So, warriors, we’ve set out on the path to the next level.
We’re one week in to shifting our perspectives to a more powerful position.
We’ve realized that every single moment of every day contains a choice to act in service to our higher selves, or to play small and safe.
Today, I’d like to talk about dealing with uncertainty and leave you with a few strategies to act in spite of fear.
“Feel the fear, and do it anyway” is one of my favorite mantras.
I often call myself a “recovering perfectionist”: a few years ago (and, if I’m not careful, now), before I’d act on anything, I’d need to have every last detail mapped out. If things didn’t go according to plan (and when do they ever?), I’d freeze and have no idea what to do next.
You’d also never see this, because I’d work out whatever I had to do and try to cover up how much stress was involved, because things just *happen* for high achievers (…so I thought). All I worried about was how well I stuck to the plan, which Steph other people saw: the frazzled model in need of a tune-up or the perfect version, doing everything I could to ensure option #2.
Haven’t we all been there?
Your friends ask you how you pulled your lavish dinner party off, and you smile bashfully, saying somehow it all came together. But, deep down, what you really want to ask is if had the best time ever and if you’re the most magnificent hostess on Earth… because you’ve tied their approval to your worth.
Heavy stuff, huh? And the more uncertain a situation is, the more we hand over the reins of power to its outcome. We believe that a positive result means that we are worthy of love and acceptance (and, conversely, that a negative result means we are not).
When we embark on a new project- body change, a different way of eating, starting our own business, getting to know new people, going for a promotion- we are naturally met with some resistance (both internal and external), which we often perceive as rejection. This, of course, instills fear: we know the outcome of our project is uncertain, yet we’ve made it a direct reflection of our value.
No wonder we have such anxiety about our next moves!
Our brains are wired to react to uncertain situations with fear. Research has proven that the less information we have about a decision to be made, the more erratic our brains become. In fact, according to a recent Caltech study, with increasing uncertainty, our brains shift control of our thoughts to the limbic system, which is the place our emotions (like anxiety and fear) are generated.
This was ideal in the caveman era: an overwhelming sense of fear led to cautious behaviors, because there was no guarantee that a deadly snake wasn’t going to jump out at us with one wrong step. Our brains’ push to overreact and hype up our sympathetic nervous system in the face of fear ensured our survival. There was no time to worry about our worthiness when a bear could start chasing us at any second.
Today, however, this is a hindrance- many of us feel this fear of the unknown and are paralyzed.
We wonder if we’re worthy- if we’re good enough- and, often times, we don’t even set out on the pursuit of our goals, just in case the answer is no.
We have to practice shifting our thinking back to rationality so that we can act on our goals instead of thinking about them. After all, no one ever accomplished anything by planning alone; we have to act.
This starts with remembering that we have worth, no matter who “gets” our mission and methods or not. If something goes wrong, we have not failed; we simply have more data and are one step closer to achieving our goals, so we must keep going.
In short…feel the fear of the unknown, recognize it as a natural response of the brain, and do it anyway.
One of the best strategies I know for this is to give ourselves small victories.
If you know me, you know I’m big on celebrations. Little wins deserve as much celebration as big ones, because it’s in the small victories that we build the capacity and confidence to achieve the doozies. The momentum we create from choosing fresh veggies for snacks, and being satisfied with that, builds into making more nutritionally sound choices for meals, which grows into trusting ourselves to make choices in alignment with our goals even while eating out.
If we began with the giant goal, it’d be overwhelming. We’ve all heard it’s important to break down goals into smaller steps and to trust the process of becoming- here’s one reason why. The small victories take away the fear surrounding the uncertain outcomes (“can I really change my eating habits?” becomes, “I’ve been just as satisfied with grilled chicken salads for lunch as I was with a sandwich; let’s see if I can add vegetables at every single meal.”). We feel empowered in the knowledge that we can achieve what we set our minds to, rather than iffy about our abilities.
So… how do we get here?
Take an inventory of your goals: know what you know, and know what you don’t know. Instead of letting your limbic system send you reeling at the thought of the ways things could end in chaos, breathe (according to respiratory physiology, exhalation creates a parasympathetic response: cooling, calm, and mental awareness. This is setting us up for success from the start.).
Acknowledge your fears, and in the same breath, be grateful for another opportunity to grow into a more audacious version of yourself.
Be aware of the worst-case scenario, but, at the same time, know that there are endless possibilities between that and the ideal outcome that are FAR more likely to happen. Be aware of potential catastrophe, but remember that you’ve survived everything thrown your way up until now, so the next challenge won’t be any different.
This allows us to put blinders on to actively ignore what could go wrong so that we can let go of any anxiety paralyzing our action. It pushes us to go forward anyway (a state of mind I lovingly refer to as #ballgnorant… ballsy + ignorant of what could go wrong. Feel free to start using the hashtag!).
Action begets more action. Doing something is better than doing nothing. Put one foot in front of the other in spite of the uncertainty. Turn the small victories into a juggernaut, and win your battles, mighty warrior.