Transforming Fear to Joy

Leading the Way — Empowering Women, Building Communities

Helen Maupin, Presenter — Women in Transition Panel

Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology (CCWESTT)
2010 Conference held at the Fairmont in Winnipeg, Canada

As you heard from our panelists’ stories, their experiences with transition shared considerable common ground.  What appears uniquely personal is indeed universal.  For most of us in the throws of change or life transitions, whether they are of a spiritual, physical, intellectual or emotional nature, a similar, cyclical process unfolds.

The first in this three-step Transformation Process™ begins with Inspiration and occurs when an event in our lives brings our awareness into the present moment.  The inspiring occurrence could be an idea, an intuition, another person or a Significant Emotional Event that helps us to SEE more clearly what is required for our next transition.  From the personal stories shared by my cohorts on the panel, we heard several Significant Emotional Events — marriage, childbirth, divorce, parenting, single-parenting, promotion into a highly challenging and brand new career, and death.

As you may have noted in your own life, Significant Emotional Events will appear to be negative or positive depending on how we choose to perceive them.  If we choose to see the event as negative, then we will create a negative experience for ourselves.  However, if like these storytellers, we choose to view the event positively, we will create a positive experience and positive outcomes.

The key to remember at the inspiration stage of transformation is to SHOW UP by being present in your life so you can make conscious choices about the opportunities available to you.  How do we accomplish this?  By OPENING UP to (not avoiding, judging or resisting) whatever is emerging for us.  Only then can we SEE THE TRUTH of our current experience and avail ourselves of the opportunities lying within the transition.  To keep our naysayer or Inner Critic voice at bay, I coach clients to use affirmations.  One of my favourites comes from Louise Hay (www.louisehay.com) —

All is well.  Everything is working out for my highest good.
Out of this situation, only good will come, and I am safe.

To paraphrase — inspiration, in one of its guises, awakens us to a present moment opportunity or challenge.  In order to address that new opportunity successfully, we still need to accurately assess our personal strengths and limitations because it is very unlikely we will be able to solve all the new challenges with only our current skill set.

As you heard from the panelists’ transitional stories, each of these women had to transform some aspect of herself as a means of moving from surviving to thriving.  This learning experience defines the second transformational step, Internalization (when knowledge and experience are acquired).  The panelists’ stories described the internal transformation required by them before any transformation in their outer world could occur.  They tried out, practiced and eventually internalized new thoughts, new feelings, new language and new behaviours.

This step in the transformation process is rich with exploration and learning as well as uncertainty because often we cannot see the outcome — our destination.  In other words, we are “on an adventure”.  The dictionary defines adventure as “an exciting and unusual, typically hazardous, experience or activity.”  S-o-o-o, we cannot see what the outcome will be, it could be dangerous, at the same time it is exciting and we have not been here before.  Adventure is fun and it requires an element of risk.  The risk is that we will learn something new.

For many of us who desire to be in control of our lives, uncertainty or adventure can raise fear instead of joy and curiosity.  Fear has many disguises — worry, self-doubt, perfectionism, and procrastination are only a few.  A dear friend of mine describes fear as an acronym — False Evidence Appearing Real.  The unknown is not to be feared but rather to be explored for the adventure it is.  Our job is to ACCEPT WHAT IS showing up in our lives and to learn what we need to be, have and do in order to thrive.

And therein lies the definition of Integration — when knowledge and experience become wisdom — or more simply put, when our behaviour catches up with our belief.  Remember, it was our belief in ourselves, no matter how shaky the belief may have been, that drove us (as Gandhi says) “to be the change we want to see.”  As our behaviour and belief merge, this integration completes the transition cycle and what we experience is our new identity.  Although much of who we were has been retained, nothing seems to have remained the same.  In the words of T. S. Eliot —

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

So, we begin again with this new identity, new knowledge and new experiences, and eventually even find this to be temporary as new ideas, intuitions, personal stories or Significant Emotional Events continually inspire us.  And the never-ending adventure we call Life continues.

I would like to end with a poem I wrote in 2002 as I was navigating one of my own SEEs.  It’s on the back cover of my new DIY coaching book, From Now to WOW — Step-by-Step, An Invitation to Transformation.

I called it . . .

A Slice of Life

Suspended for a moment in mid-flight
my eyes take it in.

A slice of life lays out before me.  I dive
into the juicy essence of a new experience.

My true strength is not the sturdy muscles
built from years of athletic strain.

Neither is it the puzzle-solving, mental gymnast
fully charged in my brain.

Nor is it the years of tears that healed and released
repressed storms of the heart.

My true strength lies quietly within.
It is my belief I can be all that I desire.

So, with this leap of faith, I taste the sweet with the sour
to awaken all that I am.