Tuesday Tales: Fear as your tailwind – Donna Thistlethwaite

I stared at the black numbers against the white and yellow background of the Netbank screen. “What? Is that all there is? Oh my gosh, look at how quickly it’s going down now” … Not quite as fast as the numbers spinning at the fuel pump but scary all the same.

“It feels like we’re finally getting everything we need in place to take this business to the next level … surely we can’t go broke when we’re this close”, I reflected to myself.

Eight weeks earlier I had engaged a Business Manager one day a week to help my business, Mentally Wellthy, to prepare a submission to become a certified social enterprise. Guy had come to me through a business contact and seemed to be exactly what the business needed. Turned out he absolutely was what we needed yet here we were experiencing cashflow issues for the second time in 12 months.

Thankfully Guy suggested that we put the submission on hold to focus on getting the word out about all the amazing services we offer. I was having some fantastic conversations with clients and prospects but it was time to really tighten up our processes and put some solid systems around our activities.

As we leapt into action, I experienced a mix of excitement and sheer terror. I scrutinised every expense or investment opportunity to assess it’s impact on our ability to stay in business. I made calls to loads of people who I thought might be able to help us or who needed to know about the fantastic ways that we can help individuals, workplaces and communities to thrive.

I predicted that we were going to survive but I struggled to shake off the intense fear that constantly coursed my veins.

About a week later I attended a Women’s Circle that I’d booked a few weeks earlier. Some interesting interactions happened. I paired up with a beautiful woman for an activity in which we were to share our initial impressions of each other in a very authentic and vulnerable way. Rachel told me that when I walked into the room she saw a bundle of energy but she also noticed something was holding me back. I find it so interesting when people can read our energy … I had no idea that I was putting anything like that out there.

Later at the Circle we sat around a fire where we took turns tossing in a sheet of paper containing everything we wanted to let go of from last year. So cathartic. My friend Emma talked about fear and specifically how we all seem to want to avoid fear and pain but perhaps we’re better of leaning into the fear sometimes.

In that moment a quote I heard in the documentary, “The Defiant Ones,” sprang to mind … “Let fear be a tailwind not a headwind” … thanks Jimmy Iovine. I instantly recognised that the fear was strangling me but there was hope that it could be another way.

It’s now been over a week since the circle. The fear is real … it makes sense that it’s there when you’re doing something risky … when you’re so aligned with your mission that the thought of not achieving it is incomprehensible.

Something has changed though … I am no longer in fear’s tight grip. I have a sense of focus and clarity that I’ve never experienced before. It’s exciting and it’s freaken uplifting … my tailwind.

In the midst of all of this a new friend shared that she heard on a podcast that there were occasions when Richard Branson didn’t have the resources the night before to get a plane off the ground the next day. He apparently switched into a higher level of thinking in those circumstances that resulted in the just the right solution. I’m finding staying calm and leaning in is resulting in a flood of ideas, opportunities and solutions for our challenges.

One day last week I reflected on what would be the worst thing that could happen with the business and concluded that it would be to go broke and to not be able to realise my life purpose. Thanks to Jimmy though I was able to quickly reframe and acknowledge that even if the business failed, I would absolutely know that I had given it everything I had … That I had taken risks that many people dream of and never act on. No matter what happens I know that I have always lived a big life. And there’s no doubt I’ll learn more along the way.

I hope that this share inspires you to step into your fear and do that thing that you’ve been dreaming about. What small step can you take today?

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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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