Choose Wonder Over Worry: Move Beyond Fear and Doubt to Unlock Your Full Potential

Choose Wonder Over Worry: Move Beyond Fear and Doubt to Unlock Your Full Potential

by Amber Rae


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Choose Wonder Over Worry: Move Beyond Fear and Doubt to Unlock Your Full Potential by Amber Rae

From the powerhouse Mind Body Green calls "the Brené Brown of Wonder" comes a book that will shift the way we relate to ourselves and our emotions, and help us reach our full potential.

"Amber Rae is the Elizabeth Gilbert of her generation." —Stacy London, New York Times bestselling author of The Truth about Style

WONDER is what we’re born with.
WORRY is what we learn.

Why do we hold back from pursuing what matters most? Why do we listen to the voice inside our head that tells us we're not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough? How can we move beyond the fear and doubt that prevents us from creating a life that reflects who we truly are?

CHOOSE WONDER OVER WORRY is your official invitation to face your fears, navigate your discomfort, and rewrite the "worry myths” in your mind that keep you from being your best and truest self.

Journey with inspirational speaker and artist AMBER RAE as she connects you with your voice of worry and wonder, teaches you to listen to your emotions rather than silence them, and encourages you to seize your dreams. Through a thoughtful blend of vulnerability, soulfulness, and science, Amber Rae guides you in expressing the fullness of who you are and the gifts you’re here to give.

You don’t have to be held back by Worry when Wonder awaits you every moment of every day.

Worry or Wonder: which will you choose?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250175250
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 05/15/2018
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 70,333
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Amber Rae is an author, artist, and speaker devoted to inspiring people to express the fullness of their gifts. Her writing blends raw, personal storytelling with psychology and neuroscience, and has reached over 5 million people in 195 countries. Her public art has spread to over twenty countries, and she's spoken to and collaborated with brands like Kate Spade, Apple, Amazon, and Unilever. Fortune said her work is "determined to help people tap into their creativity," Forbes said it "helps people follow through on their ambitions," and Mind Body Green called her "The Brene Brown of Wonder."

She's been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Fast Company, BBC, ABC World News, Tim Ferriss's blog, and more. Previously, Amber helped launch six best-selling books as Chief Evangelist of Seth Godin's publishing experiment and started an "accelerator for your life" called The Bold Academy. She's lives in Brooklyn and around the world.

Amber is the author of Choose Wonder Over Worry.

Read an Excerpt



Inside our minds there is a nasty little voice, a saboteur, a censor, and an eternal critic who creates a constant stream of scathing remarks that are usually disguised as The Truth. I call this voice Worry.

Worry says things like:

Who the hell are you to do this?

You're not actually going to say that, right?

Nope. Not you. Not ever. Not enough.

Look at them: they're better than you.

You suck. You suck. You suck.

You get the picture.

It took me a long while to realize that Worry's voice is not the truth, and is in fact so very far from the truth, that when listened to, will only take us further and further away from accessing and expressing the real truth that resides inside.

I finally stopped taking Worry so damn seriously when I learned to see it for what it is: a blocking device. A mechanism in our brains that's designed to keep us from doing anything too risky or too uncomfortable (aka things that are glorious and meaningful and worthwhile and life-altering). It was underneath my long and tedious tales of unworthiness, not-enoughness, perfectionism, shame, and who I thought I was "supposed to be" that I discovered another voice. A much more kind, compassionate, and curious one. One that wants us to do well, be seen, and pursue that which we most desire. One that knows with all of its knowing our truest truth. That voice is Wonder.

Wonder knows what we're capable of, and is committed to nudging us closer and closer to who we were before the world told us who to be. Wonder supports us in deciphering between the disempowering stories we inherited and made up, and the stories that strike the chord of resonance from within.

When Worry says, Who the hell are you to do that?, Wonder chimes in to say, If not you, then who?

When Worry is on its high horse, declaring, You're not actually going to say that, right?, Wonder will ever so clearly state, You are here to speak your truth. Today. Tomorrow. Always. Is what you want to say a reflection of your truth?

And when Worry is inclined to keep the same soundtrack of judgment and fear and anxiety playing over and over and over again, Wonder will name the worry to tame it by saying, Hey judgment, I see you. Hey fear, I see you. Hey anxiety, I see you. I get that you're trying to keep us safe here, and I respect that. But we're on an important adventure, and you are forbidden from navigating.

Worry and Wonder are perpetually pointing us away from or toward who we truly are and what we're here to give. In every moment of every day, we get to choose whom we listen to: Worry or Wonder.

Which will you choose?

Whenever I share this invitation with people, there is a resounding call for Wonder.

As important as it is to listen to Wonder, it can be useful to honor Worry, too. Why? Because not all Worry is destructive.


Last year, when I finished a talk about Worry and Wonder, a woman approached me near the stage and said, "My dad always told me that ninety percent of what I worried about wouldn't happen. I told him that's because I worried about it and figured out a solution."

We both laughed.

And therein lies an important point: Not all Worry is destructive. Worry can be useful. Sometimes.

Our Worry voice can express itself in two ways: as toxic worry or as useful worry.

Toxic worry is the relentless, looping thoughts that paralyze and prevent you from taking action or moving forward. It's the gripping rumination on the past and anxiety about the future — a habit that Stanford neurosurgeon Dr. James Doty said we spend nearly 80 percent of our time and attention on.

Useful worry is the foresight to imagine setbacks and challenges, make a plan, and take action. Worry is useful only when it's within our control and empowers us to act. So when our Worry voice chimes in, we can ask two questions:

1. Is this a real possibility?

2. Is there any productive action I can take right now?

When it's not a real possibility and there aren't productive steps to take, we know we're triggering what neuroscientists call the "threat detection system" in our brain. Thanks to evolution, worry and fear have been wired in our systems for millions of years as a mechanism to keep us safe. To some extent, we need it. Without it, your ancestors would have been eaten by saber-toothed tigers. You would jump off an outrageously high cliff just to see if you could make the landing. You would enter into a business partnership with someone who stated from the outset, "I'm entering into this arrangement with the intention of using you and taking your money." You would fall in love with someone who said, "I have no desire of ever committing to you."

Worry prevents us from actual threats to our survival, like the ones I've listed above. But when it comes to pursuing what's meaningful to us, those desires typically come along with some level of uncertainty and unknown, which our brains label as "dangerous." That's when Worry starts screaming for safety, and we're inclined to shut down, avoid new experiences, seek familiarity, and push away our dreams. When this happens — when the experience of worry isn't bringing us closer to who we are and the gifts we're here to give — it's noise. A toxic and paralyzing ricocheting inside our minds that, if not monitored, can strangle the life out of us.

Toxic worry is the source of our unrealized potential and unfinished projects. It's why writers don't write, designers don't design, innovators don't innovate, and leaders don't lead. It's why we commit to making changes in our life, and then sit squarely in our zone of comfort. It's why we succumb to the mediocre directives of those who came before us, and commit to belief structures that leave us exhausted, resentful, angry, and drained. It's why the things we long for most — the ideas we can't stop thinking about, the rituals we want to cultivate, and the lives we want to create — stay unrealized in our hearts, masked by fear and doubt.

The lengths to which we'll go to avoid what we long for is what Steven Pressfield refers to as "Resistance" in his book The War of Art. "Most of us have two lives," he says. "The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."

In perhaps one of my favorite and most eye-opening excerpts, Pressfield says, "You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it overstatement but I'll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas."

Not facing ourselves — and our demons — is what keeps our greatest lives locked away inside. So, knowing that the toxic voice of Worry that speaks with criticism and disapproval is stifling us, why don't we listen to Wonder? Why don't we trust the voice of curiosity, compassion, and love? Why don't we go after the things we say we want most?

Here's why:


Beneath our unfinished projects, unrealized dreams, and unexpressed truths lies a central myth that gnaws at us more deeply than any other. I saw this myth kill my father, I've experienced it strangle my gifts, and I've witnessed it suck the creativity, talent, and potential out of the many thousands of people I've worked with over the years.

That myth is this: I am not enough.

I am not smart enough.

I am not talented enough.

I am not attractive enough.

I am not powerful enough.

I am not strong enough.

I am not thin enough.

I am not lovable enough.

I am not perfect enough.

I don't have enough time.

I don't have enough money.

I am not enough.

Sound familiar?

I've struggled tirelessly with this very myth in my own life, and once believed with all of my being that I was the only person being strangled by this fear. I couldn't have been more wrong.

This very belief of "not enough" is what I've found at the core of the suffering of every single creative, entrepreneur, leader, and evolving human — as well as those who aspire to be. I've worked with creatives who came into this world through profound abuse or extreme poverty and thus carry a deep-seated fear of being unwanted and inadequate. I've advised leaders who have hundreds of millions of dollars to their name, and yet still buy into the false illusion that they don't have enough time or money to realize their potential. And I've supported entrepreneurs who've had deeply encouraging and loving childhoods, and yet still find themselves trapped in a cycle of trying to prove that they are enough.

Despite the wide range of upbringings and circumstances, cultures and value systems, the prevailing and pervasive belief is always the same: Not enough.

At the core of our comparison, our numbing, our perfectionism, our paralysis, and our shame lies this myth of "not enough." It's the result of years of internal conditioning and deeply ingrained familial, cultural, societal, and religious beliefs. It's composed of how we were parented, the community and culture we were raised in, the media and information we consumed, and the stories we inherited and took on as our own. When we operate from the dominant myth of "not enough," it becomes the recurring Worry voice in our mind, and the lens through which we think, feel, and act. This shapes who we are and what we think we are capable of.

Setting ourselves free from this belief begins when we learn to see the stories in our mind for what they are: myths, not truths.

The myth of "not enough" existed long before we came into the world and it will likely persist long after we leave it. We do, as always, have a choice. We can buy into the myth and let it run our lives. Or, we can question it, and create a new story that lets us thrive.

And that, my friend, is how we Choose Wonder.


As I once heard my favorite poet IN-Q say, "We will always find the evidence for what we choose to believe."

Beliefs and stories grip our lives in powerful ways. Something happens, we draw meaning from it, and that interpretation impacts how we feel and what we choose to believe about ourselves and the world. Sometimes these stories serve us. Other times, they hold us back. Much of the fear, anxiety, and stress that we experience in everyday life is self-created based on what we're choosing to tell ourselves.

When I look back on my own life, and the times when I felt disconnected from myself and my gifts, it's because my mind was running wild with unexamined myths. Whether I was popping Adderall to be thin because then I thought "men would love me," or playing small because I told myself "I'm not worthy to be here," or holding back my truth because I believed a mentor when he said, "Your story doesn't matter," these beliefs prevented me from living from a place of my fullest self-expression. As I learned from author and teacher Byron Katie, "When I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but when I didn't believe them, I didn't suffer, and this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that."

How we undo these stories — and rise above them — is by turning toward the discomfort, rather than trying to push it away. It's noticing the stories we tell ourselves that cause us pain, and then asking: 1) where did this belief come from? and 2) what is it revealing about my growth? That's the art of Choosing Wonder.

When I first began getting in touch with my myths of unworthiness, shame, and not-good-enoughness, it took me quite some time to realize that my uncomfortable feelings were not my foes. My inclination was to try to overcome, get rid of, or make the discomfort go away. I thought that if I placed the-time-my-heart-shattered-into-a-million-pieces and the-grief-I-didn't-let-myself-feel and the-betrayal-from-a-decade-ago into a box with a pretty bow, and then put it on the top shelf in my closet, the uncomfortable feelings would magically disappear. I was alarmed, years later, to discover that not only did they not go away, they had increased in size.

With an affinity toward being positive, making the most of each moment, and finding the silver lining in all situations, I discovered that I was missing out on the growth, wisdom, and light that come along with entering the darker places. As I moved toward the struggle, I moved toward the light.

It was only when I learned to turn toward and honor my inner ache — and get curious about what it was trying to tell me — that I was able to access and unlock a deeper love, kindness, and joy within. It wasn't my feelings that were the problem, I discovered. It was my relationship to them.

In a workshop with bestselling memoirist Cheryl Strayed, she said, "We all have an invisible terrible someone, and we must find a way to work with these people." Rather than try to "kill them off," she likens her approach to talking to them over wine. I too like to imagine clinking a glass of Pinot Noir with my Worry voices. After we swirl our glasses and take a sip, I lean forward, and say, "Hey you — I'm here for you. What is it that you want me to know?" This invitation allows me to take the mask off the "enemy" that seems oh-so-scary and uncover an ally that I have the chance to get to know.

And that's precisely what we're going to explore in the next section, The Worry Myths. As we turn toward our voices of fear, shame, envy, imposter syndrome, comparison, and perfectionism, we're moving in the direction of joy, beauty, magic, flow, love, and wonder. As we peel back the layers of our conditioning to connect with our truest truth, there are the three C's — Courage, Curiosity, and Compassion — who are here to be our guides. I like to think of them as Wonder's sidekicks.


1. Courage — Discomfort is a call to be courageous. Courage is not the absence of discomfort; courage requires discomfort. Courage walks hand-in-hand with discomfort as we unravel our worry myths to discover who we truly are. Courage says, "This is messy. This is scary. I kind of don't want to go there. But I'm going to go there anyway. I know it'll make me more me."

2. Curiosity — Curiosity is the art of noticing that we're feeling something — we're triggered, our emotional world is on fire, our body feels tense and tight, something is off-center — and then wondering how those feelings are connected to a belief or thought. Curiosity says, "What were you thinking about when you felt that? What story were you telling yourself? What was the trigger? Where does that belief come from?"

3. Compassion — Diving into the patterns that stifle us can feel uneasy at first. This is when self-compassion is key. Compassion says, "You are human. You are loved. I'm here for you — no matter what." We are all a product of generations of deep-seated stories, and we're all doing the best we know how based on our own level of awareness. Compassion reminds us to cultivate empathy for ourselves and others because we're all navigating our own damaging patterns of unworthiness, shame, guilt, resentment, and pain.

With courage, curiosity, and compassion by your side, every moment becomes an opportunity to see yourself more clearly. An invitation to step into the wholeness of who you are.


Every time I speak, I meet a number of women and men who, despite their very different circumstances, ask the very same thing:

Something feels missing from my life. I'm doing this thing that I don't really want to be doing but think I should be doing. It's not terrible and it has some benefits but really, when I'm honest with myself, I feel trapped, and scared, and stuck. There are all these people I'm afraid to hurt or upset, and that has me feel even more confused. What do I do, Amber?

I've struggled with this very question tirelessly in my own life, when I was living a perfectly good and comfortable life, and working at a perfectly good and comfortable job that I both loved and knew was not truly right for me.

There was nothing wrong with the work I was doing. I worked with incredible people that I respected and cherished. I worked with brands that others deemed to be "prestigious." The work inspired me and energized me and challenged me. People told me I was "lucky" and I was on a path to "great success." I enjoyed the work, though not fully. When I got really quiet and honest with myself, there was a very clear voice that cut through all the other voices that tried to convince me that this way of life was right for me. That voice said:

This is not your life. This is someone else's life. GO.

GO, because it's scary, you're afraid of disappointing others, and you can't yet imagine what's next.


Excerpted from "Choose Wonder Over Worry"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Amber Rae.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Real Talk: Things Are About to Get Wildly Honest,
Don't Die with Your Gifts Still Inside,
A Confession: I Was Dying with My Gifts Still Inside,
The Choice: Moving from Worry to Wonder,
Not All Worry Is Destructive. It Can Be Useful.,
The Myth of "Not Enough",
The Art of Choosing Wonder,
The Three C's to See Yourself More Clearly,
"I'm Doing What I Thought I Was 'Supposed to Be Doing.' And I Hate It." Meet SHOULD.,
"I Want______, and I'm Afraid I'll Never Get It." Meet FEAR.,
"Can I Really Trust Myself?" Meet SELF-DOUBT.,
"I'm Not Ready Yet." Meet PROCRASTINATION.,
"I Don't Have Enough Time." Meet STRESSED THE FUCK OUT.,
"I'm Torn." Meet UNCERTAINTY.,
"Why Not Me?" Meet ENVY.,
"I Feel Behind." Meet COMPARISON.,
"I Have Something to Prove." Meet HUSTLING FOR APPROVAL.,
"I Failed. No, I'm a Failure." Meet SHAME.,
"Am I Worthy of Love?" Meet UNLOVABLE.,
"They Rejected Me ... Again." Meet DEFEAT.,
"Who the Hell Am I to Do This? (I'm a Fraud.)" Meet IMPOSTER SYNDROME.,
"I Can't Do That! They'll Judge Me." Meet HIDING.,
"Oh God. Look at Them." Meet JUDGMENT.,
"Are They a Threat?" Meet JEALOUSY.,
"What the Actual Fuck." Meet ANGER.,
"No Pain, No Gain." Meet SUFFERING.,
"I'm Terrified of Going There." Meet AVOIDANCE.,
"There's No Way I Can Handle This." Meet OVERWHELMED.,
"My Mind Is Racing." Meet ANXIETY.,
"That Didn't Go How I Expected." Meet LOSS.,
"I'm Running Away from Myself." Meet ADDICTION.,
"I Must Never Make Mistakes." Meet PERFECTIONISM.,
"I Am Home." Meet WHOLENESS.,
Your Journey Begins Right Here, Right Now,
A Full and Grateful Heart,
About the Author,

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Choose Wonder Over Worry: Move Beyond Fear and Doubt to Unlock Your Full Potential 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
S_White_1218 More than 1 year ago
Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for providing an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. So, thanks to some personal stuff in my life lately, I've been on a self-help kick, so when I saw this one and read the blurb (and saw that it wasn't too long), I asked for an ARC. And I'm glad I did. While this book isn't extremely life-changing or chock full of advice, it was engaging and thought-provoking and really drives home the point that our perspective drives our happiness, our success, our lives. She uses personal stories to let the reader know she's been there, done that, got the tee shirt. She aims not to preach, but to connect. All in all, a fun read that'll make you think and tweak the way you process and see the world/others. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to make some changes in how they live, as it's an easy read and brimming with encouragement. 3.5 stars rounded up. :)