Ralph Waldo Emerson
What is holding you back from trying new things and improving your life in big or small ways in your daily life?
When you boil it down it is most often not about anything outside of you. Or that is at least not the biggest reason why you feel paralyzed. It’s the fear that gets to you.
It holds you back from trying something new for lunch, a new place for the evening out or a new hobby because you feel somewhat afraid that you’ll have a bad experience. So you stick to your usual routine.
It holds you back from asking someone for a date or number because you don’t want to risk being rejected or looking like a fool in front of people. So you don’t take the next step.
You stay where you are and new directions in your life remain unexplored.
This is of course very human. But fear doesn’t have to stop you from exploring life.
Now, let me share what I do to minimize my fear and to be able to move from feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed into taking action and moving forward.
1. What is the worst that could happen?
I like this very practical exercise as step number one.
So ask yourself this question. Really think about. Don’t just think about it for a few seconds. Sit down with a pen and piece of paper, your laptop or cellphone. Write it all out and think about what the realistic worst-case scenario would be.
Then write down a plan for how you can come back from such a scenario.
This step brings clarity, defuses fuzzy fears and helps you realize that you can most often bounce back pretty quickly even if the worst-case scenario somehow becomes reality.
If that only works to a degree move on to the next step…
2. Share your fear with someone.
By sharing your fear you can relieve inner pressure. By just keeping it on the inside it’s easy to build it up into this massive nightmare and extremely dangerous thing.
By sharing and by getting some input from a levelheaded friend or family member he or she can help you to alleviate the fear and inner pressure. And you can gain a much healthier perspective on things again.
If you don’t have someone to share it with or if that only works partly too then move on to…
3. Accept the fear.
It is a natural impulse to try to deny the fear when shows up in your life. Perhaps you try to not think about, you try to push it away. Or you tell yourself that you need to focus like a laser beam on the positive.
I have found that in many cases it is actually better to just accept that fear – or whatever is left of it after having worked through step #1 and #2 – is here right now (although it can be hard to sometimes convince your brain that this is a good option as it wants to deny or reject what is).
By accepting that you feel this way you stop feeding more energy into the fear and you stop making it strong. After a few minutes of fully taking in this uncomfortable feeling and accepting it then it starts to lose steam. It just seems to float away and you feel more open and relieved feelings bubbling up within.
4. Tap into curiosity and focus on the upsides.
By now, most of those fearful feelings are often pretty small and they tend come and go. You have processed much of that inner tension and resistance.
So you are now at a good point to start focusing on why you want to move towards what you have feared and to open your mind to what you can find out there.
Take out the pen and paper and ask yourself:
- What is the opportunity in this situation?
- What are the potential upsides I want and can have by taking these actions?
- What are the potential upsides in one year if I start moving on this path? And in five years?
- And how will life be in five years if I continue on the path I am now?
The answer when it comes to what you eat for lunch or if you want to have a new hobby may simply be that life becomes more fun, healthy, fulfilling and filled with newness and more surprises.
The answer when it comes to taking action to make a date happen, to get a new job or to take another direction in college could be that your life changes completely.
5. Take a small step forward. Take it slowly if you like.
You don’t have to go all in at once in many cases. Think about how you can move in small steps and slowly towards what you want. Just dip your toes in at first if that feels more comfortable. The most important thing is that you start moving and that you take action, not how fast or how much action you take at first.
If you for example want to start your own business work on that in the evening while still working at your day job or staying in school. Don’t let thinking like “I have to go all in and take huge risks” hold you back.
Or if you want to try something new today just tell yourself that:
Just for today I will try [insert something you want to try]!
You just have to do it today. Not ever again after today. You are not signing up for some huge commitment.
Tomorrow you may continue on that new path. Or you may not.
By not making this into a huge thing you have do but instead just a small step, that you can take and get done as slowly as you like, it becomes so much easier to do what is most important at first: to put yourself in motion.
Then, along the way, you can take bigger leaps if you like and speed things up. You will learn through successes and failures (and realize that you won’t die if things don’t go your way all the time). You will quit some things and continue doing other things.
But first, make it easy on yourself to take the first step.
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