Today I find myself staring out the window of an Amtrak train traveling from NYC to Richmond, enjoying the view, and breathing a sigh of relief after just submitting the final manuscript for my first book.
Let’s just say I’ve been waiting to exhale that particular exhale for a long ass time.
As the beautiful roads, bridges, and trees blow past me in a blur, a profound level of gratitude comes over me — not because I wrote an entire book, but because at one point in time I convinced myself that I could.
There’s a difference.
Sometimes I think we get too caught up in the kinds of accomplishments that we can see, touch, taste, and smell — like a new book, promotion, house, car, or boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong; I’m proud as hell that I put my entire life on hold and lived, ate, breathed, slept, and typed my way to 75,000 beautiful words that will change the lives of mothers around the world.
But I’m even more proud of the fact that whenever I got down in the dumps about whether I could complete this herculean task, I made the conscious decision to believe that I could.
Take, for example, the fact that ten months ago I was sitting on this same train, in the same seat under very different circumstances. Let me take you back to that day.
I’d just left my very first meeting with my big-time literary agent and let’s just say the meeting hadn’t gone as I’d hoped. I thought he wanted to get together, shower me with congratulations, well wishes, and plans for our future success together. Come to find out; he’d invited me to NYC to let me know that while he believed in me as a person, he wouldn’t be able to sell my book proposal to a major publisher as it was written because it wasn’t strong enough, unique enough or sharp enough.
Guess I read that meeting invite wrong.
After sweating under the collar, stripping off my blazer, repeatedly asking, “Is it hot in here?” (I’m certain it was not), the two of us came up with a brand-new theme for the book proposal, and 90 minutes later I was on a train back to Richmond.
Crying my eyes out.
Why? Because I didn’t know if I could do what this dude needed me to do. Truth be told, I thought the book proposal I had submitted to him was very interesting. It was my best foot forward, my A-game, my mic-drop moment. And now, somehow, I needed to start from scratch, dig deep and find an even better foot to put forward.
No pressure or anything.
So, what did I do? The same thing I think you should do when trying to tackle what seems like an insurmountable mountain that might be looming in front of you right now.
- Get your fear out. The second I sat down on the train back to Richmond I cried — I mean, ugly cried. There’s no doubt the passengers around me thought I should be hospitalized. But you know what? I didn’t care. Holding back your doubts, fears and insecurities will do nothing other than turn them into poison that will eventually rot your soul. When you see the mountain ahead and have no idea how to make it to the top, do whatever you need to do to get your fears out — cry, scream, yell, or beat the crap out of a pillow. But whatever you do, don’t keep them inside.
- Phone a friend. The first person I called was my business partner, Lauren. The only words I could muster while hyperventilating were, “I don’t know if I can do this. What happens if I fail?” First things first, she told me to put on my sunglasses because she could tell from the sound of my voice that I looked like a train wreck (gotta love a good girlfriend). Then, she reminded me of all the hard things I’d tackled before — listing them slowly and surely one by one — until I could finally breathe again.
- Make the decision that you can do it. Nobody gets to decide what you’re capable of achieving except you. I’m not afraid to admit that I cried the entire six-hour train ride home — begging for compliments and a sense of confidence via phone calls with my husband, parents and former boss. But (and it’s a big but) when the train pulled into Richmond, I left all that toxic baggage behind on the train. I took a deep breath and decided (yes, it’s a choice) to move forward from my fear.
- Surround yourself with positive mantras. Before typing a single word of the new book proposal on my computer, I found a desktop wallpaper that read, “Actually, I can,” and it became my life force. I’ve always believed that mantras need to be seen and not just etched in your busy mind to improve the quality of your life. What mantra can you put in front of your face every day until you achieve the goal that looms in front of you?
- Stop expecting hard things to be easy. When I was in the throes of writing the new proposal and eventually the book itself, I stuck a Post-it note on my computer screen that read, “I expect this to be hard.” I needed this daily reminder because every time I couldn’t think of anything to say or felt overwhelmed by 50 suggested edits to a single chapter it kept taking me by surprise. In other words, maybe if I was smarter/brighter/better it would be easier to write a book. But, with my Post-It in place, every time something became hard, I looked up and instantly recalled, “Oh, that’s right, it’s supposed to be. I was expecting this.”
Was writing a book easy? No. Is the mountain you’re about to climb in your own life going to be a walk in the park? Not a chance. However, the greatest gift you can give yourself is to make the conscious decision to believe that you can and will make it to the other side.
You’ve done hard things before; you just keep forgetting. Well, today it’s time to stop with the selective memory. Whatever you’re battling today is a fight worth fighting because you are worth winning.
In my opinion, believing that you can, should and will conquer what’s ahead of you is a far greater accomplishment than actually doing the work because once you believe you’re capable…the rest is just about putting one foot in front of the other to get to where your mind already believes you deserve to be.
And one thing’s for sure; the journey is a whole lot more enjoyable when you believe you’re worthy of winning what’s on the other side.
Go get it.