To Live Your Dreams Remember Fear Is A Paper Dragon

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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Fear is a Paper Dragon - Buy at

Maybe you, dear reader, are one of those rare people who are absolutely fearless in all circumstances. Not me.

Although I may seem blazingly confident, the truth is that I’ve been nervous before tackling almost every “new” thing in my life.  First dates make me nervous. Preparing to lead a workshop for a roomful of people gives me the butterflies.

Once I’m “rolling,” and the event has launched, and I’m back in the present moment, I’m generally fine. But I experience some anxiety and internal resistance almost every time I decide to try something new, or when I anticipate doing it.  The idea of doing something new usually just makes me a little nervous! Luckily, diving in and doing it is usually easier than just thinking about it, in the end.

And, even more luckily, my fears haven’t stopped me from pursuing my dreams so far in this lifetime, and I don’t intend to let them stop me in the future.

I just keep looking my fears in the face, and walking through them. Over and over and over again.

Lisa Goddess Fearless Leader!

How Did I Become This Woman?

If you had told me when I was a little girl that someday I’d be traveling the world, teaching spiritual workshops in India, writing a blog that is read by half-a-million people a year (thanks to our growing readership at 8womendream!), I would have thought you were crazy.

If you’d told me that I would someday become a professional swing dancer performer and instructor, performing on television sometimes or in front of crowds of thousands, I would have laughed.

  • Earn a Master’s Degree at Harvard? Me?
  • Complete a 459-page book manuscript about my own Eat, Pray, Love story?
  • Spend a month this year in India teaching with my spiritual teacher, Nithya Shanti?

Did I really do all of that? Hmm, yes I guess that was me.

I still can’t quite believe myself the things that have happened, and are happening, on my path.

Live Your Dreams: Hazardous cliffs warning when i hiked the na pali coast trail

Following My Passions Where They Lead Me

For me, the key to conquering my fears has been simply following my passions. When I want to do something ~ anything! ~ badly enough, I will push through my fears to make it happen.

That was true in high school when I, a former total nerdy geek, decided to become a cheerleader. I was so nervous about auditioning but I stretched every night until I could do the splits, and I learned the little dance routines, and presto, I made it!

That courage served me well years later when my dance partner was flipping me in the air in front of big crowds. I love dancing, and love performing, so I just practiced and pushed through my nerves to get out there and dazzle ’em!

It was true when I decided to finally write the book I’d been wanting to write for years, one year ago. The prospect of writing my own story was absolutely daunting. For starters, I was terrified to share my “secret” with the world that I’d been a survivor of rape, and been stalked by a man who threatened to kill me. I’d suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression afterwards, but hid it well from most people.

Telling my story required me to have some real courage and make some leaps. I told my story out loud as the keynote speaker at a Take Back the Night rally two years ago, and decided I was finally ready to write it down.

I wanted to share the story so that others would know that it was possible to heal from trauma, and to create a happy life. And I’d always wanted to write books, so as much as it still sometimes terrified me, I knew it was time to just go ahead and do it.

Live Your Dreams: Me at an Indian wedding in India

Me, A Spiritual Teacher?

I really would have laughed years ago if you had told me that I’d someday become a “spiritual teacher” of sorts, and a life coach. I was the poster-child for neurosis for so many years, and was a worried, overwrought, over-anxious, over-achieving child.

All the years that I spent healing from trauma, through yoga, meditation and Buddhist teachings, showed me that if I could heal from panic attacks, depression and anxiety, anybody could. Most of the time now, I live with great joy, peace and love in my heart and life, and most of the time, I feel great.

In the past few years, I started teaching workshops to help others heal using similar techniques, and started teaching workshops on living your dreams. I also do life coaching now for groups and individual clients.

It all sometimes still feels somewhat surreal and wonderful to me.

Yet pushing through all these fears over the years doesn’t mean that I have reached the point of “no fear” yet. That’s okay. Courage is feeling the fear, and doing it anyways.

Jumping Outside My Comfort Zone

Lately, I’ve pushed myself outside my comfort zone again by taking private yoga lessons with an amazing teacher who was a bit intimidating to me at first, and by signing up for an eight-month-long life coaching certification program with Martha Beck, who is a personal hero of mine (she writes for Oprah magazine, and I’ve read many of her books).

I’ve had to push my vanity aside while dripping with sweat in uncomfortable yoga poses in front of my handsome yoga teacher. I am sure I’ll have to confront my own fears and vulnerabilities, and push through them, while doing this new coaching training program.

I’m pushing forward with completing the final draft of my book manuscript as well, which sometimes still scares the hell out of me. But I’ve committed to finishing it, and I will make it happen.

Live Your Dreams: Me with the children of India

What Are We So Afraid of, Anyways?

I don’t always understand exactly what I’m afraid of when I move forward with my goals sometimes. Failure? Success? Not being good enough?

I think we as humans sometimes simply feel afraid when trying something new. Yet that isn’t a good enough reason to not do what we want to do.

For me the big question is:

Is your passion bigger than your fears? Can you keep going because you are committed to being who you wish to be in the world, and because life keeps calling you to something greater?

For me luckily so far in my life the answer has been yes. But fear still rears its ugly head sometimes. When it does, here is what I do:

4 Ways to Conquer Fear —

1. Translate Your Fear Into Exhilaration:
Author, Gay Hendricks, wrote in his book, The Big Leap: “There’s only one way to get through the fog of fear, and that’s to transform it into the clarity of exhilaration. One of the greatest pieces of wisdom I’ve ever heard comes from Fritz Perls, MD, the psychiatrist and founder of Gestalt therapy. He said, ‘Fear is excitement without the breath.” So, the next time you feel afraid, take a deep breath, and call it excitement.

2. Remember That Fear is “False Expectations Appearing Real”:
I love this acronym. Our fear thoughts would have us believe that we can’t do just about anything we set out to do, when the opposite is usually true. Remember that fear (the kind when we are nervous about the future, not the kind when we are being chased by tigers!) is not REAL — it’s just a negative worry thought. You don’t have to believe it. One of my life coaches used to tell me to think of fear as a “paper dragon.” It might look menacing, but it’s harmless.

3. Do Something Every Day That Scares You:
I love the idea of challenging myself every day to do something little that will scare me, just a little bit, and push me outside my comfort zone. The more scary things I do, the more I know with certainty that I can handle anything that comes my way, with grace.

4. Do The Thing You’re Afraid Of:
There’s a great quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that says, “Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.” I definitely find this to be true. Sometimes we just have to dive in and do it.

I talk my life coaching clients through these kinds of situations all the time, and face them in my own life. I’m tackling some new adventures soon in my own life (*deep breath*) I know I can do it.

What techniques do you use to work through your fears? And what can you do this week to move forward on your biggest dreams, in spite of your fears?



  • Lisa Powell, Author & Serial Traveler

    @Ron yes very true. I have always loved this quote: “Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Thanks for much for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  • Lisa Powell, Author & Serial Traveler

    @David, wise words indeed! You must be an awesome Dad! Thanks for reading and sharing… and thanks for your kind words. :)

  • Lisa Powell, Author & Serial Traveler

    @Kathy thanks so much for reading and for the kind words! Look forward to connecting more here! :)

  • Lisa Powell, Author & Serial Traveler

    @Remy oh I love this!: “If I stop doing things, I stop becoming. And that scares me more than anything. Its worth the fear of the unknown to learn for me!”

    Amen to THAT girlfriend! Let’s keep doing things that challenge us and becoming more and more awesome! :)


  • ron

    Good post. With any type of fear, we have a choice. Yes we may have a physical reaction to bees, if we are afraid of them, but we have a choice to stay afraid of them. If we faced up to our fear on numerous occasions we would realise there is not much to be frightened of with most of our fears, so when you say you are afraid of something you are really saying I have not faced up to my fears yet.

  • David Adamczak

    I tell my kids, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” Brilliant words written here. D

  • Do Something Every Day That Scares You

    I do the thing I like least first thing in the morning so it doesn’t nag at me all day. Granted its only cardio… but sometimes the treadmill can be pretty scary.

    Thanks for the great post! – H

  • Kathy Lingo

    An excellent and inspiring article!

  • Remy Gervais, Top Photographer

    I think about a tv show I saw once, where an older mentor in the township slapped the face of a immature grown man – and the mentor said “You didn’t die from the slap in the face, did you?” – and the man sat up a little taller realizing that experiences grow confidence. I have to remember that even at 44, I don’t know everything, and I learn by doing…If I stop doing things, I stop becoming. And that scares me more than anything. Its worth the fear of the unknown to learn for me! thanks Lis! xox Rem