Are you letting worry take over your life? Are you not moving forward because of the fear of the ‘what ifs’?
"I have lived a long life and had many troubles, most of which never happened" - Mark Twain.
Do you relate to this quote? Do you worry, over-analyse, over-think situations? Do you lay awake at night agonising over a decision you have to make and all the possible outcomes?
Do you think about the positives that might come out of the situation or decision? This is as likely an outcome as the troubled one you are focusing on and I would guess would make you feel a lot happier and calmer!
Worrying is our way of protecting ourselves. It alerts us to the possible dangers ahead and we then can stop ourselves taking these actions. This definitely has its place. Assessing risk is good but we need to do it objectively and increase our self awareness to know when we are 'catastrophising' a situation. This just causes anxiety and stops you making progress.
When clients are facing into tough decisions, an exercise I play out with them is 'and then what?'. For example, they may tell me there is a great job opportunity but they are worried if they go for it their manager will then hate them. So I ask 'if that happens, then what?' A response may be that if they don't get the job it will then be unbearable to keep working with their current manager. 'And then what?' Well, I would hate going into work and would then need to look for another job but definitely couldn't find something that pays as well as this one. I may change tact at this point - 'is that true?' Yes! 'So there are no other jobs out there that pay as well or better than the job you are currently doing?' Well, of course there are! ‘Okay, so you feel you would need to look for another job, and there are jobs out there that do pay as well or better than the job you are currently doing?’ Yes. ‘And then what?’ Well, I suppose I would find another job and that is kind of what I am doing going for this job in the first place and I would really love this one...
Sometimes playing out 'the worse case scenario' takes the fears from your head and when vocalised or written down, help you put them into perspective.
Dr Aziz Gazipura in ‘The Art of Extraordinary Confidence: Your Ultimate Path to Love, Wealth and Freedom’ states “fear does not necessarily equal danger”. We often fear a particular outcome or situation and we build this up in our minds to be awful and terrifying to face into - I can’t possibly give a presentation because I might forget what I need to say and freeze on stage; I don’t want to tell my member of staff that their work is not optimal because they might not like me afterwards; I won’t ask my manager for a payrise because they may think I’m materialistic.
These things cause us fear. They might be scary, but they are not necessarily dangerous. These things do not actually pose a threat to us, but because we fear them, we think they do, so we avoid them.
The thing is though, we don’t even know what the actual outcome will be! What if you give a great presentation and don’t freeze? What if you give a presentation and do freeze? What if your staff member thanks you for helping them improve? What if your staff member leaves? What if another staff member leaves because they are fed up with others on the team not working to an optimal level? What if your manager does think you are materialistic? What if your manager gives you a payrise? What if your manager doesn’t give you a payrise?
There are many possible outcomes, yet we tend to focus on the ones that are ‘scariest’ to us - that could affect our values in some way.
When you are feeling an emotion such as fear or envy, let it be a guide for you. Envy is a great emotion for highlighting what you want! Feel envious that someone has a job promotion? If you didn’t go for the promotion yourself it could be that you let fear overtake but it doesn’t stop that this is what you really want. Why did you not go for it? Were you scared? Fear is a great emotion to help you see where you want to grow and develop. If you are scared, play it out. Okay, so if you go for the job and you don’t get it, then what? Okay, you will feel humiliated and everyone will know you weren’t good enough, then what? Okay, you will feel you have to leave because the daily taunting will be too much, then what? Oh wait, you don’t really think there will be daily taunting after all.
Letting yourself play out your worst fears can do a couple of things. One, it will end up making you laugh as you realise it isn’t as bad as you thought and that you are catastrophising into scenarios that when said out loud, you know will never happen. Two, you realise that things will get bad, but you also play out some scenarios to overcome it so you know you have the inner resilience and resourcefulness to cope. Three, you realise that things will get bad, and you are not willing to take that risk so it isn’t the right time for you to take that leap. This is a tricky one, as we could all go to three and never move forward. It is why working with a coach is useful as an objective third party. But, there are scenarios that it really is in your best interests to not do something, that the cost is too great for the benefit you could receive and then the best decision for you, is to continue as you are.
Amber Rae shows a great reframe in her book ‘Choose Wonder Over Worry: Move Beyond Fear and Doubt to Unlock your Full Potential’ when instead of staying in the present and asking a question, such as “should I stay or move on in my current job?” go into an imaginary future and ask “do I wish I had stayed or moved on?” Putting yourself into the future state, you are giving yourself the benefit of wisdom, of time, of experience, of reflection. You are taking away some of the immediate angst about a decision and giving yourself the longer term view. It is amazing what seems like a really big deal at the moment is not even remembered in the future.
Ask yourself - what can I do to change these problems? Remember you can only control you! These are permanent problems: time, other people, your past, your age, family - you cannot change these things! Everything else is temporary and you have control over. You don’t like when it rains - carry an umbrella, stay indoors, move to a different part of the world, remember we need rain for life (and rainbows). You have choices - but they all involve you and your actions/thoughts. You cannot control the weather, but you do have a choice over how you deal with it.