Are you a worrier?
I’m a life coach and therapist, so you are my people. Nearly all my clients arrive on my couch wanting to overcome the obstacles that “worry” endlessly presents to them.
I know a few things about you:
- You’re really smart. One sign of intelligence is the ability to envision the future vividly, and walk through the steps ahead playing out future outcomes. This makes you a wonderful planner, and allows you to thoughtfully anticipate consequences and potential problems.
- You are extremely competent. You know what should happen, and you take steps to make sure it does. When you feel prepared, and like you know what’s going to happen next, it makes you feel protected from adversity. When things go the way they are supposed to, all feels well in your world.
- You often feel stuck. As wonderful as your abilities are, they have a serious negative consequence:
- Your ability to envision future outcomes can make you feel hemmed in by possible consequences on every side of you.
- Your need to feel in control of what’s happening can make new situations feel threatening.
- You spend a lot of time weighing out risk and reward, wanting to feel absolutely certain of the outcome before you take a step and commit to action.
The net result?
You stick to what you know, even though it limits your life.
How to break free from worry, and embrace the power of risk
Getting comfortable with risk is necessary if you want to live a larger, more fulfilling life. If you want more for yourself, there are times that you must move fearlessly into an unknown future.
So how to honor your thoughtful nature, respect your need for safety, and also get comfortable with giving up a little control over the outcome?
By cultivating an attitude of curiosity and experimentation, and learning how to trust yourself. You can start with these four steps to living fearlessly.
Think of your life as an experiment.
Wonderful things happen when we start asking questions. Specifically, this one: “I wonder what would happen if…” has been the catalyst for the advancement of everything from science to civilization itself. Being able to make small changes and then observe the outcome allows you to learn and grow. (Compared to the alternative of feeling continually hamstrung by your assumptions about what’s going to happen).
Cultivating the mindset that it’s okay to try new things and see what happens frees you to take action now, and reserve your right to make your final decision once you have a chance to actually see what the outcome is.
Stay in the present.
You don’t need to know exactly what will happen next. (Although I know this idea can create panicky feelings for worriers who believe that anticipation of problems gives them more control and power to protect themselves.)
New idea: You are competent to handle whatever happens in the present moment. Developing your ability to stay mindfully in the here and now will help you stop time traveling, and you will feel more secure within yourself.
You are smart, you are capable of making good decisions, and you are able to handle adversity. Think of all the times that things haven’t gone exactly as you’d hoped. You were disappointed, and maybe you experienced pain. And… you coped with it. You may even have learned and grown from it. Remind yourself that you are intelligent, you are competent and are able to handle things as they come up.
If you make the wrong decision you can make a new one.
Very, very few things lead to permanent consequences like a birth, death or permanent injury. Pretty much everything else washes off. Even buying real estate or getting a tattoo is a theoretically reversible decision. You can take a chance on a reasonable “experiment” and if it doesn’t work out exactly as you hoped you can change course.
No one can see the future. Forward movement requires a degree of trust that the stepping stones can appear beneath your feet as you go. If you take a step that lands you ankle deep in mud that’s okay — you rinse off your shoe, make a new plan, and continue on your adjusted trajectory.
Walk, don’t leap.
(If you’re a card-carrying worrier you’ll like this last part.) Fearless living is not foolish, reckless or impulsive living. Fearless living allows you to experiment with your life and make judgments based on observable outcomes before committing yourself further. Fearless living moves you forward, but slowly and safely — and with permission to backtrack if necessary.
So before you jettison your job to ride a motorcycle around South America for a year, invest your life savings into a new business, or leave your marriage for an exciting stranger, slow down and test your hypothesis first.
By following these steps you’ll increase your inner sense of safety, and fearless living will follow. Giving yourself permission to experiment and learn will help you take positive action in the here and now. Before you know it, all those small, cautious steps forward will move you upward and onward into the love, happiness and success you deserve.
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