I was privileged to work with some fabulous clients this weekend. One common theme when we were looking at future goals was the role of fear.
Some of those fears were tangible, real, justified – if you’re going to climb a mountain, then you need to prepare and things can go wrong, of course.
But so many fears we talked about were intangible. Nebulous, “what if’s?”
Let’s make a distinction between a genuine thing to be rightly concerned about, like a health scare, attempting something genuinely dangerous, and a fear. For the purposes of this piece a fear is an unlikely and undesired outcome (that scares us) about something in the future that hasn’t happened yet.
I suffer from this myself. I call them the 4am terrors. Those irrational nibbling thoughts that sneak in when your subconscious is strongest and your rational mind is weakest.
Again, sometimes this terror can be serious. Proper problems that need attention. All too often though they’re (in the cold light of day) inconsequential things.
So what do you do when your fears are blocking you from achieving, or even attempting, your goals?
One useful tool is reframing.
We tend to have quite a limited perspective when it comes to ourselves and dwell on the negative outcomes of things that have happened, or could happen.
How often have you replayed an event in your mind thinking, “If only I’d said this. If only I’d done this?”
Yep, we’ve all done it.
We get trapped in our narrow frame of perspective.
What happens though if you look at your issue in a broader perspective (a bigger frame) and look at the positives (or potential positives) if it’s a future worry?
Here’s an example. Your relationship has finished. Of course that is a major event, traumatic, you’re sad. You’re dwelling on all the negative aspects that now brings to your life. You’re lonely. Will you find another partner etc?
What if we now look at that event within the context of your entire life and the opportunities it now brings.
Maybe you weren’t really suited to that person. Actually the relationship wasn’t so great. Now you have time to invest in yourself. You can meet new people. Take on that hobby you wanted to do for years….
You’re not trying to bury your feelings or re-touch the past – but what you are doing is giving yourself a broader frame of reference, which will help make the event easier to deal with and allow you to move forward.
Another tool you can use, is disassociation.
When we’re emotionally connected to our fears (of course!) it can make give us a limited perspective (as seen above with reframing). Those fears are closely associated with us.
Here’s two ways you can disassociate.
What if we were to pretend that the fear belonged to a friend of ours, rather than ourselves? What advice would you give them looking in from the outside…not emotional involved? We’re naturally limited by our perspective, so if we change perspective, how does that change our view of the fear?
Another way is to look at the present fear along a future timeline. I use this one a lot. In 6 months time, will this thing that’s giving me a racing heart at 4 in the morning, have any kind of significant impact in my life? How about in 1 year, 5 years?
When we start looking at fears like this we gain the perspective of distance, and we can see how that disagreement we had at work that we’re replaying and replaying, and worrying about, actually won’t matter AT ALL in 2 weeks, let alone in 2 months.
Naturally we all have things to genuinely be concerned about. Issues to overcome. That’s life. But so often the fears that stop us are those fears are our sub-conscious sabotaging us through over-protection. Those irrational, unlikely, night terror fears that we all succumb to.
Fear is always going to be a player your life.
Learn to play with it and don’t let it stop you moving towards your goals.
You’ve got this. I believe in you.