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Living Scared

Living Scared

Sometimes the answers to our problems are not nearly as complex or elusive as many of us seem to believe they are. Or as difficult as some of us make them. Sometimes our problems only exist in our head. Sometimes the journey from where we are to where we’d like to be is not nearly as terrifying as we imagine it is. In fact, it’s often kind of exhilarating and liberating.

Living Scared

Prison

That’s right; some of us make life hard. Our inability to make certain decisions or do certain things keeps us trapped in a reality that we don’t enjoy. Hate, in fact. And standing at the door of our self-created prison is a gate-keeper who only exists in our mind; fear. While other people can walk in and out of our prison (reality) at will, fear has kept some of us from freedom for far too long – telling us what to do, and what not to do, for as long as we can remember. Influencing, if not controlling virtually every area of our lives. For years we’ve been fearful of getting hurt in some way, fearful of getting fat, or being unloved, unwanted, poor, humiliated, of upsetting people or being discovered for the fraud we believe we are. And we’re petrified of being alone. We’ve lived so much of our life negatively, simply doing our best to avoid the ‘bad stuff’ and to survive, that somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost, or maybe never even really found, us; the us we still want to be, the us we could be and the us we’ve dreamed about since we were five.

It’s okay, you’re still in there.

Sometimes the seemingly insurmountable gap between our current reality and our own version of amazing (prison and freedom) is much smaller than we think. Much, much smaller. A mere step away in fact. With the only challenge being that sometimes the step we need to take is a doozy; the ‘no safety net’ step. And we love safety nets – that’s a big part of the problem.

Fear is a jealous gate-keeper and he wants you staying put in your make-believe prison. That’s how he operates. He doesn’t want you to see what’s out there, what’s possible for you. He can’t keep you in there but only he knows that. He’s been holding a pair of threes while you’ve had four aces in your hand for years, but he’s bluffed you every time. Stared you down, made you believe something that wasn’t true – that what you have in your hand isn’t good enough. Well listen up…

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It is good enough. You are good enough.

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This is not feel-good, positive thinking mumbo jumbo, its reality. But you need to make it YOUR reality. Fear doesn’t want you making decisions, taking chances or exploring your potential because that’s where he loses his power. He doesn’t want you hanging out with those ‘positive thinking’ types and he certainly doesn’t want you paying too much attention to articles like this one.

Healthy and unhealthy fear

Of course there’s a time to fear. If someone is pointing a gun at you and you are fearful, then that makes you normal, not gutless. We would call that healthy fear. But that’s not what we’re talking about today. Today we’re talking about the unhealthy, destructive and often irrational fear that controls and ruins lives.

Fearful creatures

People often ask me what I believe stops so many of us from fulfilling our potential and from creating our best life. In truth, there are many things on the list of likely obstacles: procrastination, laziness, ignorance, indifference, ego and a bunch of other stuff, but without doubt, at the top of most lists, is fear.

It’s true; we humans are fearful creatures. On some level we all operate on fear from time to time, and to a point, that’s understandable. Wise even. But beyond a point, it’s stupid. Destructive even. It’s about knowing where that line in the sand should be and staying on the right side. A little fear – good. A life controlled by fear – bad. Painful.

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Far too many of our significant ‘life decisions’ come out of our fearful mindset, and as a consequence, many of us live a life of compromise, under-achievement and imprisonment. And repetition. And repetition. It’s like some of us are Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. And repetition. All of our days are just like the ones before. And sadly for some, tomorrow will be the same too. Because that’s what we do; the same – even though we desperately want different. The journey between where we are and where we want to be scares the crap out of us so we stay put. In Samesville. A.K.A. prison.

“I don’t really like my life right now, but at least there’s a level of familiarity and predictability about it. I know what’s coming each day and in a way, I’m comfortable with that. It doesn’t particularly fulfill me but it doesn’t terrify me either. So if it’s okay with you, I’ll stay here in a holding pattern for forty or fifty years and then I’ll die, just like dear old Dad did. There won’t be a whole lot of joy or fun, but at least I know what to expect each day.”

Tug War

We love certainty (a dangerous thing to love in a uncertain world), we’re addicted to safety, we seek familiarity and we want risk-free (good luck with that). Ironically certainty, safety, familiarity and risk-free… is not where we grow, learn, adapt, change or improve. Or find our best life. In fact, quite often the things that we gravitate towards are our biggest handicap.

I have spent a lifetime watching people complicate the simple, avoid the obvious and not do the very things they should or could have done, long ago. Some people have been almost creating their best life for far too long. Some people have been standing at the threshold of greatness for years, twiddling their thumbs, wasting their time and talent and hoping in vain that success might somehow find it’s way to them. An interesting, if not totally unrealistic notion.

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Some people have been in situations or circumstances that they really don’t want to be in, for years. Decades even. This is because they associate more discomfort / pain with getting out of their current reality, than staying in it. So they stay. Miserable and scared.

Some Personal Development Junkies are masters of this. Just one more workshop, one more conversation, one more mentoring session, one more self-help book and just one more day and then I’ll do it. Okay, maybe two more days. Sadly, they don’t understand that what they really need is not more time, books, workshops or more motivational fluff, what they really need is some balls. Excuse my honesty but some people are highly educated, very capable, extremely talented and gutless. I’ve met many of them. Give me someone with less talent, less opportunities, more adversity and some genuine courage, and I’ll show you how to get some real results.

I know this is not a message that’s often taught in personal development circles but I believe that’s a big mistake. I believe it should be shouted from the roof tops. We like to gravitate towards the feel-good (but mostly useless and disempowering) psycho-babble crap. It makes us feel warm and fuzzy for ten minutes but results in no long term positive change. Of course I believe there is a time for listening, for handing holding, for back rubbing, for hugging and for loving support and encouragement. The problem is, some people have had all of that for years and they’re STILL in the same place and still doing the same destructive things. Sometimes more therapy ain’t the answer. I know that’s not a popular thing to say but it’s true. There’s a time when some people need to suck it up, to stop looking for pity, to stop being a victim and start taking control of their own life. Simple.

Courage

Prison Door

So often we are taught that creating our best life is about talent, opportunities, planning, goal setting, vision, passion, discipline and a bunch of other stuff. And to an extent it is; it’s about all of those things. But there’s one non-negotiable ingredient that doesn’t get the attention it should; courage. Our ability to do what we need to do, despite the fear. If we have all of the ingredients but no courage, we’ll never get there. Wherever there is for us.

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Fear and all it’s implications in the lives of us mere mortals is something which has fascinated me for years. I have watched it ruin many friendships, careers, businesses, marriages and lives. I have seen it destroy individuals. Like most emotions, on some level, we create it. It’s very personal and individual. It’s a personal response to, or interpretation of, an event, situation or circumstance.

I’ve also watched many people stare-down and overcome their fears and enjoy a life of happiness, joy and exhilaration that only comes with true freedom. I’ve seen brave people turn their lives around after years of frustration and sadness. And I’ve seen ordinary people do incredible things because they chose to walk out of that prison cell. Once and for all.

Remember…

On the other side of fear is freedom.

Enjoy your liberty my friend.
You deserve it and you’re worth it.

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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