Last year, my book club read Matthew McConaughey’s memoir, Greenlights. It’s always fun for me to listen to fellow Texans tell their story because that prowess runs through the blood of most Texans, modeled frequently by our Texas family members, and seems to get strengthened with age. McConaughey is no exception.
Matthew noticed early on that whenever he would hit a juncture in life, especially one where he was unsure or experiencing a bit of trepidation or fear, an opening or answer would soon present itself… to which he began to think (and sometimes articulate loudly), “Greenlight!” I can still hear him shouting this out in the audiobook with his iconic Texas swagger and signature grin.
I like the idea of identifying and proclaiming the “Greenlights” in our life, especially in the face of fear. Fear can of course be a helpful emotion in keeping us physically safe. But when fearful thoughts pop in and negatively limit our potential, possibilities, or capabilities, I call them the Gremlins. Just like those nasty little creatures in the 80’s movie, they operate in the dark recesses of our psyche and enjoy destroying our creativity and expansion because it’s safer than taking risks and proceeding into unknown territory.
The Gremlins are of course a function of our amygdala trying to keep us safe emotionally, financially, and personally. But fear can be a useful emotion and window into our need for growth. In Ryan Holiday’s book, Courage is Calling (another fellow Texan), he talks about how fear can often be “showing us something” and that all growth is a leap. He says fear is like a self-pointing arrow in the direction of the right thing to do. Its actually a good indicator of where we should lean into growth. In other words, fear can be our friend. A greenlight, if you will.
This week, take a minute and jot down your “Greatest Hits of Fearful Thoughts.” Mine include (and are certainly not limited to):
- You’re not smart enough.
- You don’t have enough money to do that.
- You’re not young enough.
- You’re not tech-savvy enough.
- You’re not educated enough.
- You’d probably mismanage that level of success anyway… even if you were able to achieve it.
- There are already too many people who’ve done this and not enough people left who’d be interested.
I could keep going but those are definitely some of my “Greatest Hits”. But something happens every time I write these down. They lose their power. On paper, I see how silly they really are. Oh, don’t get me wrong… they’re persistent little buggars for sure and after just a short few hours, the Gremlins are always back but the more I look at my fears straight in the face, the more I see them as patiently pointing the way toward my growth and expansion.
Next, write an exhaustive list of all the evidence in your life and in others that disputes the tenuous truth these fears proclaim.
- Last week, I presented a solution to a client that he had never considered and proclaimed me “a genius” in his world!
- We launched new products last year that generated lots of revenue which subsequently funded future projects without taking out a loan.
- I’m tech-savvy enough to find people online more tech-savvy than me.
You get the picture. In light of this evidence, the gremlins shrink back. They don’t disappear but they lose their hold on you taking steps in the direction of your growth.
When you feel the fear about something you desire, acknowledge the gremlin, shine a bright light on him, and then follow where the arrow is pointing… GREENLIGHT!
“Any hardship, any pause we took, any intervention, interruption… they have greenlight assets that will be revealed to us later. Red and yellow lights eventually turn green in the rearview mirror.”