How to Overcome Fear

Overcome FearI picked up The Alchemist this evening, looking for an “easy” read in the tub. Did I mention that Paulo Coelho is my idol?! ๐Ÿ™‚ In the preface, he tries to explain the secret behind the success of this book, having sold over 20 million copies and having been translated into 56 languages! Interestingly enough, his honest response is, “I don’t know. All I know is that like Santiago, the shepherd boy, we all need to be aware of our personal calling. What is a personal calling? It is God’s blessing, it is the path that God chose for you here on Earth. Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dream.”

Coelho goes on to say that there are four obstacles to living our personal calling: 1) we are told from childhood that our dream is impossible, 2) we are afraid to hurt the people around us by abandoning everything to pursue our dream, 3) fear of the defeats we will encounter along the way and finally… 4) the fear of realizing the dream itself for which we fought all our lives! Wow! Essentially, what keeps us from our dreams… our calling… our bliss? FEAR.

I recently separated from my husband of eleven years. I can’t think of an experience that has been more difficult and wrought with complex emotions as this. There have been days of such profound sadness and grieving and certainly fear. I never realized that emotions could be felt in such a physical way. I have faced an ongoing internal battle, with competing personas within me asking, will I be okay on my own? Can I support myself financially? Am I making the right choices for myself and my kids? Am I a good mom? Am I even a good person? All of this uncertainty is born of fear.

I got this great Native American fable from a friend recently:

An old Cherokee walks his grandson into the woods to talk to his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Now isn’t that just the most apt representation of the human condition?!

How do you go about quelling fears, big and small? First I will say that I am not a trained professional on this subject, I can only speak from my own experience. You might think that this is completely ridiculous and saccharine and trite but the most effective weapon in my arsenal against fear is… love! Hahahahaha! No, really. Neale Donald Walsch fans will recall that these are the only two sponsoring thoughts that exist: fear and love. Becky Bailey says the same thing about parenting, either you are doing something out of fear or you are doing it out of love… you are scolding your kid for running across the street because of fear or, you are holding his hand across the street out of love.

So how does this apply to pursuing your dreams? Well, to circle back to Coelho’s quote, do something you love and that will defeat your fear. Do something you love today and every day and that will keep you on your path to your dream. For example, I publish this website. As part of my job, I do a lot of different things… sales, bookkeeping, technical stuff, marketing, etc. but one of the things I LOVE is writing. So I make it a point to write a bit every day. I focus on something I love and that helps to keep the anxiety about other aspects of my job or my life at bay. Just think, if you wake up in the morning and go through your mental to-do list and can’t think of one thing that excites you… does that motivate you to get out of bed? Not really. But if you can think of ONE activity that you love, that will inspire you to be productive. That’s one more day that you are following your calling.

The most insidious and dangerous of all the fears (Coelho says) is the last. It causes a man to “kill the thing he loves” right when it is within their grasp because the possibility of actually realizing a dream fills the soul of an ordinary person with guilt, he doesn’t believe he is worthy of it.

I have experienced that too. That is when I feel like I am staring into the eyes of the evil wolf, who comes some days, without explanation. For me… yesterday was one of those days! But then I read this passage from my dear Paulo, “Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the latter goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness and it stays with us for the rest of our lives.”

Yes! Thank you for the reminder… that is powerful enough to propel me through a day of gut-wrenching despair! So today, although it wasn’t in the original plan, I am writing again and guess what? Today, I fed the good wolf! ๐Ÿ™‚

Practical Mommy is Ria Sharon. Click the links for Practical Mommyโ€™s recommendations for travel car seats, affordable and fun diaper bags (skip hop bag), and the best-selling crib brand, Da Vinci Crib.


  1. What an incredibly beautiful and honest and inspiring post. I particularly love the last quote from Paolo–how true. You sound like you are working through in such a good and healthy way. Kudos to you and hang in there.


  2. Thank you for commenting, Sharon. Yes, this journey of self-discovery is so intense that I hardly recognize myself! But the process of rebirth is at many times painful. I am so grateful to you and to all my other friends for holding my hand.

  3. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming… and you WILL get to the other side! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Okay, Ellen… aka Dory! But you’re right… stopping midstream isn’t really an option, is it?

  5. This is such a fabulous topic! My business, Pink Heels, was created because I wanted to wake-up every single day with a big giant smile on my face knowing that my day would be filled with things that I am passionate about. It took me about three years to finally take the leap of faith to create Pink Heels and I haven’t looked back since. For those who are on the journey towards living a passionate life, YOU CAN DO IT!

  6. Pink Heels, your business is inspiring… I love reading about all the women you have helped to also find their passions. It’s amazing how we are all connected!

  7. Have you read Warriors of Light? There’s a great quote in there too – Such are the lives of those who haven’t the courage to risk: solutions are generally provided by God, but people always seek complicated explanations, and end up doing nothing.

  8. Harsh! Perhaps no harsher than the one in The Alchemist BUT isn’t there another way… Option C? I don’t want to condemn those “without courage” to “bitterness and nothing!” There are certainly a lot of people who are unaware of their personal calling OR choose to remain asleep (blissful sleep! … that darn red pill will ruin it for you forever!). Maybe they are not willing to give up the six sheep (the price for the pursuit of your calling). For them, is there hope of happiness/contentment/peace without passion?

    Please tell me that there is.

  9. i heard a definition for “piety” the other week from an older and wiser woman in my life…a spiritual advisor of sorts.

    she said “piety is knowing your true self…who God made you to be…and living from this place.” this is my good wolf…my life focus…and one it sounds like you are living from as well practical mommy!!! thanks for sharing with us all.

  10. Nocks Rocks says:

    Great and inspiring topic….now I need to add the Alchemist to my growing list of books.

  11. I can’t say enough about it. I think I underlined every other paragraph. I’m such a geek! ๐Ÿ™‚

    So let me know if you want to discuss after you read it because… I’m such a geek!!!

  12. Dear Ria,

    amazing how the internet connects people. I’ve just seen your message via twitter.
    I feel very honoured to be part of your post.
    The more you share, the more you receive.
    Much love and have a wonderful Christmas

  13. Academic Mommy says:

    I am very fortunate that I continue to love my career path and calling. Teaching brings me joy in profound and simple ways. Transferring that into my personal relationships is my challenge. I can really relate to the Native American fable you retold, as I am consciously having to choose a “wolf” that in my teaching life comes naturally. I am meant to be on this journey with you, Practical Mommy. Namaste.

  14. Academic Mommy, I’m grateful that you’re here. You are the Observer and the Witness. Your wonderful gift is your hyper-awareness of that internal battle and from where you are making your choices.

  15. Paulo Coehlo, your words are a gift. Thank you.

    p.s. Of course, the one quote in your new trailer conveys the EXACT same message as this conversation. Can’t wait to see Veronika Decides to Die.

  16. ๐Ÿ™‚ Not only is it a figurative thing that the wolf who wins is the one we “feed” it’s also true LITERALLY!. Really, to be negative and follow fear, anxiety, etc changes the chemical make up of our brains thus effecting our continued decisions and thoughts. So we all need to make a conscious decision to “feed” the good wolf! And Yes Ria we are connected, the Universe sat you right in front of me many months ago…And I am SO grateful for that every day!

  17. Tara! You made my day! *hugs*

  18. You know when things come to you at the right time? This is your post and your connection for me. I love Coehlo. I’m ready the Witch of Portobello right now, but I haven’t read The Alchemist. I’ll pick that up for sure. Thanks for inspiration today — as a visual person, thinking of feeding the good wolf seems like a more powerful thing to think of! Yay.

  19. Joy! What a great name! Thanks for stopping by and for commenting!

  20. wow! this inspired me today.
    keep on writing ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. happy to be on this path with you my friend. thank you for the inspiration…and your enthusiasm…two of my favorite words.

    my other two and fear…such a parallel, the place from which we choose to live.
    xo, jen

  22. @chrisbrogan wrote and article last week on leaves in a stream and I was reminded that people come together and drift apart for a reason. Jen, I’m learning to embrace the ride AND I’m so grateful for you and everyone else who share this moment with me!

  23. Oh my god – is this a FANTASTIC post. I could go on and on…but you’ve said it all so well…THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS. Wishing you the very best in 2009 and beyond…Julie

  24. twitter: meryl333 says:

    Be Still & Know That I AM (God/That/Infinite). Fear isn’t the problem. It is ignorance of the Truth of our powerful, infinite nature. Know that and there is no fear. Know that and there is no “other” to put us down–keep us from our dreams. Such a positive approach. Be Still & Know.

  25. What a beautiful post! Thank you for tweeting it my direction. It will be linked on the Simply Fearless Twitter stream on Saturday, 1/24/09, which means it will also be on the front page of from 1/24 – 1/29 :~)

  26. Ria – another reason to be pals with you = I love The Alchemist! Great book that my friend Debbie gave me. I went out and bought all the copies from the next bookstore I was in, just to give them away. I keep thinking that book should come with a black rock and a white rock! Big hugs. Kelly.

  27. Great idea, Kelly! Have you read The Pilgrimage? … the black and white rocks make a reappearance, of sorts.

  28. Beautiful post. Thanks alot!


  1. […] reminder of my ongoing lesson on fear and doubt. Just when I think I’ve vanquished the bad wolf by showering it with all my unconditional love :), it rears it’s ugly head in yet another […]