The Best Advice to Overcome Fear and Laziness

Overcoming fear and lethargy

Lately I have been a bit resistant to doing new things.

Not huge things like sky diving or swimming the English Channel. It’s little things like writing an article. I’ve had a due date for this very article for 3 weeks and today is the day I wrote it. The day it’s due.

Anyone who has ever written anything knows this is not a good writing strategy. I know I am not intentionally sabotaging myself, so what is getting in my way?

Behind the Procrastination and Resistance

Since I spend most of my time in the coaching realm, deep in internal reflection, I knew I needed to explore what was behind the procrastination and resistance. Why have I continuously bumped writing to the bottom of my to do list?

It wasn’t until I read a passage from my current favorite book “Self as Coach, Self as Leader,” by Pamela McLean, that it occurred to me. In the book she shares the work of James Hollis and it goes like this:

“Every morning when we awaken and look about scanning our surroundings to find our bearings, we are confronted with two beasts at the foot of our bed, comfortably perched on each of the bed posts. One beast is LETHARGY and the other is FEAR.” 

Fear encourages us to stay small and cautious, paralyzing us from taking any risks. Lethargy is a cozy voice that says “Relax! You’ve done enough for today.”

After reading those words it occurred to me that I had been seduced by both beasts.

I was fearful of writing an article, cringing at the Fear of people reading my words and at the same time relaxing into Lethargy. These two internal voices have allowed me to sustain old habits and routines, impeding me from growing, or in this case, writing this article.  I have been choosing comfort over growth.

Fighting against Lethargy and Fear

So now I’ve identified what was holding me back, what’s the solution? The solution is simple, courage.  Imagine a continuum with Lethargy and Fear on one end and Courage on the other, with a continuous tug of war between them. Lethargy pulling you back to your comfort zone and Fear grasping at your momentum.

Courage is the underdog in this scenario. It can be crushed under fear and lethargy, unless you decide to give it strength and practice. Building courage comes with time, experience and life experiences.

In the book, Living an Examined Life: Wisdom for the Second Half of the Journey, Hollis offers 21 ways to play bigger and risk more. His opening desiderata is just what I needed to read:

Grow up.

Two simple words that really kicked things into motion for me. I had a choice; I could wrestle with Fear and Lethargy, let them win and stay snuggled between comfort and adequacy, OR I could grow up.

Grow up feels like something you would tell a temperamental child, but something about it invoked the courage within me. Not just in regards to completing this article, but in all other areas of my life. It encouraged me to scan other areas in my life and ask “where could I grow up and be more courageous?” We tell someone to grow up when we are requiring or requesting more from them. We have exhausted our patience and resources, and we need them to take action.

Grow up is what it took to kick myself into gear, but what should you do if you find yourself stagnate?

Be brave. Do something that scares you every day. Lean into fear. These are phrases that permeate our everyday lives in an effort to spark courage and smack down fear and lethargy. There is a simple truth found in those words. Increasing your courage is done through small daily practice.

What can you do today to invoke your courage?

1.     Practice. The continual cultivation of small acts makes the bigger ones possible.

2.     Patience.  The courage muscle may be weak and it takes time and opportunity to strengthen it.

3.     Boundaries. Setting boundaries means saying no when it matters and yes, even if its scary.

As I finish this article, hit save and ready it for submission, I’m grateful that I choose to grow up.


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Jen Shannon