Have you ever noticed how creative your brain is? And how, the bigger the decision or the more abnormal the situation, the more the imagination really goes into overdrive. The voice in your head gets louder, trying first one tactic and then another to maintain the status quo.
Looking back, I remember some of my more ‘special’ (TBH frankly ridiculous) examples: I could not leave my corporate role because if I had to turn right on boarding the aircraft rather than left, it would mean never flying long haul again, was about the best but there have been plenty of others.
The problem is that at the time, the concerns seem so real it is hard to separate them from reality. They can easily run amok, limiting your ability to move forward, to try new things, to live life to the full. Worse still, they can be a huge energy drain, trapping you in a cycle of uncomfortable procrastination, undermining confidence and masking opportunity.
It really doesn’t need to be that way
This was never highlighted better than at the start of lockdown. I knew I needed to act pretty fast to change the way the business was running. Supporting and connecting the wonderful Me Spot ladies when they couldn’t meet in person was paramount, but my antiquated phone did not allow Whatsapp. I had known for at least 2 years that I needed to change it. I got seriously grumpy when the chef tried to ‘encourage’ me to get it sorted.
Suffice it to say that within 48 hours the phone was bought, set up, and the Whatsapp group launched. 2 years of energy drain resolved, literally overnight. It was a similar story with transitioning the business to online. I was faced with a situation where I had had no choice and I got on and did whatever was required. What’s more, I did it with much less effort than I ever imagined.
Therein lies two key points: (i) the perceived ‘threat’ is always much worse than reality (ii) our capacity to achieve is far greater than we ever think.
The physiological response
Understanding what is happening from a physiological point of view is important. Fear is a powerful emotion that originates from the primal part of the brain. When triggered, it sets off a chain of responses designed to avoid risk and maintain the status quo. The brain will also reference previous related events. It is worth noting that the lasting influence of negative outcomes on the brain is estimated to be double that of positive ones. The more we dwell on them, the more we are prevented from moving forward, or accessing our incredible, and often untapped, potential.
Learning to recognise when the brain is in safety mode from the restrictive and negative language used by your ‘inner voice’ is important if you are going to free yourself from its hold. Writing it down or saying it out loud can often help you to see it for what it really is – as illustrated in my earlier example!
Developing the ability to think positively also helps. Reframing mistakes as a chance to learn, and difficulties as opportunities, should not just be the premise of optimists. Positive thinking is something that we should all aim for, because in so doing, we are short circuiting our brain away from fear and limitation, and priming it for happiness and success.
‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’
Beyond this, stepping into the unknown and trusting in our ability to cope is paramount. Only then do we discover what we are truly capable of. As I always say, the real magic lies beyond the comfort zone.
Covid has presented us with challenges that we could never have predicted. Yet alongside the extreme hardship and devastation, there were things to be thankful for and our collective achievements were many. We were reminded of the fragility of life but also the tremendous opportunities it offers. We owe it to the many people who have sacrificed their lives, to live every day to our fullest potential. Understanding and developing ourselves, being able to spot the language of limitation and replace it with that of possibility, and then taking the leap, has to be the way forward. Don’t you think?