In part 2 of this blog I discussed the underlying fear that stems from the belief, often subconscious, that we simply ‘can’t handle it’.  It is partly our nature to crave consistency and stick within the realms of what we know, and when coupled with the daily external influences of life telling us to ‘play it safe’, it’s no wonder we are so paralysed when it comes to change.

BY CHRIS THORNE

Our fear of change, and the subconscious desire for consistency and safety in ‘the known’ leads to the destructive habit of dismissing our own ideas, our ambitions and goals without even taking a very simple (and completely free) step, which is gathering information relevant to the goal itself.  We then use ‘excuses’ dressed up as ‘reasons’ for why we are unable to pursue our ambitions, in a process aimed at trying to justify the fact that we haven’t taken action.  Now, there are a number of psychological reasons that explain this negative behavioral pattern, of which I’m not qualified to make comment, but the important thing to understand is that this negative cycle is almost entirely the result of our lifetime experiences and learnings.  For example when we’re young and get told by our parents, teachers or peers that we ‘can’t’ do something, when we’re the last to get chosen for the footy team, or when we tried to do something and failed, and instead of picking ourselves up and trying again until we succeed, we retract into our shell and give up.

This behaviour is very evident in youngsters when their parents ask them to do something and the child replies ‘I can’t’, to which the parent responds by doing the task for them instead of helping them to do it themselves.  We can’t feel bad about this point however, the reality is that sometimes we don’t have time to wait for our kids to attempt to tie their shoe laces.  I’m sure those of you with children can relate right now.
I have developed a very strict policy of telling my daughter ‘you can‘ every time she tells me she can’t.  If I don’t have time there and then I revisit the task with her later so she can learn that by trying again and again she will always eventually succeed.  Such a simple process which can have a very profoundly positive impact on her belief cycle, something which she will carry through into her later years.

“We make too many decisions to never try without fully understanding what is required to succeed.”

The good news then is that it’s possible, and actually relatively easy to re-educate our minds and create a new behavioural pattern which is highly constructive, productive, and self-motivating.  The first step in doing this really is the easiest, and it’s simply nothing more than jotting down our list of ‘excuses’, or as I like to call them, ‘details’, and then addressing each one individually by gathering the information we need in order to make a logical plan of action to overcome each ‘detail’.  This is made even easier these days thanks to the wonderful Google!

If you still don’t believe me, consider this.  How often have you heard someone say they can’t do something because they don’t have the money?  When I hear this I ALWAYS ask, ‘how much money do you need?’, to which I ALWAYS hear, ‘I don’t know exactly’.  So, how can someone possible know that they don’t have the money if they don’t first know how much money they need?  Of course, if and when they do eventually establish they don’t have the money needed right now, what’s to stop them making a plan to get the money, by saving some each month, or by taking a loan, for example.  Now, if once they have found out how much money is needed they still choose not to pursue this path then at least they have made a more informed decision, but interestingly I would argue that they didn’t really have enough of a desire to do the thing they thought they wanted anyway.

“Often the things we want to do or achieve are much easier than we imagined.”

So now we’ve created our list of ‘details’.  The next step then is to break them down into individual ones.  Again there are psychological reasons for doing this, but in essence looking at a piece of paper with one ‘detail’ on it is less intimidating than looking at a list of 15 things all together.  This makes the end goal seem too complicated and difficult to achieve which means we are less likely to take the all important first steps.

Now we can start to plan in and allocate some time towards gathering information for each detail.  For example, I like to set aside an hour in my diary one evening to do some simple online research for just one detail.  I make notes on the same piece of paper and slowly start to create an action plan which will help me to tick that point off the overall list.  If I don’t complete that task in one sitting I don’t get frustrated and quit, I simply set aside more time to work through it.  I pencil in the same time on the same days each week.  This way it becomes a habitual process for me and makes it easier to do.  You’ll notice that as you start to overcome the details one by one, your confidence will grow as you take small steps towards your goal, and this feeds back in to the belief cycle that Jason discussed in his fantastic video blog.
To further enforce this, as a bonus set yourself incremental goals, which you then celebrate each time you succeed.  For example, if you need to save £1000 to start your project, break it down into quarters and when you reach £250 reward yourself by going out for dinner, or treating yourself to something small.  This reinforces your successes and progression by making sure you properly acknowledge your achievements.  Very quickly this becomes a habitual process and we end up following the simple yet highly effective process below:

  1. Gather information
  2. Take action
  3. Achieve small step towards main goal
  4. Reward achievement
  5. Go back to step 1

Such a simple course of simple activities creates a positive cycle that becomes self perpetuating and you’ll find that your speed of progression towards your end goal accelerates the more you go around this loop.

So, ahead of part 4, try this approach.  Think of something you’ve been wanting to do, or wanting to achieve.  It doesn’t have to be a huge thing such as creating your own business, and perhaps could just be learning a new skill such as a language, or musical instrument.  Follow the steps above and see what happens.  Often, its much easier than you ever imagined.

Check back soon for part 4 where we’ll continue to discuss ways to break through the fear and anxiety that holds us back.