“The person who fears to try is thus enslaved” – Leonard E. Read
What’s preventing you from taking action and feeling free to live life on your own terms? My guess is one of two things, both of which have limited me in the past: 1) Fear of the unknown 2) Fear of change These fears often keep us feeling worried and stuck in our current situation, and prevent us from making progress and improving our lives. Yes, change can be a scary experience, and the future is simply unknown, but despite this, change is also inevitable, and the fact that the future is uncertain leaves it up to the imagination to decide what could happen. The important point is that both of these fears are irrational. Depending on what you tell yourself and believe, anything could happen. The key is learning to embrace change and uncertainly by changing your beliefs, and to accept the role they play in life’s journey. If your fears are limiting you from achieving your best, it’s time to change what you believe about the future and what’s possible. Below you will see how to change crooked thinking to become more empowered to take action.
1. Get fully in touch with you anxious and fearful feelings
Don’t deny your feelings. Acknowledge you’re feeling anxious and fearful and recognize the message or meaning behind these feelings. You feel this way for a reason, and learning to uncover what is causing these feelings is the first step. Don’t criticize yourself for feeling these emotions. If you’re scared and fearful, that’s okay. Accept your feelings in the moment and work to move past them.
2. Examine your inner-dialogue that is causing these feelings
When you recognize you’re feeling anxious or fearful, examine what you tell yourself at these times. What beliefs do you hold about the changes you are trying to make, and how do these beliefs impact the action you are willing to take. How are you contributing to your extreme fearfulness? There are a few types of irrational thinking to watch out for: – All-or-nothing thinking: This includes demands, absolutes, shoulds, and musts, such as “I have to, and must succeed.” “There is no other way.” – Catastrophizing: This is when things are blown out of proportion, or we think of the worst, such as, “If I fail it will be terrible and horrible.” “I’ll never be able to handle it.” – Labeling: Instead of saying, “I made a mistake” or “What can I learn from this?” You tell yourself, “I’m a loser,” or “a failure.” Separate your dignity as a person from how you feel or mistakes you have made. Be aware so you won’t succumb to these types of thinking. They will only add to your anxiety and fear and validate your limiting beliefs.
3. Question and dispute the reasoning behind your thoughts
Many people fear the prospect that change could be worse than the present situation. Though, if you’re already engaging in unhealthy habits, or in a situation that’s unproductive and simply not working, don’t you think change would be beneficial? Consider the benefits that change would offer you instead of the negative “what if’s?” Dispute your irrational thinking by asking, “Does this thought get me what I want?” “Does it help me feel the way I want to feel?” Start poking holes in your thoughts in order to see any illogical reasons for your beliefs.
4. Replace the irrational belief with a new and empowering philosophy
Now that you have discovered the fallacy of your fears and anxiety, what will you start to tell yourself in place of these irrational beliefs? It’s time to develop a new philosophy about who you are, what you’re capable of, and your ability to shape your destiny. Change the questions you ask yourself. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel?” “How will it be when I reach my goals?” “What thoughts would help me achieve my goals and feel better?”
Learn to relax in order to make change happen
If you have a tough time changing the way you think, start practicing some relaxation techniques. Next time you’re feeling anxious and concerned about making a change or what could happen, relax and simply make yourself feel better. People think more clearly and rationally when they are calm and collected. Staying calm provides a chance to really work toward disputing those irrational thoughts, and will help you make decisions based on reason instead of emotions alone. Breathing techniques – Breathing techniques are a great method for relaxation as they can be done anywhere and almost anytime. Begin by inhaling slowly through your nose expanding your diaphragm and hold the breath for a few seconds. Exhale slowly through your mouth releasing all the tension from your body. By focusing on your breathe the anxious and fearful thoughts can be more rationally considered, and you can learn to calm yourself in the midst of difficult emotions. Progressive relaxation – Learning to relax your body can eliminate some of the tension that you may be carrying with you from worrying about the future. By focusing on the body you can relax the mind by being distracted from worrisome thoughts. Sit in a comfortable position and begin by making a fist with your hands and tensing you arm muscles. Hold your muscles like this for about 10 seconds and then release the tension and let your arms relax. Notice the distinct difference between relaxed muscles and tense muscles. When you notice yourself getting tense, relax your body. Meditation – There are numerous forms of meditation that can provide a change in focus and attention. Sit in a comfortable position, relax your body, and close your eyes and begin breathing slowly in and out focusing on your breath. Keep your attention on the breath going in and out and when a disturbing thought emerges bring your focus back to the breath. It can be helpful to incorporate a mantra or affirmation as you exhale to enhance concentration and meaningful connection. Saying even a single word, such as “one,” “peace,” or “love” can help sustain more calm and relaxation. Though, using something personally meaningful is ideal. Exercise – Working toward a consistent exercise routine where you work out a few times a week provides many benefits. It offers more confidence and emotional well-being, strengthens the body, reduce overall stress levels, and temporarily divert your attention from negative thoughts. There are many types of exercise to engage in. Listening to music – Listen to music that can energize you when you need a boost, or music that offers relaxation when feeling tense or anxious. As long as our attention is directed to the music, it can be a helpful outlet to mange emotions. If you feel comfortable doing so, I would recommend dancing and singing along. Do this is private where you can really let loose and don’t have to worry about other people.
All is Well
You can take control of your life by learning to recognize the self-defeating thoughts that prevent you from moving forward and committing to changing behavior. Life is a series of opportunities for emotional, spiritual, and intellectual growth. No opportunity for action is beyond your capacity. Our beliefs are the foundation for what we do. We need to know the truth that we are capable and worthy, and not let our feelings of inadequacy get in the way of trying and succeeding.
What helps you work past fear and worry? How do you stay confident and optimistic when making change?