Battling Medusa: How to Deal With Fear

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I love getting things done.
There is nothing more productive than finishing off my checklist and knowing I am getting the important work done.
However, I noticed something disturbing about my habit of checking off lists of tasks and errands.
In my effort to give myself the thrill of being productive, I wasn't really accomplishing the work I wanted to.
It was mostly busy work.
I find my subconscious mind is often pleased at the trivial accomplishments.
In fact, my subconscious gets so much satisfaction that I find myself avoiding the larger, more important tasks that would move me towards success in my business and personal life.
Instead of working towards these tasks, my brain lets me know the importance of cleaning the bathroom, rearranging a stack of papers, checking email (again) or reading an interesting but non-essential article or book.
What's up with that? I'm all for clean bathrooms, empty sinks, empty inbound email boxes (a joke, I know!) and a clean desk.
But I don't want my life to be defined by the tasks I do.
Seth Godin calls this the "lizard brain," the part of your brain that craves comfort and security and seeks to hide from doing anything that would cause uncertainty or change.
The lizard brain keeps people in planning mode for years instead of getting taking their personal trainers test, getting certified and starting their own side business.
The lizard brain comforts the wannabe speaker by ordering magazines, products and researching the "how" of being a speaker, without ever getting in front of an audience and speaking.
If I listen to the lizard brain, or, as I call her, Medusa (named after my own big frizzy hair which, if left uncared for can be truly frightening) I will never do anything out of my comfort zone.
And therein lays the problem.
Medusa never goes away.
I have to keep silencing her one day at a time, one task at a time.
Because I find that once I conquer one fear, another one pops up.
I start writing first thing in the morning, getting the book accomplished.
Medusa shuts up for a while.
As the book comes to a completion, Medusa begins to whisper about what others might think of it.
I'm tempted to set it aside (in fact, I have set it aside projects before).
I reread it as I edit and make changes, telling Medusa to go find a corner to stand in.
As I finish the manuscript here comes Medusa again.
I'm looking into publishing, have asked others to review it and the time has come to do something with it and Medusa reminds me that it takes years to be good enough to publish.
Medusa kicks it into high gear the closer I get to the project's completion.
For most of my life I listened to her but in 2012 I told her to get out for good.
It was a battle and it wasn't pretty.
There was some stuff falling apart in my life and I finally HAD IT with allowing stupid circumstances to blow me hither and thither.
In regards to publishing a book, it had been something I wanted to do for a long time.
It's not good enough to write if no one sees your work.
What's the point? Yea, some people want to write, build, create for themselves but I want to be of use to other people.
If something I have gone through, if I have a story that would inspire, teach, encourage, who am I to hold back the gift that has been given to me? I've been given gifts to so I can share them with others.
So, on November 17, 2012 I submitted my first book to be self-published as an eBook.
Once again, Medusa went into attack mode but by that time, while I was nervous and fearful, I was determined to listen to her.
She didn't go away or stop screaming.
She reminded me how little money I was making and how stupid it was to invest into something that had no guarantees of even making back the few hundred bucks I had invested.
I clicked the "submit" button and told her there was no turning back.
I wanted to celebrate this monumental occasion in some way so I planned a virtual baking party with what I had in the house and announced it on the blog, hoping readers would join in.
Medusa laughed and said, "I told you so" when no one responded.
I baked anyways and recapped the event on the blog.
With $7 in my wallet, I wanted to do something to stop and celebrate the accomplishment- my first book out of my computer and into the world.
Medusa reminded me that there was nothing worth celebrating yet.
Ignoring her, I went to Subway, got my favorite- a Spicy Italian on wheat with all the veggies and baked barbeque chips.
Delicious.
I spilled the water on the floor, making it especially memorable (and a little embarrassing!) After that Medusa didn't have too much to say.
I won't ever forget that lunch, eating Subway on Park Street in Boston on a cold but sunny November day.
Medusa got a permanent crick in her neck (at least for a while) because I did something that was important to me: I got over my fear of putting myself out in the world.
I didn't make back my money on the book but I realized that was never the point.
This experience was all about the learning process and putting Medusa in her place.
I can live in freedom or I can live in fear.
I received such heart-warming comments from some of the friends and family who read the book.
Their support meant a lot.
Some people didn't like it.
I decided that their negative remarks would have little effect on me.
If I could learn something from them (constructive criticism) I would take it.
Otherwise, I would let them be.
I just finished the next book.
Medusa is out again, attempting to place seeds of doubt in my mind about the validity of the writing.
Some days she is louder than others.
Some days I give in and listen to her, always sorry for it afterwards.
She doesn't have as much going for her these days though.
Now that I'm on to her schemes, I choose to silence her a little more quickly.
The best way to shut up her poisonous words? First, finish the work.
Then, as Seth Godin puts it, "ship it.
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