Attack the “What if”

Depending upon how you interpret Biblical scripture, you might think that fear is an absence of faith.  Proverbs 31 Ministry has a great article on this subject here.  Whether you’re a person of faith or not, please read on, as this applies to us all.

In my practice I help most of my clients deal with fear.  Fear or the great “what ifs…” paralyzes decision making.  When you’re stuck ‘what iffing’ yourself, you can get stuck and never move forward.  What if I fail, what if I’m not good enough, attractive enough, smart enough, strong enough, etc. and so on.

So, how do you defeat what ifs?  By attacking them directly.  Instead of avoiding your fear, lean into it.  In other words, answer the question.  If you do actually fail, what will that mean?  Will you die?  Will the world come to a screeching halt, meteors will destroy civilization and everything will end?  Probably not.  It may be painful or even awful – for a time.  And you may learn something valuable from it.  You may even become stronger for it.  I’ve heard it said that you’ll always get a “no” if you never ask.  You’ll never succeed if you never try.

Thomas Edison, the famous inventor of the commercial light bulb, is also famous for some inspiring quotes.  He said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He said this when referring to going through 10,000 prototypes before creating a commercially viable lightbulb.  Forbes magazine talks about this in more detail here.  Can you imagine trying something 10,000 times and not giving up?

Mr. Edison also said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”  Honestly, what’s the worst that can happen if you try?  Oh, yeah – you’ll fail.  So what?  If you fail are you a failure?  Nope.  You’re only a failure if you fail to keep trying.

Lean in to your fear.  Define what you’re afraid of.  Are you afraid of being stupid?  Well, you might want to think again.  The actual definition of stupid (here) probably doesn’t match you.  If you’re smart enough to be trying to improve yourself by reading this, it’s highly unlikely that you are stupid.  If there are any other labels that you use to attack yourself (selfish, lazy, ugly, procrastinator, failure, etc.) you might try looking at the actual definition of the word to see if it applies to you.

One last tip – embrace failure!  If you take away the emotional negativity that comes with the word failure, it becomes something to examine rather than something to fear.  You can look at it and ask, “Why did that fail?”…”What could I have done to improve that?”…”How can I succeed next time?” rather than being paralyzed by shame or discouragement.  Did you know that baseball players fail much more than they succeed when they are at bat?  Outfielder Ty Cobb, whose career ended in 1928, has the highest batting average in Major League Baseball (MLB) history. He batted .366 over 24 seasons, mostly with the Detroit Tigers.  What does that mean? It means he missed the ball 64% of the time!  He earned an “F” grade in hitting the ball and he was the best of all time!  MLB players today do worse than him and still get paid big bucks.

Perhaps what you’re afraid of isn’t so scary after all.  Good luck!

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