Author Tama Kieves, a Harvard-trained attorney who left her practice with a prestigious corporate law firm to write and help people discover and live their life’s work, kicked off 2015 with the release of her latest book, A Year Without Fear: 365 Days of Magnificence. A sought-after speaker and career/success and writing coach, Tama lives in Denver, Colorado. Her other books are This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love and Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work! Here, Tama talks about her new book and shares her thoughts on how to live without fear.
Unity: What motivated you to write A Year Without Fear?
Tama: Especially in the New Year, everybody wants one big shift, one big pearl of wisdom to change their lives. What I’ve learned is that shifts take place over time. They take place incrementally and they’re gentle and they’re tiny. It’s not one big behavioral change. I think the real goal is shifting the way you think from fear to love. It’s learning a different way to listen to the extraordinary, loving, intelligent part of yourself that can guide you through every goal. What I wanted to do was, every day, offer a different mindset shift, to give a perspective that your ego or critical voice might not be sharing with you. I wanted to create something really effective in helping you shift daily with your coffee cup in the morning.
Unity: Tell us a bit about your story. What have you been afraid of in your life?
Tama: It’s funny. They say you always teach what you need to learn. I’m probably the queen of fear. I’m neurotic. I’ve had every stupid fear. I’ve had every self-criticism and doubt.
My biggest dream was I always wanted to be a writer. That’s all I ever wanted to be when I was growing up. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and my family was Orthodox Jewish. My mother would say, “You’re going to write? You’re going to starve.” So I learned you have to be practical. You have to be realistic. I immediately ignored what I wanted to do, what was in my heart, and I went off to law school. I got accepted to Harvard Law School and I graduated with honors and I was on a partnership track with a major law firm. I had all the success we’re told you’re supposed to have, but I just felt so empty inside. I was so unhappy. I kept feeling like there’s got to be something more. Thank God a friend of mine said something that changed my whole life and was the basis of my first book. He said, “If you’re this successful doing something you don’t love, what could you do with work you do love?” That just opened my mind. I decided you get one chance in life. I walked out of my legal career without a plan, without anything, to follow this inner voice. That’s what began my whole journey.
One of the things I say in A Year Without Fear is that the inspired power within you can accomplish anything at any time. So it’s our job to really listen to this inspired power, but we’re not taught that in this culture. I thought I was being intelligent and savvy by holding my dreams back. What I’ve discovered in my own life is that only when I’ve listened to that love, only when I’ve gone through that light, only when I’ve trusted at that level, only when I’ve focused on love, that’s when things worked. I now encourage people to think of practicality differently. Practicality, for me, is not what limits your options, but what expands them.
Unity: So it’s the idea that if it’s not about love, it’s about fear?
Tama: That’s it exactly. One of the miraculous things about our minds is that we cannot be in fear if we’re in love. If we’re seeking a loving thought, in that moment, you cannot be in fear. If you’re thinking a fearful thought, in that moment you cannot be in love. It’s just training your mind to start thinking more lovingly. Again, we’re so conditioned—because we think it’s practical. We think it’s reasonable. We think it’s good judgment. We think conventional wisdom is good judgment. The more I’ve explored it and the more I’ve seen it in my own path and working with my students and clients, I’ve come to realize that fear, or holding back your dreams, is not good judgment. It’s common sense if you want a common life, but if you want an uncommon life, you’ve got to listen to something else. So with A Year Without Fear—what would your life be like if you were listening to this incredible voice of love every day, that was just building you up, that was really focusing you on the ways to advance yourself, the way to be more creative, alive, and present? Our life is our guru. Our day is our guru. Our day is the thing that shows up with the lesson. This (book) is just a way to train your mind and train your heart, gently and incrementally, to start becoming everything you’ve ever wanted to be.
Unity: Is it really possible to live without fear?
Tama: I think it’s possible in moments. And I know it’s possible. I’m not going to tell you I’ve done it. I imagine Jesus has done it. I imagine Buddha did it. If you think I have no fears, think again, baby. The good news though, is I have less fear than I’ve ever had in my life. My fear is less intense than it ever was. But, because I’m committed to expanding my potential for the rest of my life, and I’m committed to listening to this exceptional voice inside myself that has no limits, I’m facing fear all the time. I’m still growing. I’m still going to my edge. That's what this beautiful life is all about.
Unity: Where does fear still come up for you?
Tama: Fear comes up as I climb higher. Again, you’re always writing what you need to learn, so because so much of my deepest calling is helping someone listen to this inspired inner voice, it’s the place I’m forever going to my own newest edge in—and I wrestle with all the old doubts. I still go through the, “I trust it, I doubt it. I trust it, I doubt it.” This comes up in running my business because I want to run a business from love instead of fear. I’m committed to taking inspired action, not fearful action. Doing what feels nourishing and alive and joyous is scary in a business context, so I’m forever dealing with that, and asking, Will it work? What if I’m an idiot? What if I’m doing something just because it feels good and then I find out that was wrong? So all those same doubts that everybody else has … and all the miracles that arise when I dare to go past my fear.
Unity: How do you get out of the grips of fear?
Tama: One of the things I want people to know in this book, and in this life, is it’s a practice. It’s not a one-time thing. I’m going to be practicing the rest of my life. Just like I take yoga. It’s not like I did 10 downward dogs so now I’m done. I’m going to be practicing yoga the rest of my life. I’m going to get better and better and better at it—and it’s the same thing with undoing fear. With practice, you will see amazing progress. You will experience more of your true potential than ever before.
I repeat three major themes for undoing fear within the book … One of the themes is the best way to get out of fear is to get into love. So, do something you love or give love or express love in some way. It will change your brain chemistry. If you’re doing something you’re passionate about or you’re being kind to someone else, it’s harder to be in fear at that moment. The love that comes through you, comes to you.
The other major theme is fear comes from thinking about the future or from thinking about the past. If you really get into the sensory present and you release yourself from judgment and acknowledge everything that is here, you will know a wholeness you have never known. So again, learning inspired thinking is really, How do I really stay present and listen to that voice in this moment and not let my mind go crazy thinking about all the details about what’s coming or all the things I should have done or could have done? I help people get present, truly available to all their own power and the brilliance of their own lives right now.
The third theme is shifting your perspective: There’s always another way to see it. I promise you, there is another way to see the exact same thing that would blow your mind and make you feel incredibly grateful. Because you’re holding this perspective that, “this is terrible, this is going downhill,” whatever the fearful thing is, it’s starting to know there is another way to experience this fear and there’s another way to see it.
One of the ways I shift out of fear is I write from my fear. I just write out everything that’s going on, like, I’m scared. It’s not going to work. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know. I’m crazy. And then I let love answer. I let the highest level of love I could possibly imagine answer. When I teach students to do this, I always tell them to think about the most loving voice you could ever imagine. It might be the voice of a parent ... a higher power, or a best friend. Or what would you say to a best friend in the same situation? Sometimes you’re just making it up and you’re asking, What would that loving, incredible voice say about this fear? and you just write from that perspective.
Unity: Is fear ever useful?
Tama: There’s healthy fear or normal fear, as in if a lion is lunging at you, there is going to be an instinct in you to preserve yourself or take care of yourself. I bless that totally. I’m all for that. That’s your higher instincts. That’s great. I’m talking about the kind of fear that holds you back in life, the kind of fear diminishing your life—not the kind of fear that saves your life.
Unity: What would it be like if we had no fear?
Tama: Wow, I want to find out and have the whole world living it. I’ve seen so many people deny themselves their dreams and their passions because they think it’s frivolous or because they think they can’t have it or they think they’re too old or too young or they don’t have the right credentials. I think it’s imperative to listen to the voice of your inspired guidance instead of your conditioned fear. It’s in your DNA. It’s in the code of your being to live your dreams. You have your dreams for a reason. They are the portals to inspired living. We’re meant to live fearlessly. We’re meant to live in love. We’re meant to listen to our love, discover more power, and give of our love and help others become more of what they can be as well.
My fear would have kept me “being practical,” practicing law and suing people. I’ve now written best-selling books and led workshops everywhere. I now have touched tens of thousands of other human beings, and have had the privilege of inspiring people to write and sing and do businesses and heal and fall in love again and take the dream trip they wanted. I’m just one person who acted out of love instead of fear, and I think, Wow, what would our world be like if we were all doing that?
Everybody has this invincible power within them, this invincible intelligence within them. We can experience so much more good than we believe possible. Those of us who are on a spiritual adventure or a conscious adventure are waking up to something else. We’re the ones who are choosing, moment by moment, something else.
Learn more about Tama and download her free Inspired Power Toolkit at www.tamakieves.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
About the Author
Annie L. Scholl is a freelance writer and native Iowan who lives in North Carolina. In addition to writing for unity.org and Unity Magazine®, she is a regular contributor to Huffington Post and blogs at her website, anniescholl.com.