What I Learned from a High School Reunion

Arden Executive Coaching | What I Learned from a High School Reunion

What I Learned from a High School Reunion

OK, so it wasn’t exactly a reunion, but a couple weeks ago my high school was rising money for new auditorium seats by inviting people who’d performed on the stage there over the years to perform at a fundraiser.  Various Broadway actors performed, Ed Harris submitted a tape from the Sundance festival, etc.  It was a fun night!

Hearing about the event the week prior had made me nostalgic for the shows I’d performed on that stage, including playing Anna (the “I”) in The King and I.  I pulled out the music to re-live the show and was touched by a number of the lyrics.   I remember “Whistle a Happy Tune” was never my favorite to sing – it seemed cliché and rudimentary (yes, even in high school), but now, as I listened to the lyrics after many years, I got what a great life lesson it holds inside its simple tune:

Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect
I’m afraid.

So that might seem more deceptive than revelatory, were it not for the next part:

The result of this this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people I fear
I fool myself as well.
I whistle a happy tune
And every single time
The happiness in the tune
Convinces me that I’m not afraid.

Translation: feel the fear and do it anyway, and by doing the thing itself, the fear dissipates.  Excellent advice!

Rogers and Hammerstein go on to give the lesson this way:

Make believe you’re brave
And the trick will take you far
You may be as brave
As you make believe you are.

How true!

In reflecting on my own life, and on the lives of life coaching clients, I see this over and over: moving THROUGH fear and continuing to act is the only thing that addresses the fear.  Waiting for the fear to go away BEFORE you act is a recipe for inaction and stagnation.

If you look at a successful person (whatever that means to you) I bet you see someone who keeps moving.  From the outside, it may seem to you that they are just naturally motivated, or that fear never gets them.  But you have NO IDEA what’s in their head.  I will bet you that they have a good many of the doubts and fears and voices in their head that you do: they just don’t LISTEN to them!  They keep going IN SPITE OF the fear or reluctance.

Take a look for yourself.  What’s something you would do if you weren’t afraid?  Please note: fear may masquerade as something much more benign looking, like:

  • Something you avoid
  • Something you say you want but don’t have a plan for
  • Something you resist
  • Something you thought you would have/do/be by now, but haven’t/don’t/aren’t
  • Something you wish you could have but is only for other people

One you’ve identified the thing, write down what you’re afraid will happen if you take action toward that thing.  If the thing you’re afraid of isn’t life-ending (like that you will for sure be hit by a truck) consider that the only thing stopping you is fear.  And fear is just a feeling…  You don’t have to listen to it!

Practice this month doing some things you’re afraid of, just for practice. 

  • Will you start taking that drawing or spin class?
  • Call the friend you know you need to apologize to?
  • Admit you want to take a different career path?
  • Stop complaining/whining?
  • Start saving money each month?

Please share your experiences with us – we’d love to hear all the new things you did!

If you find it’s not as simple as just not listening to the fear, contact our life coaches for support in moving THROUGH that fear so we can have YOU whistling that happy tune!