What causes you to worry, feel fear and experience anxiety? Many people fear not having enough money to pay bills and keep a roof over their heads. Some worry about not having enough money to retire. Some people chronically worrying about health- getting cancer, being overweight or having a major health issue. We worry about what problem we’re going to have to deal with next.
In short, what I’ve described is how fear plays a daily role in our lives, whether overt or subliminal. We may realize we have these worries, but not understand that we have the power to turn it off, or at least turn it way down. If you’re a worrier, it’s because it was role modeled for you by someone in your childhood. Worry is a learned behavior. Feeling fear is a natural occurrence from our “survival’ brain, but what we do with the fear- hang on to it, make decisions based on it, or tell it to go away- is a choice. The brilliant fact around learned behavior is that it can be changed, unlearned and we can substitute new behaviors for the old habits.
How can you stop the chronic fear-worry pattern that is controlling your thoughts, decisions and actions (or lack of action)?
1. Learn something new every single day about the thing that concerns you. For me, nearly all my middle-of-the-night anxiety attacks were about money, worrying about not having enough of it to take care of my family and eventually retire. Knowledge is power, and we live in an age where, thanks to the internet, we can learn from experts via YouTube and a million other places for 5–15 minutes each day. At least 3 times per week, I actively learn about money. I read about investing, learn financial terms, figure out what people I respect think about money and how to get more of it. Fear loses its grip when we become educated.
2. Do something about it. Going beyond increasing our knowledge around the thing we fear, face it head on. Continuing with the money worry example, if you don’t have enough money to retire, come up with a plan that includes concrete goals, a timeline and small steps such as putting $25 a week in the stock market, for example. Thanks to www.stockpile.com, you can do that without having to make a large, initial deposit. Track your cash inflow and outflow on a spreadsheet so you know exactly where your money is going. Read and study what is going to be most effective, then act. Taking small steps will make you feel like you have some control. Fear hates when you have control. When you feel the power of the small steps, you will be inspired to take more steps.
3. Evaluate what’s most important to you. Articulating what is most important in your life can alleviate some of your fear by shifting your focus to what’s necessary to feel joy and gratitude, and what isn’t. Most likely, you already have what means most to you. We work hardest to get and maintain the things that we hold dearest. Being clear with yourself about what those things are is essential for a happy life while simultaneously turning the volume down on the worry conversation in your head.
4. Do a super power self-reflection. When have you ever not figured out the solution to a problem? When have you ever not gotten through a seemingly impossible situation? Every one of us has had challenges we’ve had to deal with, solve and get through. There is an old saying, “necessity is the mother of invention”, meaning when you need to find a solution, you will find a solution. Reflecting on the difficult situations you successfully navigated reminds you that you are powerful and that you have what you need to handle what comes.
5. Only solve problems you actually have right now. Don’t solve problems you don’t have. Most of what we worry about never happens. We spend a lot of time solving issues that “could” happen. What a giant waste of time and energy! Make yourself aware of when you are talking to your family, friends and business partners about a problem you might have later, diligently working to figure out what you will do about it “if” it happens. God and the universe, don’t help you with challenges they didn’t send you! If a quagmire arises, so will the solution. If it isn’t a problem right now, stop solving it.
6. Affirm what you want, not what you don’t want. Change the thought process in your brain from avoidance of negative (what you fear, what you don’t want) to confirmation of the positive (what you do want). Know what you want. Most people I talk to are wishy washy and often unable to answer the question, “what do you want?” They reliably respond with a statement of what they don’t want, even with little things. “I hope it doesn’t rain” is better stated as “I hope it’s sunny and gorgeous tomorrow”. Any time you say I hope or I wish make sure there aren’t any negative words in the rest of the sentence. “I hope no more unexpected bills show up this month” is better stated as “I hope I’ve paid everything I need to for this month”.
I used money as an example to illustrate many of the points above, but you could just as easily spend time each day learning about having optimal health, how to live a happy life, or something else, and then taking steps to achieve it. Whatever you learn about, be sure to use multiple sources to get a consensus of expert opinions. Use industry leaders and use your own intuition. There is always going to be uncertainty in life no matter how good of a planner or control freak you are. Uncertainty keeps us from getting bored with life. Sometimes the uncertainty brings challenges, but we’re stellar problem solvers, thanks to our ability to communicate. Worrying has never helped solve a single problem. If you are living a fearful life, you are undoubtedly missing out on adventure, connection and excitement. You have survived many challenges in the past, which is proof of your prowess to handle future ones. You didn’t consciously decide to become a worrier or be ruled by your fears, however, continuing to live, governed by them, is a choice. Choosing to become educated and act to reduce the fear and eliminate worry is a better choice.
Originally published at medium.com