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comfort-zone-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Lessons From a Lifetime Spent Living Outside My Comfort Zone

I still remember the terror I felt the first time I went outside my comfort zone.

I was three years old.

I hadn’t gone there intentionally. I was pushed. The fact that the pushing wasn’t intentional, either, didn’t matter. I was still terrified. That moment forever changed me. And changed the course of my life.

First things first. What is a comfort zone? It’s a place where things are familiar to you. A place that feels comfortable to you. No two comfort zones are the same. One person’s comfort zone might be another person’s greatest fear. I know this to be true. My comfort zone — what’s familiar to me — often elicits a fear response from people. How I choose to live makes most of my loved ones scared for me.

There’s a question that begs here. If comfortable feels good, what’s wrong with feeling comfortable? Well, nothing, in one sense. And everything in another. It’s great to feel comfortable. But not all the time, and not in everything in your life.

You see, feeling comfortable can become a problem. Or, more precisely, feeling TOO comfortable can. It makes you take things for granted. It makes you stop exploring yourself, what you’re capable of. It makes you afraid the minute you stop feeling comfortable. It limits you.

I’m making you feel uncomfortable right now. By talking about it. But, bear with me while I illustrate what I’m talking about.

Think about the early days in your serious intimate relationships. When you first started getting serious, you were pushed outside your comfort zone. Way outside. You felt so open, and vulnerable. Your guard was down. But you were OK with it because it felt SO good there. The exhilaration you felt from falling in love with someone was stronger than any fear you felt. Your fear was on hold. For a while. Then, one day, you started to feel uncomfortable. You might not have known why, but you knew how to respond to this feeling. You pulled back in some way. Your discomfort at being outside your vulnerability comfort zone made you afraid.

How did you pull back when afraid? By taking the other for granted, choosing to see the flaws, instead of the wonder. By not exploring your vulnerable self, choosing to shut down, instead of opening more. By putting up your guard, choosing to limit yourself, instead of growing.

You’re squirming now.

Lesson one: get to know your comfort zone

If you want to move outside it, you need to get to know your comfort zone. Intimately. To know its core rules, and its more nuanced ones.

My comfort zone is a place where making changes is routine. So to go outside my comfort zone, I have to get very deliberate. And go big. Things that happen on a daily basis rarely send me there, such is my comfort with change. I also have to be interested in an area before I’m willing to extend my comfort zone in it. Extreme sports, for example, have never interested me, so I put in no effort there. But I’m drawn to push my physical activity boundaries in other ways. This is one of the more nuanced rules.

Over the years, I discovered that if I decided to explore a new facet of my life, nothing got in my way. Except for in one area. I did everything to avoid pushing out my boundaries in one area for 30 years.

Love.

Going to that place of real, deep, unconditional love with a significant other. Love terrified me because being vulnerable terrified me. Being open to scrutiny at such a deep level was too far outside my comfort zone. I couldn’t go there. At least not until I did the necessary self-work. Considerable effort later, love no longer has me running scared. Love has me opening up more and more every day. Unconditional. Vulnerable. And it’s wonderful.

Time for you to examine your own comfort zone. Thinking back over your adult life so far, ask yourself:

  • Which things feel easy to you? Easy in the sense that they provoke little or no fear in you?
  • Which things make you feel scared? Scared when you’ve done them, or scared when you think or hear about them?
  • What have you instinctively tended to avoid doing? And why? (Like me and extreme sports.)
  • Are there people in your life who live in ways that make you feel uncomfortable? This may manifest in different ways. By your making judging comments about decisions they make. By your rolling your eyes when they tell you what they’re going to do next. By your telling them why they’re wrong to be doing whatever.

Have a look at your answers, looking for common themes. Take a step back, and see what it tells you about your comfort zone. You should have a picture of what it looks like.

Lesson two: change is good

I’m not saying this because making changes is within MY comfort zone. I’m saying it because making changes is how you grow. Moving beyond your comfort zone is how you grow.

I’d go so far as to say that beyond your comfort zone is where all personal growth lives.

If you do the same thing you’ve always done, day in, day out, you won’t grow. In fact, you barely think when you do this. Yet an astoundingly large number of people live like this. Because they don’t like change. Because they fear change.

Instead of fearing change, you should fear not changing. The things you fear about change are imagined. The things that happen when you avoid change are real.

Here’s what’s real about them. And why avoiding change will cause you trouble down the road. First, you won’t grow as a person. You won’t live up to your amazing potential. And I know your potential is truly amazing. Second, you’ll get bored. When you’re bored, you’ll distract yourself to avoid feeling that way. And your distractions won’t be good for you. Sugary treats, alcohol, binge watching TV shows, shopping for things you don’t need. Being bored for any length of time stresses you out. So you go into autopilot mode to deal with that. And autopilot mode numbs your feelings. All of them.

It’s time to make a choice. Do you want your life to be defined by fear? Or defined by personal growth?

Lesson three: how to get more comfortable doing more things

Moving the boundaries of your comfort zone takes effort. A whole lot of it. But, here’s the truth. If I can learn to embrace unconditional love after 30 years of avoiding it, you can learn to embrace anything!

I’m going to share with you the secret to making changes in your life. Start small. Start with something that is low on your scariness scale. And that won’t take too long to complete.

I used to be afraid of heights. So terrified of them that, as a kid, I’d rather face the ridicule of my peers than jump off anything high. My mother, a nurse, had put the fear of god in me when I was four. I’d been found walking across the parapet of a bridge with a 200-foot drop on one side. So she described, in very gory detail, what I’d look like if I fell and went splat.

One day a few years ago, I knew it was time to make a change in my life. To overcome this fear of heights. As a result of my daily meditation practice, I’d realized my fear was all in mind. That it was more imagined than real. So I set about moving past it. I started by improving my balance, walking along as many low walls as I could find. Then I started choosing higher walls. And finally, I chose something that had always added an increased level of fear. Walking on a higher wall above water. I was living in Vancouver at the time, right by the seawall. And this proved perfect as the final step to overcoming my fear of heights. With an ease that surprised me, I walked along long stretches of the seawall every day. Fear of heights gone. Comfort zone expanded.

By starting small, I’d allowed myself to get comfortable every step of the way.

What can you take on that will allow you to get comfortable with change as you move towards your fear? What’s your equivalent of my fear of heights?

Lesson four: you are more powerful than you realize.

Once you start expanding your comfort zone, something amazing happens. You feel more powerful. Your fear subsides with every boundary shift you make. And this allows your true self — your powerful self — to emerge.

You start to feel more alive. More vibrant. More in control of things than before. More comfortable. All because you were willing to go outside your comfort zone. You feel more comfortable because you’re more comfortable doing more things. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s not.

Expanding your comfort zone makes you feel more comfortable in your own skin. And that’s what real comfort is all about.

The course of my life was changed at three by my being pushed outside my comfort zone. When I was younger, I understood that change was good, that I’d be fine if I did things that scared me.

Now I’m older, I understand that living outside my comfort zone has been the making of me. I am who I am today because of my constantly expanding comfort zone. Because I’m comfortable in my skin.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

fear-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How I learned to go forward boldly into the unknown

And channel fear’s powerful energy.

I’m 55. And I’ve just got braces.

Turns out, I need them. Without braces, there’s a healthy risk that my teeth will become unanchored. As in, they’ll get looser (yes, they already are a touch). As in, they’ll fall out.

It’s not my fault. I inherited my mum’s mega-deep bite and my dad’s super thin gums. As one of my specialists implied, this rich genetic heritage was an accident waiting to happen.

This makes me laugh, and think of my dear mum. She had a very dry sense of humour, and disliked discord. One of her favourite sayings to diffuse tense situations was: “I blame the parents. Every time.” It always made people laugh, coming, as it did, somewhat out of the blue and from an aged parent.

Besides the genetic misfortune going on in my mouth, there’s something else. I spent my teen years in the UK, a place renowned at the time for orthodontic neglect. Strike two to my parents…

But I digress. Fast forward to today, and the braces. Plus the associated dental and periodontal treatment required alongside these metal delights. One thing about all this dental excitement triggered fear in me. Not the braces themselves, despite the fact that they hurt. And get in the way of some of life’s more pleasurable pursuits.

It’s the cost.

I’m self-employed, and have no dental insurance. So it’s all on me. I have to earn about twice the cost in extra income to cover it. I know this is doable, but it still scares me. A lot. Yet, despite being scared, I moved forward with the treatment. I didn’t have to. I could have pretended my problem didn’t exist, or hoped that what three dentists have said isn’t true. I’m still scared about it all as I write.

Fear. It can make or break you.

Why fear can be a problem

Fear has a tendency to stop people dead in their tracks. And hold them there.

The stopping part isn’t an issue. It’s healthy to take a moment to feel the fear, and whatever emotions are arising with it. But the holding part is. This is where you get — and stay — stuck.

It’s not your fault you get stuck. I blame your parents. Every time. OK, so they share the blame with all your forebears. The truth is, your human brain is hot-wired to minimize threats in your vicinity. This causes you to spend your time scanning the world around you for threats. You do this unconsciously and non-stop.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Your brain doesn’t distinguish between real, tangible threats, and imagined ones. Tangible, as in sabre-toothed tigers. Imagined, as in the ‘what ifs’ associated with change (“What if x happens?”, “What if a does b?”). Your brain interprets them in the same way, because, for you, the same thing is at risk each time.

Your safety and security is.

Your risk alarm is set off by the prospect of your becoming a sabre-toothed tiger’s Dish of the Day. And by the prospect of your having to make life changes. So you’ve adopted a no-risk policy in most of your decisions.

It’s this no-risk policy that keeps you stuck.

Fear itself isn’t the problem. Your response to it is.

Changing your response to fear

If you want to change your response to fear, you have to start by changing your understanding of risk. Then, by changing your understanding of change itself.

There’s a reason why your brain views change like it views a sabre-toothed tiger. Change represents the unfamiliar. And the unfamiliar doesn’t feel safe and secure, so it’s a threat.

Change doesn’t start off life as a threat. It starts as one of the choices present when you’re trying to reach a certain outcome. The different choices facing you are different ways of achieving this outcome. Each choice comes with its own level of risk. Some of the risk is real. Some is perceived.

Let me use a trip to the restaurant to illustrate this point. You’re going out to eat because you’re hungry. The outcome you desire is a full belly. The choices facing you are the items on the menu. Many people believe there’s a risk associated with ordering. “What if I don’t like it?”, they wail. But unless you have an unenviable list of food allergies, any risk is perceived. Actual risk only exists for people with food allergies.

Actual risk must come into the equation when you make a decision. Perceived risk has no place in decision-making.

Yet, here’s the kicker. Perceived risk is what’s behind most of your decisions. I say this, because much of the time you decide to do nothing rather than make changes. You choose doing nothing, because it feels better – safer – than the alternative. The alternative being the picture you’ve dreamed up from all the change-related ‘What ifs’ flying around your head. You choose to favour the imaginary over the real. The real being the actual risk you face from not making changes you know you need to make. In my braces example, the real risk is having my teeth fall out. The imaginary one is finding myself broke, unable to pay my bills.

Which brings me to the first thing you have to change. This tendency to favour perceived risk over actual risk.

Now, let’s get back to change itself. Specifically, to your very human view of change as a threat to your safety and security.

Change brings with it the unfamiliar, which you see as disruptive. More than the anticipated disruption, what you’re really reacting to is this. That change takes you outside your comfort zone. And you don’t like how that feels.

But, here’s the truth. Change isn’t a real threat. It’s an imaginary one, conjured up in your mind, because you don’t like being outside your comfort zone. This imaginary threat stops you in your tracks, which, as I said earlier, is OK. It’s what you do next that’s the important part.

Do you stay stuck in threat mode, and follow the path of least resistance?

Or do you overcome your resistance to being outside your comfort zone, and advance into the unknown?

If you choose to stay stuck — and this is a choice — one thing is guaranteed. You will not grow as a person.

If you choose to move forward into the unknown, you will open yourself up to personal growth. The further outside your comfort zone you go, the greater the growth.

“One can choose to go back towards safety or forward toward growth.” ~ Abraham Maslow

How to use fear to move forward

I learned about the duality of fear when I was very young. That fear could stop you in your tracks. And propel you forward.

Fear was a pretty common feature in my life. It stopped me in my tracks plenty of times, but I also found I was able to use it to propel me forward. It felt natural to me to do so. It was almost as though my survival instinct had come with personal growth factored in. As in “Get me the hell out of here, fast, and help me learn from the experience.”

Putting my physical self at risk was never part of my game plans. I always had a healthy respect for actual danger. But putting my emotional and mental self at risk? Game on!

Change became my vice. Changing where I lived, changing jobs, even changing my handwriting. If it wasn’t nailed down, I changed it. Over the years, I’ve changed things up in my life with such regularity that my loved ones live on high alert on my behalf. My actions seem to press their fear buttons more than they press mine. My loved ones have also gone through more address books than they’d like.

People around me say that it’s easy for me to change things, because I’m fearless. I’m not fearless. I get scared every time I move outside my comfort zone. Yet, I keep doing it.

Why do I keep moving outside my comfort zone?

Because I’ve done it enough times to know that outside my comfort zone is where the growth is. To know that any discomfort I feel is temporary. This, too, shall pass. Everything does, in the end.

How do I keep managing to move forward?

Whenever I feel the fear rising within me, I sit with it. I allow myself to feel it fully. Doing this is essential for two reasons. First, it lets me know that I’m doing the right thing. That I’m pursuing the path of greatest resistance, and greatest growth. Second, fear makes me feel very alive. And I channel this energy into action.

You see, when I’m scared, yet energized, I start planning. This is when I have my greatest focus. When I can see all that needs to happen to deliver the outcome I want. And it’s this planning that leads to successful action. Without planning, action becomes difficult, and outcomes fail to materialize.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Over the course of my life, my success at achieving the outcomes I want has resulted from one thing. Never shying away from making whatever changes were needed. Going forward boldly into the unknown is my modus operandi. And will remain so for the rest of my days.

Will it become your MO, too?

Postscript to my mum

When I look at my dental bills and stress out, you know what I’ll be thinking…

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

love-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

What would love do here?

Here, in this moment?

Love would…
 

💖  Seek to understand, not to judge.

💖  Put itself in the shoes of others, knowing that there, but for the grace of god, go I.

💖  Look people in the eyes, and smile.

💖  Respond, not react. Love doesn’t take things personally.

💖  Only help those who ask for it, and not those who don’t.

💖  Be respectful of all people, not just those in your tribe.

💖  Ask questions, and not assume anything.

💖  Keep an open mind in every situation.

💖  Put the well-being of yourself and others above all else.

💖  Allow you to be yourself, and not the person you think others want you to be.

💖  Have its own view of what success looks like, and not society’s.

💖  Be compassionate. All the time. With everyone (you included).

💖  Be present in every action, in every thought.

💖  Make you resilient to life’s challenges.

💖  Nourish you, and not beat you up.

💖  Love fearlessly.

💖  Live in the present. Savouring everything. Expecting nothing.

💖  Learn from the past, but not dwell in it.

💖  Aim for the future with goals, plans, and action, but not fantasize about it.

💖  Know your life’s true purpose, what makes your heart sing.

💖  Spend every moment consciously, according to your priorities. Love knows that otherwise, you’re living according to someone else’s priorities.

💖  Accept your emotions fully. All of them.

💖  Never waste time on things that don’t bring you closer to your life’s purpose.

💖  Allow you to be, and not try to control you.

💖  Be grateful for everything you have, not resentful of what you don’t have.

💖  Encourage you to know yourself and why you’re here, and not to be a cog in a machine.

💖  Receive help and kindness as readily as you give it. Love knows you cannot give unconditionally unless you know how to receive.

💖  Let go of things from the past that no longer serve you, like old anger, old resentment, old fears.

💖  Be open to new experiences, all the time.

💖  Express your emotions fully, in the moment you feel them… or as soon as possible after, if you’re not in a safe place at that time.

💖  Know what’s yours to do, and not do.

💖  Love unconditionally.

💖  Seek shared solutions, and not compromise.

💖  Forgive. Yourself and others.

💖  Be of service to others, but without any self-sacrifice.

💖  Lead with the heart, not the mind. The heart knows how to share, giving the mind all tasks it does better. The mind keeps everything for itself.

 
•  •  •
If love were here, in this moment, what would it do?

Love would love, and not fear.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

self-belief-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How to survive a toxic environment

Run. Fast.

You’ve been off work sick for a week. Stress-related sick leave. You felt tender spots on your body that you were sure were lumps. They weren’t, thank god. Your mind went straight to the worst case scenario, because that’s what it tends to do. And, because the person you’ve replaced in this job ignored signs that something was up. She’s spent the last year in treatment for cancer.

The phone rings. You see who’s calling and don’t answer. You wait till he’s left a voicemail and listen to it. As you hear his voice, you feel the fear rising in you.

He wants to have a meeting with you the next day. He doesn’t say why. The fear rises even higher, and your mind goes into overdrive.

“Does he want to fire me?”

“Does he want to reduce my hours?”

“What will I say if he says this?”

“What will I say if he says that?”

After a panicked hour or so, you have it all figured out. You have an answer for all the ifs and buts you can think of. Your answers tread that fine line — the one between standing up for yourself, and making sure you don’t get fired. You need this job — the longer you can stay in it, the higher your unemployment insurance will be when he does fire you. Which he will. He made that crystal clear in your last conversation. The “you’re just plugging holes until I find good people” one. That’s the one that pushed you into the arms of your doctor.

You’re dreading the next day.

•  •  •

Still feeling shook some time later, you call me for moral support. And to ask why I think hearing his voice made you feel so scared. “Maybe it’s my subconscious protecting me”, you say. “What do you think?”

“I think you should get the hell out of there, that’s what I think,” is my reply. “You feel scared around him, because he’s toxic. Your not-so-sub-conscious is telling you to get away from him.”

“But if I quit, I won’t get unemployment insurance. I’ll only get that if he fires me,” you reply.

“Then do whatever you need to do to get fired,” I say.

•  •  •
It’s hard to believe we’re having this conversation. We’ve had it many times before — or one just like it. You’ve talked yourself down from it each time. Because you need this job — the longer you’re in it, the higher your unemployment insurance will be.

Yeah, I know.

But I don’t care about that. I really don’t.

Here’s what I care about.

I care about you. About having you around for as long as possible. About your health. But I feel like a stuck record, because I’m the only one talking about this.

Everyone else is talking about how lucky you are to have a job, especially ‘at your age’. You believe this, too.

I call bullshit on this way of thinking. Because this way of thinking will be the death of you. Really. Every minute you spend in that job, near that toxic man, is at least one minute off your life expectancy. You think you can take it, that you’re strong. But I call bullshit on that, too. No one walks away from toxic people unscathed. You might be fine on the surface, but that toxicity is eating away at you, somewhere. That’s what toxicity does. But you know that, don’t you. It ate away at the last person in your job. The one who’s been in cancer treatment for the last year.

So I beg you, please, please, please do whatever you need to do to get fired. Get away from that toxic man and his fear-based workplace. You don’t need that job — no one needs that job. You need something quite different.

You need to believe that your health is worth more than any job. That you’re worth more than the way you’re being treated. You need to believe that you deserve health and happiness.

I believe this. So can you believe it, too?

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

fear-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How to move past fear & into action in 8 steps

You wake up in the middle of the night in a flat panic. Fear is coursing through your veins, making everything seem threatening. “What ifs” are flying around your mind, vying for space with the “I’m f*ckeds”.

You’ve really done it this time – you’ve bitten off way more than you can chew. What were you thinking? What’s going to happen when you fail? Who’s going to bail you out from this one? Your heart is beating the way it does after climbing five floors of stairs. You toss and turn some more, hoping this calms you down. It doesn’t.

You turn on the light – maybe this will chase away your fear. You pick up your book and start to read. You find yourself re-reading sentences endlessly, but you’re managing to distract yourself from your thoughts. Eventually, you fall asleep again for the few hours remaining before your alarm goes off. You wake up with a fear hangover that stays with you all day.

You just want the fear to go away. Is it too late to reverse that decision you made – the one that triggered the fear?

Even if it’s not too late to reverse that decision, it may not be the right thing to do. If you made your decision in a thoughtful way, based on some sound reasoning, then it was a good decision. If, however, you made it in a reactive way, with little thought behind it, then it was a bad decision – and it’s so easy to make decisions like this when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. So, if your decision was a bad one, reverse it; if it was a good one, stick with it!

The thing is, most of the best decisions you make are scary, terrifying even. That’s because they push you beyond your comfort zone to the next level – the place where growth happens. The bigger the potential for growth, the scarier the decision. I decided, in my 50s, to uproot myself completely THREE TIMES – moving first across the country, then half way across the world, and finally back. On my own. Over the course of four years. These moves were well thought through and the right thing to do – and helped me grow enormously. They were neither easy decisions to make OR take action on – and I was terrified by each one. I often felt fear coursing through my veins. But, with these and all other big decisions I’d made in my life, I didn’t let my fear stall me.

Instead, I stepped into my fear and used its energy to propel me forward.

How do you move into your fear and use its energy to move forward? Here are 8 steps you can take to help you do this.

  1. Acknowledge the fear. When you feel fear, allow yourself to sit with it. Feel it fully – feel its strength.
  2. Accept that you’re scared. Whilst feeling its strength, accept that you’re scared. I say to myself something like: “Well, Sarah, this IS a big one. I’m feeling scared by this decision. And that’s perfectly understandable and OK.”
  3. Commit to change. Fear dissipates when you accept it, leaving behind its energy. Now’s the time to commit to yourself that you’ll make the change – decide that you’re worth the effort required.
  4. Plan. Using this energy, start planning the detail of what you’ll need to do to make the change happen. Make sure you plan in enough steps – a lot of people fail to make changes, because each step is too big and overwhelming. Instead, make each step small enough to be achievable, yet big enough to have challenges that will sustain your interest.
  5. Take action. Do something EVERY DAY to take you closer to your desired change. Daily action gives you momentum and is totally doable if you’ve planned your steps well. If you find yourself unable to take daily action, go back and re-plan your change, breaking it down into even smaller pieces. Momentum is everything and is MUCH easier to keep going once it’s started, than to build it back up repeatedly.
  6. Celebrate your success along the way. Don’t wait until the end to celebrate, do it every time you complete a step. This will keep your spirits up and also contribute to your momentum.
  7. Review. At the end of each of the larger steps, have a look back at what you’ve done. Note what worked well, and what didn’t work so well. With this in mind, review your remaining steps and alter them, if required. You should also alter your plan if anything relevant about your situation changes. Nothing remains fixed, so it’s important to incorporate new information into your plan as it arises.
  8. Complete. Unless you have a VERY good reason not to (e.g. a substantial change in your situation), see your decision through to the end. After all, if it wasn’t worth seeing it through, you’d never have started it, would you? It’s amazing how good this will make you feel – because you’ve shown that you were worthy of ALL the effort.

Fear is a very powerful emotion. You can be stalled or even stopped by it. Or you can be fuelled by it.

The choice is yours.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

decisions-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Why you find it so hard to make decisions – and how to change that

You know things aren’t right, that something has to give. You’re just not sure what. You’ve got that feeling you know so well, the one that raises an alarm in you, without telling you why. You don’t know what to do. So you push the feeling aside and carry on as you were.

Pretty soon, it’s back. That feeling. You think and think and think about it, but you still can’t figure out what it’s about. So you push it aside again. This goes on for weeks, sometimes months. Then, one morning you wake up and know. You know exactly what’s wrong. But instead of feeling relief, you feel anxiety, which paralyses you. It paralyses you, because now you have to make a decision. And you suck at decisions.

You don’t suck at decisions. You’re afraid of making a wrong decision, a mistake.

In fact, you’re so afraid of making wrong decisions – especially the important ones, the ones that will have a meaningful impact on your life – that you do nothing. But doing nothing is actually a decision – you decide to do nothing.

If you do nothing when faced with an important decision, you’re really making THIS decision: to stay stuck with something that’s wrong for you.

The decisions you make in your life define you. The decisions to do something AND the decisions to do nothing. For some reason, you’re more afraid of making what you IMAGINE to be a wrong decision than you are of staying stuck in something you KNOW to be wrong.

You’re choosing the POSSIBILITY of something being wrong over the KNOWLEDGE that something is wrong.

Let’s face it, no one intends to make a decision like that. The way to stop being afraid of making wrong decisions and start choosing to move away from something that’s not working for you is this. You take a deep breath and say out loud as many times as you need until you believe it: “Just because I’m making this decision today, it doesn’t mean that I can’t make a completely different one down the road.” 

Imagine that. Decisions aren’t actually cast in stone! But if you think about it, how can they be? The situation you were in when you made a decision – the way you felt, what was going on in your life, what was going on around you – was unique to that moment.

How can a decision made a week or a month or a year ago possibly be as right for you now as it was then, when how you feel, what’s going on in your life and what’s going on around you have inevitably changed?

The only decision that’s always wrong is the one to do nothing when you know that you need to change something in your life. All other decisions are right – right for you in the moment you took them. Let’s say you decide to move to another country one day, and then decide to move back some time later. That’s great! Your situation (legal, personal, financial, etc.) changed. Let’s say you decide to try your hand at being an entrepreneur and change the type of business you have a few times before you find the right one. That’s great! Your situation (knowledge, market conditions, awareness, etc.) changed.

The other reason you’re afraid of making wrong decisions is that you’re afraid of appearing stupid / incompetent / indecisive / unstable to those around you. You’re worried that they’ll judge you in some way over your change of plans. The first thing to understand is that if people do judge you, their judgement just reflects their OWN fear of making wrong decisions and their misunderstanding of the true nature of decisions. The second thing is that you are the ONLY person who can make decisions for yourself – no one else knows you as well as you do. So if you allow what others think about your decisions to derail you, you’re saying that other people know you better than you do. By all means seek feedback from those close to you, but the final decision lies with YOU.

Your life is the sum of your decisions. Make them count.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).