Putting Worry on a Shelf and Seeing New Possibilities

We all know what it feels like to quietly know, on some level, that something in our life needs to change.

It could be finding a new job, establishing new set of boundaries and expectations with a family member, reexamining what’s working and/or what isn’t in a partnership, or even developing a new personal habit that make you feel happier and healthier.

But as ready as we might feel for that change to happen, it’s pretty common to delay that process of initiating it.

We might try to talk ourselves into sticking with our current situation because it’s more comfortable, or because we’re ‘not ready’ to do anything yet; we might delay taking action to see if someone else will start the conversation we’ve been putting off; we might even hold out hope that the situation will somehow fix itself before we have to speak up or take action in a way that scares us.

Once in a while, we might get lucky! But most of the time, initiating a change we want means having to do something new and uncomfortable.

Enter: fear.

Operating from a place of fear often looks like shutting down ideas, and rattling off reasons why not.

In my experience, fear likes to be the loudest voice in the room. When we’re on the verge of taking a chance on our happiness and doing something scary or uncomfortable, fear likes to come in with a long list of reasons why it’s better to stay put.

  • ‘If that idea doesn’t work, we’ll be so much worse off. It’s not worth the risk.’

  • ‘We’ve already invested so much time and energy on X — throwing that away would be a waste.’

  • ‘I’m needed where I am. Making a change would be selfish, and letting people down.’

We’ve all been there. And when you think about it in terms of evolution and physiology, it makes sense! Fear is triggered when our brain registers a threat to our safety, and there was a time when those threats looked less like an unhappy career spent in a sad cubicle, and more like a hungry lion charging at us full speed.

Fear’s job is to keep us safe — and as far as fear is concerned, ‘known’ is safer than ‘unknown.’ The problem is, fear treats every hard conversation, every calculated risk, and every new step on our journey toward personal growth like a hungry lion. It triggers the same sense of panic as if we were about to get eaten.


 

A great way to hear past the fear is to momentarily put panic and worry on a shelf, and focus on possibility instead.

 

Finding a way to mute the fear for a minute and visualize what it would feel like on the other side of doing the thing can go a long way. It can remind you why this is a leap worth taking, and motivate you think creatively about how you might get there.

Believing that alternative reality is both possible and worthwhile can help you stop asking “if,” and start asking “how.”

The good news is, you don’t have to make those big changes all at once! All you need is one small, clear first step — and the bravery to take it.

One small, intentional, brave action is often all it takes to completely shift your mindset; and that shift can set a whole new tone for your day, which can propel you into a place where you feel more powerful and more ready to take some bigger chances on yourself.

It has to start somewhere, and below are a handful of my favorite small, totally manageable, everyday steps you can take to start peeling away the layers fear and start feeling a new sense of hope and possibility.

10 Small Things You Can Do Today to Diffuse the Fear:

  1. Tackle a small, unrelated thing that you’ve been putting off. Feel that power.

  2. Try something new for the first time - something you choose for yourself on your own terms, that you’re genuinely excited to try. It might look like a new food, reaching out to a new coworker, learning a new skill, whatever feels good. Even if the thing doesn’t totally work out like you’d hoped, experience that liberation of trying it because you wanted to.

  3. Make a list of the bravest things you’ve done, that you can think of. It could be this week, or this month, or even this past year. Regardless, take the time to really look at it. Look at all those crazy big things you’ve done and lived to talk about, and marinate in how awesome that is.

  4. Break up one daunting task you’ve dreading into smaller steps, and then tackle one of them. Just one. Give yourself permission to stop there for today.

  5. Replace negative talk with positive talk in your everyday conversations. Instead of giving yourself permission to wield negative words against others or against yourself, consciously make the choice to pause, and find something positive to say (something you really mean) instead of that negative thing. Say it out loud.  Notice how if feels.

  6. Try saying “no” to something small, where you might normally go with a begrudging “ok, fine.”

  7. Try saying “yes” to something small, where you might otherwise opt out and wonder if it was the right choice.

  8. Take charge of your morning, and fill it with more of what makes you feel good - it can play a huge role in setting a positive, empowering tone for the rest of your day.

  9. See if you can move your fear to the back burner for a minute, and picture your ‘what if’ scenario. Put pen to paper and get specific about what the ‘other side’ of a big change you’ve been contemplating looks like, and how it feels. Just write it out.

  10. If you’re on the fence about doing something bold, talk it out with a friend. Saying the thing out loud and putting it out into the universe will make it feel more real and more possible, and that alone can help clear the fog.


A question for you

Is there a change or a choice that’s been weighing on you, where you’ve been struggling with whether or not to take action? Which of these are you willing to try this week to ignite some courage? Do you have any other go-to methods for peeling away the fear of doing? Let me know below, or shoot me a note and let’s chat about it.