I wrote last time that you have to: 1. Suck it up, 2. Show up, and 3. Step up. I am focusing this time on the “Step up” part of that. You can’t let anxiety, fear and worry hijack your life. This is the TOXIC AVOIDANCE that keeps you on the sidelines where you sit waiting to live the life you want. Here’s the big question: How do you know what it is that you want? I know that you are very clear about what you don’t want and your Inner Critic is clear about what you can’t do. But have you taken the time to dream about what you love? What your ideal life would look like?
You can come along but you can’t drive.
Remember! The Inner Critic who reminds you of all of your fears, worries, and anxieties will always be there. Remind yourself to tell him, “You can come along, but you don’t get to drive.” We all have great intentions to do wonderful things, live a wonderful life, have wonderful relationships. Where we fall short is in taking action. There is a huge gap between our great intentions and taking the steps toward actually doing what we want.
Tell a New Story
What is it that you love? Is it – learning to knit, to write, to draw, to weld; becoming a doctor, an engineer, a contractor; starting a business; taking a trip; asking someone out on a date? The first move might be doing a Google Search for a class, making a phone call or writing an email to a friend, completing an application on Ohio Means Jobs – you’re moving. Maybe you want to start exercising, so go for a walk around the block. You want to lose weight, so go out and buy smaller plates. Each small step leads to a larger gain and you feel better taking just one small step than you ever did putting things off.
Let’s say you want to be an author. The first step is a trip to the Dollar Store to buy a cheap memo book and pen and then at home you set the timer for 20 minutes and start to write about what happened today, last week, something you did as a child.
This is not big. It is not hard. Remember, you are not going to be good at this right away. Write, draw, or weld the crappiest thing you can. It will look awful and you might even feel discouraged. Keep going. It gets better. I promise you!
What do you love? How do you discover it?
Here’s the question again – How do you know what you want? Here’s the answer - make time to think about and dream about your ideal scene. What is it that you would love to do? What is your deepest aspiration? Maybe you’ve wanted to play music in a band, publish a book, become an electrician, teach in a college, learn to fly an airplane, join the Navy. Each one of us has something within that we hold dear but that just seems like too much work, too expensive, too far out of reach, too many barriers. Try this!
Step One – Name it! Make a list!
Take some time with this. Use the Dollar Store Memo Book you just bought and write down as many things as you can think of that you would love to do. Or maybe list something you are putting off or avoiding. For each item on the list take a moment to write why you would enjoy doing this. Imagine yourself five years from now. What are you doing? Try to use as many senses as you can – what do you see, hear, feel, taste, smell? Are you - playing in a band, painting a picture, flying a plane, wearing a naval uniform, welding a car frame? (Mike’s item -- I want to be a writer. I love telling stories and sharing things I’ve learned. I see myself sitting at my desk writing and typing. And there on the bookshelf is my first book.)
Step Two – What’s the first step?
Now look at these items on the list and try to decide your top two or three goals. Then think about and name what could be a small step in the direction of achieving your goal or task. What could you DO right now that would move you in the right direction? A phone call? A Google search? An email? A visit? (Mike’s item -- I’m going to set the timer for 20 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about a childhood memory.)
Step Three – Schedule it.
You have allowed so many roadblocks to stop you from actually moving. Here are a few:
You don’t feel like it.
Tomorrow might be better.
It looks too hard.
Anxiety about achievement rises up along with worry and fear.
You’re not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, pretty enough. . .
So you have to actually structure this small first step into your schedule. When? Where? How? (Mike’s item – Saturday at 9:00 AM I am going to sit at my desk, set the timer on my watch for 20 minutes, and write about that childhood memory.)
Step Four – Do it.
You don't have to feel like it to just get started. Most of the time worry, anxiety, and fear or just a deep inner dread, low energy, or even impending doom will be there to derail your best intentions. Don't wait until you feel better. Act now. Take that little step. And the good feelings will follow. Being absolutely clear about what you want and visualizing it motivates you toward action. Remember, in this first step you are not going to achieve brilliance. So don’t get discouraged. It is a move toward gaining experience.
The writer Natalie Goldberg says this wonderfully:
“Trust what you love.
Do more of it, and
It will take you where you need to go.”
Or as Richard Rohr says: “You can’t think your way into a new way of living. You have to live your way into a new way of thinking.”
Our anxiety and fears have made us delay living the life we want and the life we deserve. Do not delay – just get started. Stop putting off your life.
The Mindfulness and Acceptance Therapy Workbook for Anxiety; John Forsyth Ph.D., George Eifert Ph.D.
Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, Timothy Pychyl Ph.D.
The Greatest Secret of them All, Marc Allen
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
Falling Upward, Richard Rohr