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What are you afraid of?

Updated: Jun 3, 2019

One of the best self-help books I have ever read is Susan Jeffers' "Feel the Fear...and Do it Anyway". I thoroughly recommend this book as being full of advice an alternative perspectives on facing up to and dealing with whatever it is that scares you in life.

The first time I read it was around 12 years ago, and whilst being in my early twenties not all of it resonated with me, I have now turned back to it more times that I ever imagined I would. This is not meant to be a book review, I just wanted to share one of the concepts that resonated and literally jumped out at me even at the young age I was back then, with very limited responsibilities other than to my own health and happiness. Now with a family, husband, child, dog and mortgage this concept has never been more relevant - that of the 9 box matrix.

Susan suggests that you draw yourself a 3 x 3 box (square divided into 9 equal parts) and write the main areas of your life in them. Yours may differ but here are mine FYI:

If you struggle to think of 9 areas - this could be quite telling. I know I struggled to start with all those years ago. Often I focus too much on one area of my life, especially if that area has lots of challenges. For me over the years this has flitted between family and relationship and work and at points health and family. Not much can be done about this, sometime we have to prioritise those we love, putting food on the table or we are forced to take care of ourselves through a health scare.

The point that struck me was that if you make sure that you have something going on in all of these boxes, you can never truly feel that your life is over, you are a failure...that you can't handle it when something goes spectacularly wrong in one of them. You always have commitments, something engaging to work towards and other facets of your life that can give you comfort at the very least or energise you to keep going when things go wrong in other areas.

A live example of this is how I used to put all my eggs in one basket - for me it was all about the job, the career. When this went to pot and I was forced to look after myself, and put my energy and focus into the health area of the box, I felt absolutely destroyed. I had practically no identity beyond my work one. Gradually with the help of the box I could start to reframe my life as having many more dimensions and being a lot less black and white.

Never do I have seen this as a more practical tool now I am a parent. We have many roles to play and this framework ensures that I am getting the most out of each part of myself and feeling at the same time I can live up to what I see is my potential in some areas, even if I am starting from rock bottom in others.

At the moment, I have gone through a big change where a lot of my time and effort is on learning. This has meant that certain area have had to be reined in a bit - for example my I have scaled back my volunteering, which although is important to me it now has more longer term goals rather than shorter term activity and involvement assigned to it. Events this year mean that I am spending much more time in the family and relationship box than in the friends one, perhaps something that happens naturally with age anyway?

Being a mum, me time - the opportunity to recharge and relax has become very important - and well worth the tight scheduling and planning required for some much needed time out! Hobbies have taken a back seat but I envisage being able to pull them in to offset needing to spend intensive time in the health box. In the work box, I have assigned more longer term stretch goals based on how I want it to be rather than how I am currently limited, towards which I feel I can persevere. With the proviso that the other 8 boxes work together to support me in finding a more balanced and rewarding approach to deal with life's ups and downs.

Why don't you give it a go? What are you afraid of?


Ideas taken from Feel the Fear...and do it anyway by Susan Jeffers see more at

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