The biggest barrier to finding your calling and doing big things in the world is roughly the size of a small almond.

I’m referring, of course, to your amygdala – the tiny, prehistoric part of your brain that is responsible for autonomic responses, including fear and rage and reproductive drive. Psychologists often refer to this as the “lizard brain”. This primal part of our brain is the birthplace for our ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ response is designed to keep us safe.

The lizard brain is constantly scanning the landscape, looking for threats. This is extremely helpful if you’re being surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves, like your ancestors may have once been, or fleeing from an angry driver bent on running you off the road.

However, the lizard doesn’t just pay attention to actual threats occurring in real-time. It also works hard to identify any POSSIBLE threats from future action.

The lizard’s purpose is to keep you safe from danger – real or imagined – and it does this by trying to maintain status-quo wherever possible.

For the lizard, change = bad, same = good.

So what does this have to do with finding your calling?

Finding your calling is all about moving from where you are into what you are being called to do. This inherently involves change and at least some degree of risk, both of which can automatically send the lizard into full on freak-out mode.

For many of us, this doesn’t feel like a freak-out, at least not at first. Instead, what we often experience is resistance.

Resistance is often a very subtle, very rational-sounding voice in the back of our mind telling us to go slow, be careful, hold off, compromise, be realistic.

Resistance increases in proportion to how close we are to finding our calling, and how important that calling is to us.

We can spend weeks, months, even years stuck in a pattern of resistance – this is exactly what the lizard wants because as long as we’re stuck, we’re safe.

The way through it is to recognize when we’re in resistance and to learn to quiet the lizard long enough for us to take a tiny step forward.

Each tiny step we take through our own resistance does two things…

First, it teaches the lizard that WE are in charge, that the world will not end if we do scary things. The more we do this, the easier it gets, and the stronger our courage muscle becomes. (As I often tell my clients, courage is not the absence of fear, it’s the willingness to do the scary thing even though we’re afraid.)

Secondly, each step brings us that much closer to our calling, closer to the fullest possible expression of ourselves and the lives we were born to live. If we take even a few steps forward, we can start to build momentum which makes it harder for resistance to take hold.

Callings come with fear and resistance. We can choose to step with them and move through them, or we can choose to stay where we are. 

Side note: Because its voice sounds so reasonable, resistance is often mistaken for practicality, which makes it hard to spot. An excellent primer on recognizing & working through resistance is Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art.

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