I started reading Noelle Hancock’s memoir My Year with Eleanor a few weeks ago because like Hancock, I’m in transition in a lot of areas of my life, and I was feeling the fear — terror actually — bubble up in my body. Hancock, depressed and confused, serendipitously comes across a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt written on the chalkboard in the coffee shop she frequents after being fired from her job as an entertainment blogger. It’s one you’ve probably read before, “Do one thing ever day that scares you.” But for Hancock, with time on her hands for the first time in her life, it sparks a year of fear-conquering adventure.
I like history so I found Eleanor fascinating. Her mother died when she was eight and her father committed suicide two years later leaving Eleanor and her two brothers to be raised by her surly grandmother. Painfully timid, she was determined to overcome her fears. At boarding school, under the tutelage of a special teacher she vowed, “Never again would I be the rigid little person I had been before.” It was these commitments that would shape the course of her life.
During her fourteen years as First Lady, Eleanor received an average of 175,000 letters a year. Her husband’s physical disability meant that she was on the frontlines in communities during his presidency, an advocate for civil rights and a friend to those in need. Sadly, like so many women, she also dealt with his infidelities, notably with her personal assistant and for the later part of her marriage, she and her spouse lived in separate homes. No matter what life dealt her though, Eleanor was able to move forward and to serve.
One of the biggest take-a-ways for me from the memoir was what Hancock’s psychiatrist Dr. Bob had to say about the relationship between fear and excitement. Fear he told her, produces the exact same physiological response in our bodies that excitement does. So despite what your brain thinks, fear and excitement are really one in the same.
So I’ve been trying a technique he suggested. Every time I feel afraid, I search for the spot of fear in my body — it’s always in my chest — and then I ask myself, “Are you really afraid or are you really excited? Is there anything you can get excited about?”
No matter whether it’s a call to a perspective client, a date with someone new or taking a risk to stretch beyond my comfort zone, I’ve managed to feel excited every time. The fear just dissolves away. And the thing about feeling excited is that I also feel supported too, like life is going exactly like it’s supposed to.
Try it and let me know what you think…
If you’d like the chance to win a copy of My Year with Eleanor, follow us on twitter. On August 26th, we’ll do a random draw and one lucky follower will receive a copy.