I’ve had a few of what Oprah calls “A-ha” moments. I’ve done a lot of self-discovery, and inevitably, with this work, comes some surprising realizations.
One such self-discovery tool that I was introduced to is an exercise where you envision yourself as a bus driver. You label all of the unwanted “passengers” that are occupying the bus and making the ride (your life) negative, unproductive, or unpleasant. These passengers are things like self-doubt, anxiety, etc. You can then decide who to kick off the bus, and what “positive” passengers you want to replace them with to make the ride more smooth and enjoyable. This can be done visually as a drawing, or just by making a list.
While doing this process, I had one of my A-ha moments.
I HAD NOT EVEN BEEN DRIVING THE BUS!
I had not been driving the bus for a very long time. FEAR was driving the freaking bus!
I was just another passenger, surrounded by all of those other undesirable passengers, being dragged along for the ride in my own life! Many, if not most of my more recent decisions had been fear-based. What I did, what I wore, where I went, how I acted, how I interacted with my husband and kids, my career path—pretty much everything.
So many things I did were to avoid pain, abandonment, missing out, disapproval, loss of money, blame, or rejection. There was also the ever-present fear of the unknown that tends to loom like a dark cloud for many of us.
I was not driving my own bus. That was a pretty tough pill to swallow.
I know there are SO many people out there experiencing the same thing, whether they realize it or not. We all have fears. I’m willing to bet that fear is running your life in some way—big or small.
Here are some ways that fear may “driving” in your life. See if any of these resonate with you.
· You only talk about certain things that you know will be neutral, or agreed with.
· You don’t rock the boat.
· You bottle up things that you really need to talk about out of fear that it may cause a debate or argument, and then feel resentment that you can’t talk about things.
· You have “toned yourself down.”
· You weigh every decision through the lens of what you assume other people will think of you.
· You act a certain way so that everyone will like you.
· You can’t accept if you perceive that someone doesn’t like you.
· You do things to avoid pain - physical and emotional.
· The fear of failure paralyzes you, and stops you from pursuing things in life.
Do any of these things sound familiar?
Think about this for a second. If everything we’ve done has been driven by fear, then that means nothing has been driven by WHAT WE REALLY WANT. Nothing has been driven by our hopes and dreams, or even our real personalities. We’ve acted only based on what we DON’T want.
I ask you - what do you think happens when you’ve been operating from that position of fear for a long, long time?
You lose yourself. You lose your dreams. You don’t even know if your dreams are yours or someone else’s—that is, if you even have dreams anymore. You feel resentful that you haven’t lived your life the way you’ve really wanted. But fear not - it’s not all bad. Self-discovery is NEVER bad.
So, how do we turn this around?
First of all, if we could only all be so blessed as to know ourselves. As they say, knowing is half the battle.
If fear is driving the bus for you, and you know this, congratulations. However, I will assume that this is NOT the way you want to be living or making your decisions. Just being aware that this is how you’ve been operating is a game changer! You have a new lens with which to view every decision, thought, and action through. Take pause while making decisions and ask yourself a few questions:
· Am I doing this out of fear?
· Is this really “me”?
· Are these someone else’s beliefs, or my own?
The more you practice using this litmus test, the easier it will get, and the more you will realize just how much you’ve been operating from fear. Just having this awareness will empower you to take control of your life.
I am really grateful that I did this exercise, because it made me much more cognizant of how I was living life based on other people’s expectations, and putting my own values and happiness aside. This process allows me to check in with myself and make sure I’m creating a life that I really value - a life I won’t feel resentful about later on.
And the bus?
Visualize your new “positive” version of the bus (or better yet, make a drawing!). Who do you want to allow on your “bus”? I want my passengers to be confidence, joy, positivity, love, and peace. Refer to your new bus as often as you need to as a reminder of the life that you want to create – a life where YOU are the driver.