“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
I find it one of the saddest quotes and concepts ever. Why is it so famous? Because, even more sadly, it really is true for many people. Life is played out in an all too real “quiet desperation”, never gaining much traction or raising the head above the parapet, dying with “the song still in them” their passions unfulfilled. Why does this happen?
It’s not all about circumstance and opportunity. That’s the first thing to be clear on. There are so many examples of people who grew up in extremely challenging circumstances, (Oprah, Wayne Dyer, J.K. Rowling to name but three) but who rose to live extraordinarily successful lives. It’s not about an absence of adversity.
It’s a complex question and clearly about a whole bunch of factors (more than one blog!), but most of all I think it’s about fear. Too many people let fear control their life choices. Fear of being good enough; fear of what other people will say; fear about making it pay; fear of failure; fear of success. Fear keeps people playing small, and trapped in a passionless life of “quiet desperation”. Fear smothers the “song” that is in them that they are on this planet to give voice to. Each of us completely unique, we are all here to serve in some way. Our playing small due to fear does not serve either us or the world.
So – fear. Here’s the thing you really, and I mean REALLY need to know about fear.
Are you ready?
Here it is:
Fear is not real.
Fear is a mental contruct.
Fear is just something we believe in our heads.
When you believe in the thing you fear more than your ability to handle it then fear has the power and you play small.
“But Louise! That’s not right! Fear is here to warn us of all sorts of scary things we need to pay attention to! We need fear!“
Honey, I take your point but hear this – you are confusing FEAR with DANGER.
DANGER is REAL. It requires immediate and evasive action because something is ACTUALLY, for reals, wrong.
FEAR is a mental contruct that something might go wrong – it’s a THOUGHT that keeps you trapped and playing small. It’s not a REAL thing, it’s a THOUGHT about a thing.
DANGER is something that’s ACTUALLY happening. In the real world.
FEAR is something you are IMAGINING happening. In your head.
House on fire. DANGER! Grab the cat and the hard drive of pix and GO!
Worry about leaving the iron on even though you know you turned it off. FEAR. Not real. Just robbing you of joy in the present.
Lawyers letter in your hand. DANGER! Call your lawyer and deal to the reality.
Stalling handing in that book proposal to that publisher again and again. That’s FEAR. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of being “found out’. Whatever. Fear. Not real.
Swerving to avoid an oncoming truck in the wrong lane. That’s DANGER. Real and present danger.
Being too nervous and anxious to drive in case you crash. That is FEAR.
DANGER is LIFE ENHANCING. Danger keeps you SAFE. Danger saves your life.
FEAR is energy sucking. FEAR makes you play small. FEAR drives a life of quiet desperation.
There is a part of our brain (have you got my book? I write about it in there, it’s called The Lizard Brain, plus there are a load of cool tools you can use that will properly change your life) which is hardwired to scan for DANGER. It keeps us SAFE! It tells us to move back when the ledge is high. To move our hand when the stove is hot. It’s essential for surviving life intact. Over time, however, it can get far too shouty for it’s own good telling you that you have a DANGER situation when in fact it’s just fear about something unknown and imaginary that in all likelhood will not come to fruition.
Here’s the thing. You’ve got to back yourself more. Back yourself that when there is a real emergency – that there is real DANGER – that you are smart and you will react. You will fix it , sort it, move, run, whatever you need to do in that moment.
Fear – that’s another thing entirely. Pouring endless effort into trying to mitigate the fearful feeling – all that does is rob you of joy, connection, and fun in the present moment. By all means make pragmatic plans and reduce risk, that’s sensible, but don’t not do the thing because fear is standing in your way.
Too many people let fear control their life choices. Fear of being good enough; fear of what other people will say; fear about making it pay; fear of failure; fear of success. Fear keeps people playing small, and trapped in a passionless life of “quiet desperation”. Fear smothers the “song” that is in them that they are on this planet to give voice to. Each of us completely unique, we are all here to serve in some way. Our playing small due to fear does not serve either us or the world.
Know that if the fear turns out to be real, and it turns into actual danger: you will handle it. But choose not to believe in fake fear – it keeps you small, it keeps your passions trapped inside of you. Don’t let fear win. Go live a life of extraordinary brilliance and sing your song loud and proud.