Dealing with FEAR
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Life Coaching brings an external resource to your aid.
It offers a framework that helps us to maintain focus and positive energy - to make better life choices.
That's why coaching works so well.
But you can achieve some of the benefits by applying coaching principles for yourself.
Here's my 4-step system for you to use:
1. Magic Wand
Set aside fear and doubts and pick up your magic wand.
Decide what's going to happen when you waive it - what do you want?
Ignore "reality" and suspend disbelief.
Stop being "realistic"!
Realize that your magic wand will make all fears unfounded - ask yourself what you would have if you knew you could not fail and that no harm would come to you - with complete certainty.
Take time over this.
By de-coupling fear and limiting beliefs in this way, you can connect with what you really want - not just with what you suppose you might be able to have - "things being what they are".
Now you have your dream.
Actually, there's lots of work you can do to make sure you have the right one, but this is good enough for now in the space available. Write it down, and do not permit yourself to downgrade it!
Consider it a tablet of stone.
Now you have your immutable dream, re-connect your fears and "what you know about the world".
List the fears you have incomplete detail and with complete honesty.
Include the things that you would never dream of admitting to anyone else.
Write them out in full - don't just jot a couple of words. For example, don't write "fear of public speaking" write "I cannot speak in public because I fear that I will make a dreadfully embarrassing mistake and that people will openly laugh in my face, and I will become hysterical and cry, then leave the stage in tears". Go on - go nuts!
Now look at your list of fears, but from an external perspective - pretend someone else wrote them, and they've asked you - as a wise friend - for your feedback.
For each fear, assess its rationality.
In many cases, you'll find yourself smiling at how unrealistic the fears are.
Others will still seem real enough.
Give each fear a score from 1 to 10 - where 1 means this fear has evaporated and 10 means it's still very frightening.
This exercise will give you a much more rational assessment of your living space, and of your potential for change.
4. Start Walking
Here's a hard part, and it's one where your coach is invaluable.
You have to act in ways that your fears will not like.
You have to do stuff you just don't do. This is where choice is your enemy and compulsion would be your friend.
Weekly coaching sessions are - among other things - a mild form of pressure or compulsion, but you can emulate this by fixing a meeting with yourself once a week.
Put a date and time in your diary and don't over-book it.
Get yourself a quiet venue.
In your meeting, evaluate your new dream and look at what you did last week, and what you're going to do next week to make it happen.
Feel the fears, and recognize their power.
Then recognize that fears are False Expectations Appearing Real - crush them and do what needs doing anyway.
This will feel wrong.
You'll resist it strongly, but give it all you've got.
Coaches have a raft of tools to help here and an impartial external perspective.
But you can meet up with a friend who is also trying to make something wonderful happen, and you can buddy each other.
If you can find a group of 3 or more - that's OK too.
(my coaching circles are a great way to do this, by the way - and see the teleseminars item on the left).
Remember that permanently changing your life is a significant project, requiring a degree of discomfort, lots of action, some failure, and huge determination over time.
All of these are reasons why we fail so often - and reasons why people with coaches do so much better.
But with this 4-step system and especially with your own support group around you, you can make it happen.
5 Habits of Highly Self-Aware People
You won’t find happiness or success unless you find yourself first
In a recent podcast interview with Tim Ferris, Brene Brown made a fascinating claim: The reason there’s so much hate and unhappiness in the world is that people lack self-awareness.
It’s a bold statement, but the reasoning behind it is solid:
- We all experience pains and traumas of one kind or another as children, leaving us vulnerable and afraid.
- To protect ourselves, we develop ‘emotional armor’ in the form of psychological defense mechanisms. We use sarcasm, for example, to avoid being vulnerable.
- Even though these defense mechanisms may have been useful at a young age, by the time we reach adulthood, their side effects are seriously sabotaging our lives in the form of broken relationships, addictions, narcissism, and even violence.
- These unhelpful behaviors persist and grow because we don’t see them. And so we plod along in a daze of unhappy denial, continuing to make ourselves and the people around us miserable.
Even if you were fortunate enough not to have suffered any major traumas as a child, everybody has vulnerabilities, insecurities, and emotional blind spots.
And at a certain point, it’s impossible to grow into higher levels of happiness and success if those insecurities — and the defense mechanisms resulting from them — go unaddressed.
As Tim Ferris said in his interview with Brene:
You’re going to suffer either way. The only question is whether you do it in the darkness or in the light. While facing up to the bright light of self-awareness isn’t easy, it’s possible for anyone. Because…
Fundamentally, self-awareness isn’t a trait you’re born with; it’s a set of habits you can learn to cultivate.
In my work as a psychologist, I get to see the full spectrum of self-awareness — from primitive denial to hard-earned self-reflection and wisdom.
And among those who have achieved a high level of self-awareness, I’ve observed a handful of common habits and practices.
In the rest of this article, we’ll look at these 5 habits of highly self-aware people and learn how we can cultivate them in our own lives.
Whether your goal is to achieve a little more happiness and peace of mind in your life or bolster your performance and effectiveness in your work, improving your self-awareness is key.
1. They listen more than they talk.
When it comes to self-awareness, you can’t simply think your way into it.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with deliberate self-reflection.
In fact, it probably will facilitate self-awareness to a degree.
But it won’t be sufficient for building self-awareness because we’re social creatures who learn primarily through each other.
From babbling out our first words as toddlers to graduating from college, most of our learning happens socially — toddlers imitate their parents just as students imitate their mentors and advisors. Even the notion of the solitary sage, alone in a tower studying dusty tomes is actually highly social — books are other people’s voices and ideas made permanent!
The quest for self-knowledge is a fundamentally social endeavor.
But simply being around other people won’t do the trick.
True self-awareness comes from genuine interaction with other people, from the conversation.
But to get there you need to be able to listen.
To really listen.
And real listening can be a surprisingly difficult thing to do.
The key to gaining meaningful self-awareness through listening is to manage your own thoughts during a conversation.
It’s hard to truly listen when you’re formulating your own ideas and only halfway paying attention to theirs.
This means building the habit of being a good listener is mostly about learning to undo unhelpful habits.
Practice letting go of your own narcissistic impulses and cultivating curiosity instead. Ironically, by bending your attention outward, you’re far more likely to stumble on something useful about yourself.
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
― Stephen R. Covey
2. They’re curious about their own minds.
Self-aware people have a habit of thinking about their own patterns of thought.
Just like a good scientist is curious about the world and lets their natural curiosity and observations guide later theorizing and experimentation, self-aware people have a curiosity about their own minds and inner world. For example:
- They find it curious that guilt was the first emotion they experienced after getting cut off on the freeway rather than anger or fear.
- They notice a pattern of pessimistic thinking in certain contexts and optimism in others.
- They wonder about the overarching beliefs that motivate their behaviors.
Now, before you rush to assume that maybe some people are just more curious and self-reflective, while others are more outward focused and practical, let me tell you a little bit about my work as a therapist…
My entire job description basically comes down to helping people become more curious about their inner lives.
Because when you’re curious you begin to see patterns, and when you see patterns you begin to understand, and once you really understand, only then is it possible to build lasting change.
Of course, some people do walk into my office with higher and lower levels of baseline self-curiosity. But most of them don’t have a ton of it.
And yet, we’re still able to make good progress because curiosity about oneself is something that can be built with time and practice.
The trick to cultivating self-curiosity is to realize that we’re all naturally curious — including about ourselves — but for many people, that innate curiosity has been suppressed by a competing habit of self-criticism.
It’s hard to be curious about yourself when you’re constantly judging yourself.
If you want to alleviate the overly-judgmental attitude toward your own mind and allow your natural curiosity to rise up, practice being more gentle with yourself.
Watch your habits of self-talk and practice re-framing the way you talk to yourself in gentler, more compassionate terms.
This doesn’t mean becoming irrationally positive and naive.
It’s about being realistic and kind to yourself.
It’s about treating yourself the same way you would treat a good friend: with gentleness and honesty.
Cultivate gentler self-talk and you’ll make space for your natural curiosity to take root. And greater self-awareness won’t be far behind.
The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.
3. They look for emotional blindspots.
We all have emotional blindspots — parts of our emotional lives that, because they’re especially painful, we tend to ignore.
Often, we’ve been ignoring them for so long that we don’t even know they’re blind spots.
Here’s an example:
I had a client once, we’ll call James.
James came to see me because he was getting into a lot of conflict at work but he didn’t know why.
He knew that things were tense at work and often people seemed to not want to work with him, but he wasn’t aware of any obvious reason.
In our first session, James told me (half sarcastically) that his boss had told him to be sure and mention his “passive-aggressive streak.”
I asked James what he thought of that and he simply shrugged his shoulders.
Over the next few meetings, it became clear to me that James was experiencing a lot of anger and frustration at work.
But interestingly, he wasn’t very aware of it.
He acknowledged getting “annoyed” from time to time, but he never once even used the word “angry” to describe himself at work — even though he was often describing a situation where almost anyone would probably acknowledge being angry.
I also learned that growing up James had an alcoholic father who used to rage and be violent when he was drinking.
After a few difficult conversations on the topic, James began to see that, because he was afraid of turning out like his dad, he had built up the habit of burying his anger — sometimes with sarcasm and humor, sometimes with distractions, and often by simply calling it by a different name like “stress” or “annoyed,” a common issue called intellectualized emotion.
To his credit, once James realized this connection — that avoiding anger was a leftover coping mechanism from childhood that was seriously impacting his life — he began making major changes. Most importantly, he acknowledged anger as an emotional blindspot and began proactively looking for it.
For example, anytime he caught himself describing how he felt as “annoyed” or “stressed,” he used that as a cue to ask whether there wasn’t really some stronger anger behind those descriptions.
Not only did this help James work out a lot of his issues on the job, but he reported with much pride and enthusiasm how it had helped in all sorts of other areas of his life.
In particular, he described how the habit of looking for emotional blindspots had helped him realize that he was also, to a lesser extent, avoiding anxiety in his relationship with his wife.
Whenever he felt anxious in the relationship, he had a habit of withdrawing and becoming distant, which was slowly taking a toll on his marriage.
But his newfound habit of looking for emotional blindspots lead him to this and he was able to work through it pretty quickly, the result being a surge in intimacy and satisfaction in his marriage.
It can be scary to even acknowledge that you have emotional blind spots, much less have the courage to face up to them and investigate them.
But the self-awareness and ultimately freedom that comes from doing so can be life-changing.
Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
― Carl Jung
4. They ask for feedback (and take it well).
People who are genuinely self-aware have the humility to understand that they can’t always see themselves objectively.
And that often the best way to be more objective about yourself is through the lens of other people.
The trick here is that there is no trick: If you want to see yourself through other people’s eyes you must ask.
It’s that simple.
- Are you frequently getting into conflict at work?
- Identify a co-worker whom you respect and ask for their honest opinion about the situation.
- Does your spouse keep telling you that you don’t listen? Ask someone else in your life you’re close to (parent, best friend, mentor) whether you can come across as not listening well.
- Or maybe the situation is more general: Maybe you just feel a little dissatisfied with your life and suspect that it has something to do with you but you can’t put your finger on it.
- Again, look for someone in your life who knows you well whom you respect, and ask them if they see any patterns or tendencies that could be a cause.
What gets in the way of most of us asking for good feedback is that we’re afraid of getting uncomfortable news: We’re afraid to hear that we’re not as good a salesman (or lover) as we think.
Asking for feedback isn’t rocket science.
But it is scary.
The most direct way through this fear is to ask yourself straight-up: Would I rather have a small but forceful blast of criticism now or years and decades of nagging self-doubt and underhanded criticism that comes from avoiding facing my shortcomings?
But even if you steel yourself and decide to ask for honest feedback, you have to be ready to take it well.
And taking feedback well means managing your defensiveness.
No matter how self-aware or emotionally mature you think you are, getting criticism always hurts.
And anytime we get hurt — physically or emotionally — we tend to do one of two things: fight or flee. Either we try to overwhelm our own painful feeling by making the other person look bad (fight) or we dismiss their feedback out of hand as invalid (flee).
In either case, we’re doing ourselves a double disservice:
- You’re not really thinking about and absorbing the feedback. And if you’re not doing that, well, what’s the point!
- When you get defensive, you teach other people that you can’t take criticism well. This means that in the future when there’s a piece of feedback you really need, people in your life are more likely to either withhold that feedback or lie and say something to make you feel better because they’re afraid of you getting defensive
To sum up, one of the best ways to learn more about yourself and improve self-awareness is to get objective feedback from other people.
But in order to do this, you must be willing to tolerate the discomfort of receiving criticism and work to avoid defensiveness at all costs.
You can’t achieve excellence in life if you fear opinion.
― Janna Cachola
5. They reflect on their values.
Highly self-aware people have a habit of regularly reflecting on and considering their values.
While they’re always trying to be aware of what they might be unconsciously avoiding, they’re also striving to be clear about what they want to move toward.
But this can be surprisingly difficult…
For one thing, it’s easy to move toward things that look and feel important or valuable but may not be, perhaps because the tradeoffs would be too great:
- Chasing the next promotion or salary bump at work, even though it means spending even less time with your family and friends.
- Enrolling in grad school (and taking out another $80K in student loans) because you’re not sure what else to do and your parents will be impressed because, hey, more education!
- Buying that new iPhone because it’s awesome and surely it will make you more productive even though you’re not saving for retirement at all.
The point is, the line between genuine values and false values can be surprisingly thin.
And even if it is clear, the gravity of immediate wants and desires is often far stronger than that of long-term values and aspirations.
All of which means…
It’s essential to regularly clarify what we’re really chasing after in life.
I had a client once who, in order to make sure her marriage was healthy and going in the right direction, created a little ritual with her husband:
Each year on their anniversary, they went out to a nice dinner and checked in with each other about A) what they thought was going really well in their relationship,
B) what they thought needed work, and
C) what their dreams together were.
It’s a great example of a small but powerful habit that increases self-awareness about values and has a real, measurable impact on quality of life.
If this whole discussion of reflecting on your values sounds lofty and complex and maybe a little intimidating, start with a bucket list.
Set aside half an hour some Saturday morning and sit down with a nice cup of coffee or tea, a pen, and a blank sheet of paper.
And just start jotting down things you’d love to accomplish or learn or do or generally dream about.
This is a great exercise to prime the pump on values clarification and gets you thinking more about what’s really important to you in life.
In fact, just being aware of your values and reflecting on them from time to time is a huge step toward realizing them.
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.
― Michelangelo Buonarroti
All you need to know
Lasting happiness and success require self-awareness.
If you aren’t aware of the emotional baggage and blind spots holding you back, how can you hope to achieve your potential?
Thankfully, self-awareness is a skill that can be cultivated with practice and good habits:
Listen more than you talk.
Glad To Be Alive The Path To Adulthood – Healing The Pain Becoming The Adult Overcoming Loneliness – Part Two How To Overcome Loneliness How We End Up In Misery How To Deal With Loneliness Emotional Abuse Test Emotional Health – What Millions Still Don’t Know Emotional Insecurity Help You Have Emotion You Have Beliefs You Have Choice You Are Enough You Are Loved You Have A Heart
EMOTIONAL HEALTH –
EMOTIONAL HEALING –
A fusion of thought and feeling that expands your consciousness.
Our character is often most evident at our highs and lows. Be humble at the mountaintops, be strong in the valleys, and be faithful in between.
Why are we feeling this way—so beaten up and worn down?
Why do we, who start out so passionate, courageous, worthy, and believing, become utterly bankrupt by the youthful age of 30, 40, or 50?
Why is it that one of us drowns in material consumption and debt, another self-mutilates, a third seeks oblivion in hard liquor and gambling, a fourth, in order to stifle fear and judgment, cynically tramples and berates her own individuality, intelligence, and priceless youth?
Why is it that, once fallen, we don’t attempt to rise back up?
Or, having lost one thing, why don’t we attempt to seek another?
Why? Why? Why!!!
Because we give up on ourselves too soon.
We let that monster named negativity chew us up and spit us out into a murky puddle of self-doubt.
And we’ve all been there at some point too. So, if you can relate right now, here are some important reminders to keep handy…
- When your marriage, parenting, faith, etc. gets tough, it’s not a sign that you’re doing it wrong. These intimate, intricate aspects of life are toughest when you’re doing them right – when you’re dedicating time, having tough conversations, and making daily sacrifices.
- On particularly hard days when you feel that you can’t endure, remind yourself that your track record for getting through hard days is 100% so far.
- Have a little faith that the universe has a plan for you, and it’s all being revealed in the right time frame. Something you will eventually learn through all your ups and downs is that there are really no wrong decisions in life, just choices that will take your life down different paths. Sometimes you must get hurt in order to grow, or lose in order to gain. Sometimes the lesson you need most can only be learned through a little pain.
- Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
- Life is not about maintaining the status quo. Life is not about playing it safe every second. Life is not about standing still and wallowing in self-doubt. It’s about connecting with your soul, respecting your integrity, and telling yourself that you’re able. It’s about taking a few steps, regardless of how hard and small they may be, so you can move forward and evolve. (Read Daring Greatly.)
- You must make a firm decision that you’re going to move forward. It won’t always happen naturally or automatically. Sometimes you will have to rise up and say, “I don’t care how hard this is. I don’t care how disappointed I am. I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.”
- No matter what’s happening, you CAN efficiently fight the battles of today. It’s only when you add the battles of those two relentless eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that life gets overwhelmingly complicated. Realize that it’s not the experience of today by itself that devastates you, but the regret and resentment about something that happened yesterday or the fear and dread of what tomorrow might bring. It’s necessary, therefore, to let yourself live just one day at a time – just today – just right here, right now.
- When you stop worrying about what you can’t control, you have time to change the things you can control. And that changes everything.
- Don’t worry about mistakes and failures, worry about what you’re giving up when you don’t even try.
- Making mistakes means you’re actually DOING something in the real world and learning from it. Listening or reading is often just listening or reading. It’s not real learning. Real learning comes from making mistakes. And mistakes come from gradual implementation.
- If you never go after it again, you’ll never have it. If you never ask again, the answer will always be no. If you never step forward again, you’re stuck right where you are.
- In the space between “I’ll try again” and “I give up” there’s a lifetime. It’s the difference between the path you walk and the one you leave behind; it’s the gap between who you are capable of being and who you have become; its the legroom for the fairy tales you’ll tell yourself in the future about what could have been.
- Everyone has a little talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it into the dark places where it leads, and beyond. (Marc and I discuss this in detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Courage doesn’t always roar; sometimes it’s simply a whisper at the end of the day that says, “I’ll try again tomorrow.”
- If you’re still sitting there thinking, “Things should be different right now,” take a deep breath. That’s not true and you know it. Because if it were true, things would be different right now. Stay present and focus on what you can create today. And tomorrow will reveal itself exactly as it should, just as yesterday already has.
Now, it’s your turn…
It’s your turn to reinforce your better judgment.
All the love and validation you need is yours to give yourself.
Let that sink in.
Then leverage the reminders above as needed to let it sink in even deeper.
Truth be told, someday everything will make better sense.
Unimaginably good things will transpire in your life, even if things don’t turn out exactly the way you anticipated.
And you’ll look back at these past times, smile, and ask yourself, “How did I get through all of that?”
So take a deep breath right now.
If somebody is working on themselves and changing for the better, it’s unnecessary to keep bringing up their past.
People can change and grow.
You know this is true.
But, have you given yourself a fair chance recently to change and grow, too?
Have you consciously loosened your grip on everything that’s behind you, so you can step forward again with grace?
If you’re shaking your head, you aren’t alone.
I know exactly how you feel.
I’ve been there myself, and I know dozens of others in the same boat.
At times, we all fall victim to our attachments.
And sometimes we don’t even realize we’re blocking our own present blessings by holding on to the past. Do your best to realize this right now…
Growth is painful.
Change is painful.
But in the end, nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere in the past.
Let me share a quick true story with you…
When Our Old Stories Hold Us Back
She rarely makes eye contact.
Instead, she looks down at the ground.
Because the ground is safer.
Because, unlike people, it expects nothing in return.
She doesn’t have to feel ashamed about her past.
The ground just accepts her for who she is right now.
As she sits at the bar next to me, she stares down at her vodka tonic, and then the ground, and then her vodka tonic.
“Most people don’t get me,” she says.
“They ask me questions like,
‘What’s your problem?’ or
‘Were you beaten as a child?’
But I never respond.
Because I don’t feel like explaining myself.
And I don’t think they really care anyway.”
Just then, a young man sits down at the bar on the opposite side of her.
He’s a little drunk, and says, “You’re pretty.
May I buy you a drink?”
She stays silent and looks back down at the ground.
After an awkward moment, he accepts the rejection, gets up, and walks away.
“Would you prefer that I leave too?”
“No,” she says without glancing upward. “
But I could use some fresh air.
You don’t have to come, but you can if you want to.”
I follow her outside and we sit on a street curb in front of the bar.
“Brrr… it’s a really chilly night!”
“Tell me about it,” she says while maintaining her usual downward gaze.
The warm vapor from her breath cuts through the cold air and bounces off of the ground in front of her.
“So why are you out here with me?
I mean, wouldn’t you rather be inside in the warmth, talking to normal people about normal things?”
“I’m out here because I want to be.
Because I’m not normal.
And look, I can see my breath, and we’re in San Diego.
That’s not normal either.
Oh, and you’re wearing old Airwalk sneakers, and so am I—which may have been normal in 1994, but not anymore.”
She glances up at me and smirks, this time exhaling her breath upward into the moonlight.
“I see you’re wearing a ring.
You’re married, right?”
“Yeah,” I reply.
“My wife, Angel, is just getting off work now and heading here to meet me for dinner.”
She nods her head and then looks back at the ground.
“Well, you’re off the market… and safe, I guess.
So can I tell you a story?”
As she speaks, her emotional gaze shifts from the ground, to my eyes, to the moonlit sky, to the ground, and back to my eyes again.
This rotation continues in a loop for the duration of her story.
And every time her eyes meet mine she holds them there for a few seconds longer than she did on the previous rotation.
I don’t interject once.
I listen to every word.
And I assimilate the raw emotion present in the tone of her voice and in the depth of her eyes.
When she finishes, she says, “Well, now you know my story. You think I’m a freak, don’t you?”
“Place your right hand on your chest,” I tell her.
“Do you feel something?”
“Yeah, I feel my heartbeat.”
“Now close your eyes, place both your hands on your face, and move them around slowly.”
“What do you feel now?”
“Well, I feel my eyes, my nose, my mouth…
I feel my face.”
“That’s right,” I reply.
“But unlike you, stories don’t have heartbeats, and they don’t have faces.
Because stories are not alive—they’re not people.
They’re just stories.”
She stares into my eyes for a prolonged moment, smiles sincerely, and says, “Just stories we live through.”
“Yeah… And stories we learn from.”
Lessons We Learn as We Let Go
The woman from the story above became one of our very first students when Angel and I opened the doors to the original version of the Getting Back to Happy Course nearly a decade ago, and she’s now a good friend of ours too.
She has learned and applied many remarkable lessons over the years that ultimately allowed her to let go of her heartbreaking past—her heartbreaking story—and move forward with her life.
And last night, I sat down with her over a glass of wine and had an in-depth, soul-centered conversation about what she has learned over the years.
I’m sharing her story and lessons with you today, with full permission, because I know we all struggle in similar ways.
Here are four key, actionable lessons we discussed…
1. You can have a heartbreaking story from the past, without letting it rule your present.
In the present moment, we all have some kind of pain: anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, regret, etc.
Notice this pain within yourself, watch it closely, and see that it’s caused by whatever story you have in your head about what happened in the past (either in the recent past or in the distant past).
Your mind might insist that the pain you feel is caused by what happened (not by the story in your head about it), but what happened in the past is NOT happening right now.
It has passed.
But the pain is still happening right now because of the story you’ve been subconsciously telling yourself about that past incident.
Note that “story” does not mean “fake story.”
It also does not mean “true story.”
The word “story” in the context of your self-evaluation doesn’t have to imply true or false, positive or negative, or any other kind of forceful judgment call.
It’s simply a process that’s happening inside your head:
- You are remembering something that happened.
- You subconsciously perceive yourself as a victim of this incident.
- Your memory of what happened causes a strong emotion in you.
So just notice what story you have, without judging it, and without judging yourself.
It’s natural to have a story; we all have stories.
See yours for what it is.
And see that it’s causing you pain.
Then take a deep breath and another…
Inner peace begins the moment you take these deep breaths and choose not to allow the past to rule your present thoughts and emotions.
2. A big part of letting go is simply realizing there’s nothing to hold on to in the first place.
All of the things from our past that we desperately try to hold on to, as if they’re real, solid, everlasting fixtures in our lives, aren’t really there.
Or if they are there in some form, they’re changing, fluid, impermanent, or simply imagined storylines in our minds.
Life gets a lot easier to deal with the moment we understand this.
Imagine you’re blindfolded and treading water in the center of a large swimming pool, and you’re struggling desperately to grab the edge of the pool that you think is nearby, but really it’s not—it’s far away.
Trying to grab that imaginary edge is stressing you out, and tiring you out, as you splash around aimlessly trying to hold on to something that isn’t there.
Now imagine you pause, take a deep breath, and realize that there’s nothing nearby to hold on to. Just water around you.
You can continue to struggle with grabbing at something that doesn’t exist… or you can accept that there’s only water around you, relax, and float.
Today, I challenge you to ask yourself:
- What’s something from the past that you are still desperately trying to hold on to?
- How is it affecting you in the present?
Then imagine the thing you’re trying to hold on to doesn’t really exist. Envision yourself letting go… and just floating.
How might that change your life from this moment forward?
3. The subtle pain you continue to feel can be healed through compassion for those suffering alongside you.
When we’re still working through a painful experience from the past, it’s easy to feel like we’re going through it alone—as no one else could possibly understand how we feel.
In a way, we subconsciously place ourselves at the center of the universe and see everything that happened exclusively from the viewpoint of how it affects us personally, without regard for anyone else.
But as we grow through our pain and gradually broaden our horizons, we begin to see that our self-centered thinking is only fueling our misery.
And we realize that shifting our focus onto others for a while can help.
It’s one of life’s great paradoxes: when we serve others, we end up benefiting as much if not more than those we serve.
So whenever you feel pain from the past trying to suck you back in, shift your focus from your circumstances to the circumstances of those near and far.
The simplest way of doing this at any given moment?
Practice letting your breath be an anchor for global healing…
Breathe in whatever painful feeling you’re feeling, and breathe out relief from that pain for everyone in the world who is suffering alongside you.
- If you’re feeling grief, breathe in all the grief of the world… then breathe out peace.
- If you’re feeling anger, breathe in all the anger of the world… then breathe out forgiveness.
- If you’re feeling regretful, breathe in all the regret of the world… then breathe out gratitude for the good times.
- Do this for a minute or two as often as you need to, imagining all the pain of those near and far coming in with each breath, and then a feeling of compassion and reconciliation radiating out to all of those who are in pain as you breathe out.
Instead of running from your past and the pain it caused you, you’re embracing it… you’re letting yourself absorb it.
And you’re thinking of others as well, which gets you out of that miserable, self-centered mindset trap.
4. There is always, always, always something to be thankful for in the present.
Even when your past—your story—tries to pull you back in, you can consciously do your best to focus on your present blessings.
What do you see in your life right now?
Be thankful for it all.
For your health, your family, your friends, and your home.
Many people don’t have these things.
Also, remind yourself that the richest human isn’t the one who has the most, but the one who needs less.
Wealth is a mindset.
Want less and appreciate more today.
Easier said than done of course, but with practice, it does get easier.
And as you practice, you transform your past struggles into present moments of freedom.
Ultimately, happiness is letting go of what you assume your life is supposed to be like right now and sincerely appreciating it for everything that it is.
At the end of this day, before you close your eyes, smile and be at peace with where you’ve been and grateful for what you have. Life is good.
Again, the lessons above take practice to fully grasp in real-time, because oftentimes we don’t even realize we’re blocking our own present blessings by holding on to the past.
So just do your best to bring awareness to this—to practice diligently—so you can gradually let go. Keep reminding yourself…
- You are not your bad days
- You are not your mistakes
- You are not your scars
- You are not your past
Be here now and breathe.
- it captures three elemental things about the human condition:
1. How FEAR keeps us in small lives
2. How COMPULSION is an audacious way to overcome fear.
3. How our fears turn out to be unfounded
For me, this is very powerful stuff, and it sums up what I see most in my coaching practice.
What keeps many of us in small lives is fear. And what lies beyond those small lives is not what we're afraid of - but wonderful things - among them the realisation that we ourselves are wonderful. But the fence of fear is often real enough to keep us in the small lives and away from the wonderful ones for all of the years we live.
Have you ever heard about this acronym of FEAR?
I like it, and the next time you feel fear, I suggest you recite it to yourself.
The fears which keep us where we do not generally reflect reality - they reflect the internal models of reality we hold in our heads.
They don't really exist - so we are held captive by imaginary walls.
African lions, tigers, and elephants are caught by men holding up large sheets of cloth.
The animals see those sheets as impenetrable walls, and so feel they have nowhere to run except into the waiting cages.
If those animals knew about the nature of the cotton walls, their actions, and their outcomes would be entirely different! But they don't know - and their fear prevents them from finding out.
So - fear is a hugely powerful limiter on our actions and our lives.
So - what's to be done?
Well, the second element I drew from the quote was a compulsion, and it's an interesting one.
This is not normally a tool we use on adults to help them out, but in the quote - fear was overcome by the removal of choice.
He pushed them!
He removed their choice to stand back in fear of falling, and he pushed them out of their comfort zone, and into the unknown.
Once there, they discovered that their fears were unfounded - and that they had wings.
But their own resources would not have allowed them to make that discovery alone - because they were ruled by fear. An external resource was necessary to make the jump - literally.
Of course, we do use compulsion - or something very close - on adults in their lives to make them accomplish big things.
Think of your job.
Do you have any real choice about showing up each morning?
Can you leave when you like?
If the phone rings - can you safely ignore it?
When your boss gives you a new task to do - do you have the option to decline it?
Conventional employment amounts to a large and sturdy framework in which you - the employee - are compelled to behave in numerous ways in order to accomplish what they pay you for.
This is why you accomplish so much at work - you can't do otherwise and expect to keep your job.
Of course, you may enjoy it - in parts at least - but it is the removal of choice which keeps you focused on the task at hand for eight hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year - and for 30 years or more.
Now that's an impressive investment!
Compare that to your efforts at building a better life for yourself.
You have limited time, many other pressures and there is no compulsion.
We have choices - and we tend to choose not to do a whole raft of things that would turn our lives around.
This doesn't make us evil, of course - it makes us busy human beings in a modern world.
- Take time out. It's impossible to think clearly when you're flooded with fear or anxiety. ...
- Breathe through panic. If you start to get a faster heartbeat or sweating palms, the best thing is not to fight it. ...
- Face your fears. ...
- Imagine the worst. ...
- Look at the evidence. ...
- Don't try to be perfect. ...
- Visualise a happy place. ...
- Talk about it.
- A: Accept the anxiety. Don't try to fight it.
- W: Watch the anxiety. Just watch it and when you notice it, scale your level of fear and start to breathe longer on the out-breath.
- A: Stands for 'Act normally'. ...
- R: Repeat the above steps in your mind if necessary.
- E: Expect the best.
- Practice stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness meditation or aerobic exercise.
- Shift your focus to the positive emotions in daily life.
- Work to identify meaning and purpose in your life.
- Get support from others.
- Go for a walk or run in a park.
- Awareness. Before you can begin overcoming fear, you have to be aware that your fears are causing havoc in your life. ...
- Identify. Get specific about what exactly you're afraid of. ...
- Curiosity. ...
- The Now. ...
- EFT. ...
- Sedona Method. ...
- The Work. ...
- Stay open to all possibilities. Let go of outcomes. ...
- Embrace change. Even change that appears negative. ...
- 3. Make plans, but make them loosely. ...
- Write a mission statement. ...
- Find mentors. ...
- Challenge yourself. ...
- Think big. ...
- Create partnerships.
- Reset your mind by focusing on another sensation, like the feel of the ground under your feet.
- Ask yourself if your negative thoughts are rational.
- Breathe deeply, starting at the bottom of your stomach.
- Find a quiet space and talk to yourself, using calming and encouraging words.
Coping with Fear: Face It, Understand It, Overcome It
How lessons from Buddhism and literature can help us overcome our fears.
Posted Aug 24, 2017
A number of years ago, halfway up a forty-foot ranger tower, I discovered my fear of heights. One minute I was busily chatting with one of my daughters as we trudged up the wooden steps.
I paused for a breath, looked around, and realized we were high above the treetops.
There was nothing between us and the ground but some weathered wooden posts.
The next moment I was unable to move.
This was my first and thankfully last experience of being sideswiped by a fear reaction so intense it turned my legs to stone.