I was talking to a client about fear.

Many of you may be feeling a calling to explore a career expansion idea or new skill, but facing fear and resistance (oh hello, inner critic…). 

A part of this feeling of paralysis and indecision stems from a state of “cognitive dissonance”, the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially when faced with new behavioral decisions and attitude change. To reduce the discomfort of these conflicting thoughts, we will often alter our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors so that they are consistent with our internal dialogue. 

For example, you may feel inspired and engaged at the idea of trying something new or exploring growth opportunities, but also deep down also feel terrified of putting yourself out there in this new way. This triggers all the insecurities and limiting beliefs about yourself, the world, and what’s available to you.  These conflicting thought and beliefs (i.e. “I love this and want to learn more!” vs. “But this will be hard, and what if I fail?”) can paralyze you from taking any action at all, or keep you see-sawing back and forth day after day.

You aren’t alone, and this is totally normal.

What can help restore cognitive harmony, depends on what we choose to trust. Do you trust your curiosity/joy and intuition to explore, or trust your inner critic who tells you that you’re not good enough and that any step in a different direction will risk too much? 

–> If you choose to trust your curiosity/joy and intuition, you can explore the things you care about and focus on the potential benefits of giving something a shot while mitigating potential negative consequences. You may even find unexpected ways to utilize your skills in a purposeful way. You may “fail” or confront challenges along the way, but you’ll approach them with a growth mindset, knowing that it’s okay to be a beginner and view them as learning opportunities. Every time you choose to harmonize your actions with your truth and intuition, you build your relationship with your curiosity/joy and self efficacy. 

–> If you choose to trust your inner critic, you will rationalize your decision based on fact that you were able to avoid potential risks and stay on a more predictable path. You may enjoy immediate comfort and security, but also lose the potential benefits of doing something you felt called to do. Every time you choose to harmonize your actions with your inner critic, you build your relationship with fear and the beliefs that limit you. 

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong path – just your unique journey. Your risk tolerance may not be as high as someone else’s and your path of curiosity may include a long phase of experimenting before committing, and that’s okay. Either way, take steps forward in some way despite the uncertainty and fear.

I wanted to share this video. Paul Barton is an accomplished concert pianist, teacher, and artist. For the past 20 years, he has been working to rehabilitate elephants. He discovered while that elephants respond to music, just like us. This is a video of him playing Bach for Lam Duan, the name of this old elephant, who was born in 1956 and has been blind most of her life. Her name means “Tree with Yellow Flowers”. Lam Duan lives at Elephants World, Thailand, a sanctuary for old, sick, abused, retired or rescued elephants, many who have lived very difficult lives. http://www.elephantsworld.org

Paul’s Youtube channel, now has over 450K subscribers, and features excellent tutorials on various classical pieces as well as intimate videos showing him playing music and engaging with these elephants.  Paul is an amazing example for how following his passion for something has led him to a unique way to leverage his skills and continue in an expansive and heartwarming path as a pianist. 

There are so many more examples of this. Can you think of someone you admire who took some leaps of faith (small or big)?  So many who inspire us, built up the courage to say, do, and explore the things they care about and focus on the potential benefits of giving something a shot while mitigating potential negative consequences. Without these people, we wouldn’t live in this diverse and colorful world. 

Thus, harmonize your thinking by believing in YOU and reaching out to others who have done similar things for support and resources. You CAN try new things, learn from mistakes, and approach exploration harmoniously. 

~good luck! And enjoy this touching video and find Paul Barton here: