Have you ever sat with a coffee cup, staring out the window and thought about your life? Thought about all the things you could have done, should have done, all the dreams you have had?
Kind of like in this stock photo image?
I think we all have — well not sat like that — but have had those thoughts. We’ve all had visions of what our lives would be like and we’ve may have wondered what happened when things didn’t go as planned. Maybe life threw us a curveball and we had to change our courses or maybe something stopped us from achieving these goals.
Was it fear?
For so many of us, it is fear that holds us back from going for what we really want in life.
Author Nathalie Thompson recognized this in herself and realized that she needed to make change.
She wrote the book fearLess: How to Conquer Your Fear, Stop Playing Small, and Start Living an Extraordinary Life You Love a guidebook that helps readers understand their fears and ways on how to overcome them.
I had the honour of reading the book and it is phenomenal. What I love most about the book is that Nathalie takes you on her personal journey as well so you can see how the fearLess guide can play out in your everyday life. It is a real and practical guide. Meaning it isn’t some “hokey” wish upon a star – your dreams will appear book. You have to work at it but it isn’t hard to apply. And you can do it at your own pace.
Nathalie’s voice is right there — she’s like a coach cheering you on throughout. She knows fear and what it’s like to be paralyzed by it — she wants you to succeed too. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking like that stock photo and wishing they took a different path in their life.
I had the honour of interviewing Nathalie so without further ado:
1. Tell us about yourself.
Why do people always ask that? I’m really very boring, you know. Let’s see. I’m not a morning person, and will never give up my coffee addiction. My kids know not to start the daily craziness until mom’s had at least one cup in the morning.
I like to experiment in the kitchen and am very good at inventing recipes on the fly with whatever happens to be handy. I’m working on a recipe book, actually, but that’s a hobby thing. I like to read. I have very eclectic tastes in music. And if I had a super-power, I would want to either be able to heal with a touch or to be able to fly. When I was a kid, I used to dream that I could fly.
What else? I have a love-hate relationship with the BBC and Netflix. BBC produces some really great shows and Netflix sticks entire seasons up that just keep playing episodes until your brain leaks out your ear. But then you have to wait forever for the next season to show up. I swear I’m having withdrawal symptoms from lack of new “The Musketeers” episodes at the moment. (If you haven’t seen it… cast full of attractive, chivalrous, sword-fighting men. With English accents. In leather.)
Umm…What were we talking about again…? 😉
2. So many of us have a clear cut vision of what we really truly want out of life whether it be attaining that dream job or achieving a certain goal but we are held back by fear. Sometimes that fear is almost crippling. We tend to shy away and take a much different road in life. You were one of those people. When did you realize that you deserved to live the life you wanted – that you had the power to conquer your fear?
Throughout my entire life, I was always the good girl who did everything she was told and tried to live up to all the expectations. Got the right education, got the right job. Eventually met who I thought at the time was the right guy. After we’d been together for many years, I got pregnant… and then lost the baby in a very, very complicated miscarriage. I know a great many women who have lost babies, but I don’t know anyone who went through what I did. It dragged on for two and half months before it was finally over.
A year after losing the baby, my son was born. I was two weeks past my due date, and many things went wrong during labour (including an allergic reaction to an antibiotic they were giving me) and I ended up having an emergency c-section. The baby suffered from the worst case of Meconium Aspiration Syndrome the midwife had ever seen, and the MAS triggered Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (also known as persistent fetal circulation). Both conditions were life threatening on their own. Together… well, it was bad. I remember asking the midwife shortly after his birth if my son was going to survive and she just shook her head and said “We don’t know… it’s not even day by day right now, it’s minute by minute.” I was devastated. But he was feisty and he pulled through.
Less than two years after my son’s birth, my daughter was born. It was a really difficult pregnancy. I had complications early on – a sub-chorionic hematoma – and I was so sick throughout the whole pregnancy, I was even hospitalized overnight twice in my final month. I was diagnosed with post-partum depression after her birth, and my son was just a toddler at the time, so I really had my hands full.
When my daughter was 5 months old, my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. Two weeks after his initial diagnosis, we found out that it was already stage 4. He fought for two and half years, went through three different types of treatment, all of which failed. He told me on Mother’s Day that there was nothing more to be done and that his doctor had transferred him to palliative care. One week later, he was gone.
A year later my marriage ended, and I’d been with this man for about eleven years at that point.
So there was a lot of stuff that just happened in this big cascade, one thing after another. And it pretty much sent me into a tailspin. I started questioning everything in my life. Everything that I had just accepted, everything that I was doing. Just everything.
And that was when I realized how unhappy I was, and how much things needed to change – how much I needed to change. I didn’t want to get to the end of my own life with a lot of regrets about all the things that I had wanted to do but never had the courage to even try. And I definitely didn’t want my children to follow in my footsteps and live a life of “should” and “ought to”. I wanted them to figure out what their own dreams were, and to then go out and build them. And I realized that they had to see that before they could do it. They had to learn it from someone. They had to learn it from me.
3. What inspired you to write the book fearLESS and share your step-by-step guide with the masses?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. But I was told that writers don’t make money and I should concentrate on math, science, and engineering. So I quickly abandoned the idea and didn’t touch it again for years. Until I started playing with blogs. I started and failed with many of them before launching my current site, and I originally started VibeShifting.com more as something for myself than as any kind of business or “official” thing. It was just a way to organize my thoughts and my ideas and all the “stuff” that was taking shape in my head. I would talk about strategies and techniques and mindset hacks and such that I had used to get through my own struggles and just put them out there.
Then I started getting emails and social media messages from people, all over the world, who were sharing their stories with me. Many asked questions about things I had already talked about in the blog, or I would write new articles to answer their questions. A lot of the questions and concerns that people had were the same. And I realized that my own experiences could help make other people’s journey’s easier… if I could find a way to easily share what I had learned in my own journey, it could save other people a lot of heartache, a lot of time, and a lot of mistakes.
It’s the same sort of thing that you and I both deal with through our respective experiences with mental health issues. When you’ve been through hell often enough, you start to build up a road map, and you just kind of resign yourself to getting through it again. At some point though, when you’ve done it often enough, you look up and you realize that there are other people in the dark place, too. But they don’t seem to know how to get through it, maybe because it’s new territory to them, or whatever. But you start to realize that when you share your own experiences, it helps these other people. And maybe that ends up being part of the healing on both sides. There’s something nice about being able to help other people like that, and I guess that’s part of what made me want to write fearLESS.
4. Throughout your book fearLESS, you not only guide the reader through the process of conquering their own fears, but you also take them along your journey as well. Was there ever a time that you faltered in the process and had to start at square one? If so, how do you remain positive and how should readers remain positive when they are going through the process themselves?
Oh, absolutely. It still happens. I still have times when I wonder what the heck I’m doing and whether I’m ever going to get to where I really want to be. And that’s one of things I want people to get out of the book – that these kinds of feelings are completely normal. There are ups and downs in any journey. Our personal energy levels have natural highs and lows, and our creative bursts also work in cycles. It’s normal to hit those rough patches where you start to doubt yourself and what you’re doing.
The key is to realize that these “down cycles” are temporary, and that if you can just keep yourself going, you will get through them. Thomas Edison once said that “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” I really believe that. I think fear often causes us to give up on what’s really important to us before it makes sense to.
Even if you have to start all over again, that’s true. I’ve done this in the corporate world – I was in a high-paying government job back in 2003, and they were grooming me for future management positions. But I wasn’t happy and I quit to go back to school and get a teaching degree.
Unfortunately, I realized early on in that process that I didn’t want to teach grade school… I’m just not temperamentally suited for it, so after I got the second degree I went back to what I knew: government work. But I had to start at rock bottom through a temp agency making a tiny fraction of what I’d been making before, and doing clerical work that other people used to do for me in my previous job. On the one hand, I could have viewed it as demeaning work (I was way over-qualified), but on the other hand… I had my freedom and could easily walk away from any placement that I wasn’t happy in. It’s all about perspective.
If you’re in a situation where you feel like you’ve been knocked back to the starting line again, allow yourself to feel the feelings, but don’t get stuck in them. Shift your perspective and start looking at how you can use where you are to get to where you want to be: Are there people around you who have knowledge or contacts that could help you? Does your mind-numbingly boring desk job give you the opportunity to pop in your earbuds and listen to inspirational podcasts or other material while doing repetitive stuff? Is there a place nearby where you can sketch out your ideas or work on your dream during your lunch hour? Take a page out of J.K. Rowling’s book and “use rock-bottom as the foundation for the rest of your life”.
5. Who most needs fearLESS?
fearLESS was originally written for women who want to shine their light in the world but don’t know how. It was designed to help women recognize and overcome the fears that keep them from taking the leap to build their dreams and create a life that really means something to them – whether it’s launching a business, writing a book, making a career change, or putting themselves and their ideas out there into the world in some other way.
I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from men lately, though, who are all telling me how much they got out of the book themselves, which is great. A lot of my early readers were men, and across the board they told me how useful it was to them. I also had a couple of them tell me they wanted their daughters to read it, which was fabulous.
6. Do you think that there’s ever an expiry date on a dream? Like is it ever too late for someone to start working on overcoming their fears to achieve what they’ve always wanted in life?
Never. I don’t think there is ever an expiry date on dreams. This is something I’m planning to cover in detail in a future book, actually. A significant number of my blog readers and Facebook fans are women in their 50s and older and I get a lot of email from them asking about this. Or they’re in a situation where the kids have left home and now they don’t know what to do with themselves. The book I’m planning is going to help with all of this. That’s a couple of books away, though… I’ve got two others in the works before that one.
Dreams don’t die. They can, and do, evolve right along with us, however. So you have to be careful about saying things like “well, she always wanted to be an Olympic gold medalist, but she’s 40 now so it will never happen”. At 40, there aren’t a lot of people who still want the exact same dream that they wanted at 18 or 20. Remember that Muhammad Ali quote: “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” In these kinds of cases, the reality is that you’re not likely to become an Olympic athlete if you’re starting from zero at 40 years old… but at the same time, at 40 it’s probably less about the Olympics now than it is about proving to yourself that you can do it. You CAN, absolutely, take up a sport for the first time at 40, get really good at it, and even win medals if that’s important to you. But it may not specifically be an Olympic medal, for example. You need to get to the heart of what it is that you really want. In the book, I talk about the fact that what people think they want and what they really want are often two different things. Gain some clarity around that and it tends to solve a lot of our distress right there.
7. What advice would you give to people who have a hard time believing that they have the power to overcome their fears to achieve their dreams?
Shift your beliefs immediately. Your reality reflects your beliefs and your expectations. The mantra for everything that I do with Vibe Shifting is that “if you can dream it and believe it, you can always achieve it”. On the flip side of that, however, is that if you don’t believe that something is possible, and if you don’t believe that you deserve to have it happen for you, then you will never get there. You won’t even bother trying, or you’ll just self-sabotage at every turn. Your reality will mold itself around that belief and expectation you have that it can never happen.
If you can start seeing and feeling and believing your life as you want it to be, though, you can absolutely make it happen. What I say in the book is that there is always going to be fear in your life. Always. It’s just part of being human, and it does have its uses. But you get to decide whether that fear gets to call the shots in your life or not. Again, as I talk about in the book, it comes down to a choice between existing and living. So how do you want to live your life? Let fear decide your life path and you will exist in more or less the same way millions of other people do. And you will continue to pile up regrets and “what ifs”. Or choose to decide that creating and living a life that means something to you is more important than your fear. That’s the key, you see: understanding what is most important to you and how your own fears are standing in the way of that. That’s the key to being able to work your way through the fear and get to where you want to be. But it is a choice.
8. The book fearLess has an added bonus. Can you tell us about the downloadable workbooks and worksheets?
There is a free downloadable PDF package that you can get when you buy the book. It’s got a bunch of printable worksheets and infographics that go with each chapter to make it easier to do the fear-busting action exercises that I go over in the book. The link where readers can get it is included in the book – there’s also a scannable Q-code that’ll take you to the web page so you don’t even have to type the address into your browser.
9. What’s next on your radar?
Oh boy… there’s so much! I’m planning a course for later this year that will help people take the material in fearLESS to the next level. I’ll also be teaching this stuff via webinar, as well. fearLESS is currently self-published, but it’s being submitted to traditional publishers as well, so I’m hoping it will get picked up by one of them – that will make distribution so much easier.
Beyond that, I’ve already started working on the next three books, all of which go further into detail on different things I’ve touched on in fearLESS. fearLESS helps people identify and overcome the fears that keep them from turning their biggest dreams into reality. The next book will deal specifically with action-based strategies for building dreams, the one after that will deal with mindset strategies and the cognitive aspects of dream-building, and the third one I’ve planned will be dealing with happiness and “lost” dreams.
Thank you so much Nathalie!!!
You can buy fearLess: How to Conquer Your Fear, Stop Playing Small, and Start Living an Extraordinary Life You Love on:
Follow Nathalie Thompson:
Blog: Vibe Shifting
Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/103046102468148532648/posts
And you can also find cool gear in her Vibe Shifting Shop!
And because Nathalie is awesome, she wants to give two lucky readers one autographed copy each of fearLess!
Open to US and Canadian residents only.