When Henry Ford said “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eye off your goal” he was right. While some delight in constant change, when challenged to try something new, the first thing many of us feel is fear. Call it fear of failure. Or fear of the unknown. Or fear of missing out. A knot in the stomach or a dry mouth. Why question it? Plain old fear of we don’t know what can be enough.
As readers of The Inner Critic Advantage know, those feelings are usually simple early warning signs. Despite hoping for and planning on delight, your inner knower (in some circles known as your B.S. detector) is responsible for freaking out. Remember, its job is to ask “Are we really ready for this?” “Are we going to mess up?” “Are we going to DIE????” (Yeah, that part of the brain can be a tad bit dramatic from time to time.) Truth is, sometimes we might not be ready for the goal we’ve set.
At this point, there’s often a temptation to point at an obstacle and adopt it as a shield. After all, that big, hairy, scary obstacle is an excuse that any of our family or friends would accept. Nobody has to choose voluntary growth or change — there’s enough that life throws at us in other ways.
To Honor That Inner Voice
It’s not always easy to remember that fear is a normal emotion. It serves a purpose. Nevertheless, we don’t have to allow it to keep us from chasing our dreams and tackling big goals. But to honor that inner voice we may need to take smaller steps. I like to imagine facing fears like crossing a brook or a river — choosing smooth, flat stones to get across without a dramatic ‘kerschplatt!’
Regular readers know I’m a big fan of solving the right problem. Defining the right problem combined with the way we talk to ourselves offers a great starting point.
When facing a big change I often ask, “Can I do the mud run with my friend?” That’s usually a trigger for that inner critic to tell me ‘no’ in a dozen different ways. I experienced that when a friend invited me to participate in a 5K mud run. I made the mistake of wondering, “Can I do this?” I live with a chronic pain condition and the part of my brain that houses my survival mechanisms started screaming at me. “No, no, no, no, no.”
I really wanted to participates so I brought out the heavy artillery: I gave my brain a new question to chew on.
“How CAN I do the mud run with my friend?”
Raining Down Ideas
The tension immediately started to dissipate so I tossed it another version of the same question: “What needs to happen between now and February so that I can manage the mud run?”
Guess what? That formerly freaked out brain started raining down suggestions that would help get those obstacles out of the way. By opening up to the idea that “x” (in this case x = mud run) is possible, the big, lumbering, less conscious part of the brain goes to work on finding solutions.
Adding one simple word moved me out of anxiety and into solutions. How. That one simple, lovely word opened doors to trying something new, making new friends, and having a whole lot of fun.
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