Fear Fighting

The other day, I stumbled across a description of a new book called My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock, an unemployed journalist. With that title alone, I probably would not have gone on to read about it in the first place, if it hadn’t been for the photo of a Reese Witherspoon look-a-like under the headline, Fear Fighter.

My Year with Eleanor refers to the year Noelle Hancock spent following Eleanor Roosevelt’s legendary advice: Do one thing every day that scares you. Hancock explains, “I’d been laid off from my job and I was just full of fear. I thought maybe to figure out what I want to do with my life, I have to do all the things I don’t want to do.”

Whoa… Slow down there, Noelle. Say what?

Before we go any further, promise me right here and now that none of the rest of you out there will jump to that particular conclusion whether you are unemployed or not! For one thing, it’s a pretty reckless, illogical idea, and it can be outrageously expensive, depending on what your fears are. A couple of the fears the author faced that year of living illogically, included skydiving, going nose to nose with sharks, and becoming a fighter pilot. (Really? A fighter pilot??)

By contrast, my primary fear – of snakes – would be relatively inexpensive to face if I really wanted to, which I emphatically do not. I can safely say that particular fear in no way impeded my ability to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. It does not surprise me in the least, however, that it never occurred to the author to do anything as ordinary as calling a career coach to help her through her apparently terrifying transition.

Twenty-two years of coaching experience have shown me that most people will do almost anything–including going nose to nose with sharks and becoming fighter pilots–to avoid sitting down face to face with someone who might actually be able to help them face their fears and find their way to full, deep, rich, satisfying careers and lives. It’s hard to believe that anything so sensible and boring sounding could result in transformative results.

So after all that fear fighting, Noelle, did you figure out what you want to do with your life? Come on…I think you knew all along. I think what you wanted was to write a book like another unemployed journalist once wrote about her year with Julia Child–and to possibly get a movie deal.

I’m all for facing fear, believe me, but I know from experience that most often it happens in a quiet, safe place, on a cushy sofa, behind a closed door, with someone who knows how to go there with you.

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2 Responses to Fear Fighting

  1. avatar Andrew Han says:

    You tell ’em Sister!  How refreshing to read your take on how our culture embraces everything but acting like an adult. 

    • avatar Bonnie Bell says:

      Andrew: Thank you so much for your response. You made me laugh… And you bring up a very good point. It does seem as if our culture tends to embrace a “forever young” philosophy, which is all too often interpreted as “forever adolescent.”

      If only it were more common to accept life as an ever-evolving movement toward responsible adulthood. That is not an end in itself, but presents a trajectory that includes a life that becomes continually fuller, deeper, richer, and more satisfying as you go. Unfortunately, that will not happen all by itself. It requires that we become wise managers of our lives, always learning from our mistakes and paying attention to what works.

      The whole point is to wisely manage everything – our friendships, our marriages, children, our careers, and our money. That creates joy – something much deeper and more valuable than fun. But we can have fun, too!

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