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There's a layer underneath doing and thinking that most people have very little awareness of, and so they can't do much about it if they're stuck.

In this episode, Leo looks at the ways of being, and how it's probably the most important thing when it comes to changing our lives.

Topics Covered

  • How internal resistance and fear often arise when working on a purpose project
  • Common manifestations of fear include procrastination, perfectionism, self-doubt, and avoidance
  • How most people are not aware that they are being confronted by fear; they perceive their reactions as reasonable
  • How to practice noticing and acknowledging the fear when it arises
  • How to sit with your fear and bring self-compassion; embracing the fear as a part of being human
  • How to choose a more expansive way of dealing with the fear
  • Leo’s personal experience with confronting helplessness and the importance of embracing all emotions


Welcome to the Zen Habits podcast, where we dive into how to work with uncertainty, resistance, and fear around our meaningful work. This is for anyone who wants to create an impact in the world and cares deeply enough to do the work. I'm your host, Leo Pabauta, creator of the Zen Habits blog.

Hi, my friends. We are back with another... Fresh episode. This is fresh baked, fresh from the oven, and you're going to love every single bite. So I'm happy to be here with you. In the last episode, we talked about ways of being the layer of being and some of the ways of being. I'd like to continue with that.

If you didn't watch that already or listen to that already, go back and listen to the last episode, but I'd like to continue with that. But the couple of things that I think are really important, which is what happens when we are confronted by our fears and then how to sit with that and the opportunity of sitting in everything that's coming up for us.

So let's talk about that. So why are we looking at this? Why is this important? So first of all, what happens when you commit yourself to working on something like, a purpose project is that you start to work on it. And then something's going to start to get in the way. Sometimes it's external, but usually it's an internal resistance.

And so it's fear, it's usually fear and resistance. We don't see that's happening. We don't see that there's fear there. We just say, ah, I can't do this because I don't have enough time. We convince ourselves. I don't have the time or it's okay to put it off or people are going to judge me and who knows what they're going to think.

I can't control people's thoughts. Perfectionism might start to come in, and that's just I'm really hard to put it out there because I'm spending so much time with this because of perfectionism. And then because I know it's going to take that much time because of my perfectionism, I don't even, I don't have enough time, so I don't even start.

So these things start to happen, and we think there's something wrong with us, or that it's perfectly reasonable just to abandon the project. So something comes up that confronts us, it's confronting us, the part that we can see is that we're not doing it, but the part we can't see necessarily is that we're being confronted by our fear, we're confronted by not enough time or perfectionism, which is really like worried about getting it wrong, we're worried about getting judged, we're worried that we're gonna look like a fool or, who does this person think they are?

All of these kinds of fears, they come up and we're confronted by it. It's hard to see that we're confronted by it, but we just think this is just how it is. It's just not okay to do it. And one thing you might see is that you are going to avoidance. You might go into Google and do a bunch of research, buy a whole bunch of books on Amazon, buy a bunch of courses, and all of a sudden I'm doing a Tons of research, but I'm not actually doing the thing.

I'm not writing the book or recording or whatever it is. And so what I have here is a fear of just I just don't know how to do it. I don't know how, and if I know how, then I'll do it. So I use the books and the courses to like. Learn how, and then I'll be able to do it, but that isn't actually what happens.

You still don't know how to do it because you're not actually doing it. So that is what often will happen is we want to know how before we can actually start. And what we're really doing is being confronted by our fears. It seems incredibly reasonable to take a course. on it. And it's actually totally fine to take a course, but you might notice that you're using the course as a strategy to not do the thing because of fear.

So another thing we might do instead of research and perfectionism is just quit. It's I'm not going to do that project. I'm going to go do this other one, which is, totally fine. All of this is totally fine. There's nothing wrong with researching or perfectionism or choosing a different project, but you might notice that the person is quitting the first project because they're confronted by their fear.

They don't know they are. That's how it works. I don't know I'm being confronted by my fear. I just do what feels perfectly reasonable. So hopefully you can see that when we get confronted, we just, we're not aware, we're not aware of it. We think what we're doing is perfectly reasonable. And it is. It's actually fully reasonable.

Or that's the only option that's available. Like I'm blocked, I'm stopped, and therefore I need to go and do something else. And that this is the thing that's stopping us from doing our purpose. Our purpose project and our mission in the world. The thing that's stopping us is this fear that's confronting us and then the reasonableness of quitting or doing research or spending 20 hours on something that could take 10 minutes because of perfectionism.

It feels completely reasonable. This is what's stopping us from doing our purpose project. This is why we're not doing it. From putting things out in the world, from creating, from taking on something hard. If we're not aware of this, there's nothing we can do about it. It's just gonna happen over and over again, and we're gonna say Ah, I'm just not cut out for this.

So maybe you have some experience with this. Maybe you've seen this happen with you over and over again. I've started to have it over and over again, and I just keep, not being able to do it. I remember trying to quit smoking, and I kept failing at that. Over and over, and I was like, what's wrong with me?

And the reason was I just couldn't see that there was fear that was taking over. And it felt completely reasonable to smoke this one time when I was really stressed out. So we come up with a conclusion, like it's reasonable, or I'm just not good at this, or I shouldn't do it, or, I can't trust myself.

You might think, oh, if I don't trust myself, then how am I gonna actually take on this next habit, or this next project? If I don't trust myself, then it's pointless, right? So we go through this cycle, these cycles of not trusting ourselves, deciding it's just not worth it. It's pointless. I'm resigned. Don't even try.

And I've worked with a number of people, by the way, who I've coached, one on one, and they end up in this place and they're like I'm going to commit myself to this, but I really don't trust myself to do it. And so I feel like I'm probably not going to do it. Like I don't trust that I'm going to do it.

And I'm feeling like only half committed to this and you can guess that because they don't trust themselves and they're only half committed, they probably are going to set themselves up for failure. They're not really going to be. Pouring themselves into it and giving it their full effort, and then they will actually fail, which just reinforces the original story that they have.

So all of this is happening, but we don't know that it's happening. We get confronted and we do what we think we have to do when we're confronted by this fear. There's only, there's not a lot of options, like we only know how to do one or two things when we are smacked up alongside the head by fear.

We. shut down and run for the hills or we, force ourselves or whatever we think we can do. These are the only things we know how to do from that place. There's actually infinite options in front of that place, but that's not what occurs to us. For other people, one of the only options is just like complain and complain.

I've worked with people who go into a big, Narrative about like why they're like this and their whole lives of it's gone like this and that's a narrative That's as large as life. You can see that they go into this when you just ask them a simple question is like What do you notice? When you are not doing the thing you said you're going to do.

Oh then they go into the story. So this is one common thing that occurs to people. It's like the only thing that I know to do when I'm questioned about my fear is go into a huge narrative. Nothing wrong with that. I want to just be clear. This is, I have a lot of love for all of this.

And so what we're noticing is that we don't know what to do when we're confronted by this fear. We just. Do what we think we have to do, and then it's just going to keep going the same way. So what I'm here to say is that it doesn't have to, that there's another way to work with this. So when we're confronted by our fear, which you're going to be, if you're putting yourself into uncertainty, you're going to be confronted by your fear.

If you're taking on anything that's outside of your comfort zone, anything outside of what you already know how to do, anything that's a stretch for you, anything that. Feels meaningful, you're probably going to be an uncertainty out in the unknown and you will be confronted by your fear. So when you are, the best thing you can do is just first of all, notice it.

We talked about that in the last episode. If we don't notice it, nothing we can do. We're completely powerless. We notice it. We can say, Oh, I'm confronted right now. I'm feeling like I have to quit, or perfectionism, or complain, or go into my big narrative about everything, or, run in a void, or distract, or whatever it is that I think is completely reasonable.

The best thing to do is just to say, I am confronted by fear right now. Simply admit, accept, acknowledge that. And you will be, if you're actually facing this fear and resistance. and turning toward your meaningful work, you're going to be confronted. And so what you want to do is say notice what is it that I want to do from this?

Oh, I want to go into a research mode, or I want to like, complain about this to everybody, or what is it that I want to do? So you start noticing I'm in it. And here are the things that I want to do. What if you didn't do those for, just today, you can do it tomorrow or even just for two minutes.

What if you just stayed for a little bit and didn't do the thing that you know to do when you're confronted, what if you could just sit. in the fear. Just notice that you're confronted and then feel how the feel fear feels. It's a tongue twister for me. Feel how the fear feels in your body. And so just notice oh, I'm feeling contracted around my chest.

I'm feeling tender around my heart. I'm feeling a lump in my throat. My breathing is constricted and shallow, which it will be if you're confronted by fear. So you just sit in that. You can talk to someone about it. It can be also helpful, but really the most, the best thing is just to sit with us.

If you can't see that it's going on, it often can help to reach out to someone else, which is against our tendency for most people. So reach out to someone else and say, ah I'm just really struggling with this. So a friend, an accountability partner, a group, accountability group, I would recommend hiring a coach.

I'm available for hire. If you want to reach out to me, podcast at zenhabits. net. Anytime you want to write to me, but have a coach who can see all of this going on and say, Hey, I noticed you're confronted here and have you practicing with that? But let's say you notice it and you're willing to sit with it for a while.

So you just sit in the fear, let yourself feel it for a little bit, feel the contractedness, breathe deeper down into the belly and then love yourself just like you would love a little kid who's afraid. And when you are able to do this for a little while, and you might not be able to do it for too long. So five seconds, 10 seconds, 20 seconds, let yourself do it more and more. And after a while, this doesn't have to be a problem. We can just simply be with it.

We're going to simply breathe and give some compassion, some love. I'm not talking about compassionate thoughts, which are up here. Just a feeling of compassion in your heart for yourself. As you go through this, most of us don't want to give compassion. We want to be harsh on ourselves and tell ourselves to do better and discipline ourselves.

This is from our fear that if we don't discipline ourselves and be really hard, we're not going to ever do any better. That's our fear. So we get hard on ourselves and it doesn't work. I can tell you, I've worked with a lot of people. It doesn't work to be hard on yourself. Be compassionate. That doesn't mean letting yourself off the hook and saying you don't have to do it, but just feel compassion for yourself as you go through fear.

Feel love for the pain, for the hurt, the sadness, the frustration, the anger. Feel love and compassion for all of that. Breath and presence. And then from that, you might be able to choose a new way of being. What's the way that I like To work in this place where I get confronted, that would be more expansive.

So love would be an incredible one, but maybe it's curiosity. Maybe it's play. Maybe it's adventure. Maybe it's magic. Maybe it's divinity. So whatever it is, you want to choose something else, but before that, make sure that you sit for a little while. And the idea is that there's no problem when fear shows up.

It doesn't have to go away. It's not a bad thing to have this fear. It's okay to be contracted. It's a part of who we are is having these fears. It's a part of being human. It's a part of doing meaningful work. As long as we think there's something wrong with that, we're going to try and take away this part of ourselves.

But this part will always exist, the part that has fear. And so what if we can Be with it, and love it, and not need it to go away, and just accept this part of us, and also be bigger than that. We can be something that's expansive, and this way, the fear, the sadness, the frustration, the disappointment, all of that can just be there, but that doesn't have to be all that we are.

We can be much more expansive than that. So as I mentioned last time, one thing that I'm sitting with is helplessness. Working with my coach, we took a look at it. It turns out that something I really don't want to feel is helplessness. I fear it. Actually, my whole life is set up so that I don't have to feel it.

And that doesn't even work, because I still feel helpless from time to time. But most of the time I'm spent trying to outrun it. Get really fit and in shape, strong, so I don't have to feel old and helpless. There's something wrong with being old, right? So this is like my bias, my judgment, my old kind of like thinking about all of this.

And so I'm like, I don't want to ever be helpless. And so I have to get really strong. I get really productive because I want to like, not ever have to feel helpless. The more productive I am, my fear says, then you'll not have to feel helplessness. It's not true. I do. I feel helpless because I'm human.

Every human feels helpless. We don't want to, we judge it. We tell ourselves we shouldn't ever feel helpless. We always have to feel strong and empowered and powerful. But that would really be taking away our power because we're saying I can never feel helpless, which means there's a part of me that I can never be.

There's a part that I can never feel, which is really diminishing myself. What if I didn't need to run from that? What if it was okay to feel helpless? What if there was strength in feeling helpless sometimes? So it's not that I'm going to always feel helpless, of course not. I'm human, I feel all of it, but that includes helplessness.

So I am working with that and the idea I want to share with as I share this with you is really not that you need to feel helplessness, but that it's okay to feel all of it and we can sit in it and, it can be an amazing experience of life is like being able to be with our fear and then it doesn't have to control us.

Okay, that's what I've got for you. If you have more. Questions. If you have feedback, if you have things that you want to hear, write to me. I would love to hear from you. [email protected]. If you wanna work with me as a coach, write to me. If you want to, be on the podcast and have me coach you, write to me [email protected].

If you wanna come to my retreat or be in my group, come and talk to me. I love all of you. Thank you for listening and watching. Thank you for being a part of this. I'll talk to you later.

If you haven't already, please subscribe to this podcast and your favorite podcast app. If you found this episode useful, please share this podcast with someone you know who cares deeply. That would be really meaningful to me. And if you'd like to dive deeper with me into this work, please check out the blog at or get in touch at [email protected]. Thanks for listening. And I hope you'll join me every Wednesday for more episodes of the Zen habits podcast.

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Music composition: Salem Beladonna & Robrecht Dumarey

Editor: Justin Cruz