This past week I am beginning to feel a shift in my perspective on anxiety, fear of the unknown and dream building. For weeks since I returned to Durham I have been feeling the squeeze of anxiety. I have my full time day job, which has its own intensity inherent to a start-up in a highly technical field. And then I have my business, which is experiencing a rebirth through a collaborating with the manufacturing technology incubator–the Commercialization Station–courtesy of CART Inc. and Dr. Mutter in Bluefield, WV.
In the back of my head I had this thought: Do I have what it takes to work full time and build a complex and technical business in a neighboring state? There is one answer to this: Taking the financial pressure off my business through work with co-workers I love and work that is very interesting IS right. Finding my community of collaborators in WV has brought the theory of made to measure for job creation to life. And this is ALSO right. If my day job is right and my business is right, then the powers that be must think I am capable of the two at once. And yet there is the very real fact that this is a lot to fit into each workday over many months, years even.
With the faith that these two things are right, I am left with a dedication to this mission: to soar regardless of the weight of my responsibilities. I have been pushing myself to find a rhythm with it. And the biggest work I have been doing is reframing my relationship to anxiety. At this point in time I am staring down a whole pile of unknowns: what will it look like to collaborate with a group in a different state on work that requires fabricating products in the real world? What will our process look like for the 1st 100 blouses once we begin work with the pattern making software? What will our workspace look like? How long will it take for me to learn the software? Will I be good enough? And so on and so forth.
And so my brain wants to work and rework these questions until I can find the answers. To bad for my brain, most of them will only be answered over time. As a result questions and fears that creep into my mind during my day job do nothing but distract me and make me anxious. As I found myself tossed around in a washing machine of fears about an uncertain future, my friend sent me a passage about our emotions that included a piece about anxiety:
“Gestalt therapist Fritz Perls said that anxiety is “excitement without the breath.” When people remember to breath into their fear, their anxiety often turns into excitement […] People often get most afraid just before they are about to step out into the creative unknown, into a new possibility. Fear mobilizes your body for action, but if you do not take action the energy curdles in your body.” (Guy and Kathleen Hendricks in Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-Commitment).
So I began working with the concept that the anxiety I was feeling was just fine. Rather than medicate with wine or extreme exercise, or Netflix distractions, I let it be. I let myself feel it along with gratitude that I have the energy to take action on the path to build my dream. While we were demoing the software, I had a still moment where I coached myself to breath. So perhaps anxiety is energy we have squeezed into too small of a space. Perhaps if we feel that energy and use it to fuel our work, and make space to feel it, go for a quiet walk with it, we can reframe our relationship to it from one of discomfort to a revered partner on our dream building work.
I will end with a gem from the Ted Radio Hour I listened to over the weekend, “How to be Better.” In Brittany Packnett’s talk: What Are Meaningful Ways To Help Build Your Confidence?, she said something profound about the goal of confidence as being able to: “Redesign the world in the image of your own dream”. In the spirit of “being the change,” I rephrased this as such: “I have the confidence to redesign my world in the image of my own dream.”
You are exactly where you are supposed to be on your dream building path. Practice radical acceptance of the emotions and energy you have where you are now. Make lots of space for them and let go of other people’s expectations about what you should or shouldn’t be doing. (You can dive deeper into learning about reframing your thinking on stress in the segment by Kelly McGonigal.) Be a ruthless guardian of your time. It is the most precious thing you have. If you find yourself spending lots of brainpower stressing about everything you have to do, consider revising your timelines. Dreams get built slowly like the growth of a beautiful tree. If you have already done this, watch Ms. McGonigal’s talk and start revising your thinking about all you have to do. That is life after all.
Learn how to find a rhythm with your dream building work. It is your very own rhythm as precious and distinct as your thumbprint.
Go, fight, win.