to make deep connections with these people may be unrealistic (especially for my introverted self), I am confident that the connections will happen naturally, albeit slowly, and will last a lifetime.
Sure, I am on a path that is scary, overwhelming and downright uncomfortable, but ultimately it feels right for me right now because I am in the process of living as my authentic self and fulfilling my core desires everyday. I chose to reach beyond the fear, because whatever the outcome, that’s where true growth and transformation lies.
In the whimsical and inspirational tale The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, the main character, a shepherd, recognizes that if you want something badly enough, the universe works in your favor to help it transpire. When I finally stopped to reflect on my life, admitted to myself what I was really missing, acknowledged my fears and worked to reframe them, the universe listened. Your thoughts create your reality and there is scientific evidence to prove it.
My challenge to you is to pick up a journal or piece of paper and pen and take 10-20 minutes to freely write about your desires. This activity can apply to money and career, relationships, health and wellness, or all of the above. How do you want to feel everyday (creative, calm, challenged, energetic, joyful, etc.)? What would your perfect day look like? What are some activities that really make you happy? What do you feel is missing from your life? What fears are holding you back from reaching higher? Be kind to yourself as you write, withhold judgment and just let the pen flow with a stream of consciousness.
Spend another five minutes reframing those fears. What would happen if your dreams became a reality? What one step can you take RIGHT NOW to reach beyond your fear? Continue with positive affirmations daily. Write an affirmation on a Post-it note and stick it on your comput- er or bathroom mirror where you will see it everyday. With persistent affirmations, your mind will eventually start to believe that your dreams can become a reality, and when you believe the universe listens. When you choose action in the face of fear, opportunities are endless and personal growth is inevitable. Choose to reach higher and find the other side of fear.