When you’re in a state of anxiety, worry, fear, panic, or terror, it’s difficult to think straight and it’s even more difficult to take any action. Our natural tendency is to want to hide or to run in the opposite direction.
But hiding or running “for the hills” will not help. It may feel good for a little while but the issue is still there, lurking, waiting to pounce the moment you peep out of where you ducked for cover.
Yesterday we talked about Life’s Ambushes and how they can terrorize us. We learned that the best thing to do in that case is to take action. (click here to be taken to that post).
But if you’re scared stiff, how the heck are you supposed to move, much less take action?!
By breaking the actions into steps and breaking those into small parts and little pieces. Then break those into tidbits; break those into jots…. Keep breaking things down into smaller and smaller increments until you get to the tiny specks that you are confident that you can do–even if those specks are as small as atoms or even electrons! Then do them–cross them off your To Do list one by one.
You might be thinking: Easy for you to say but what does that look like, exactly?
Okay, let’s say you need a new job. You easily and quickly wrote up an excellent resume, you emailed and called all your contacts, and you looked online at different job postings. The last pro-active thing on your list is to call an employment agency to speak with a recruiter. But let’s say that you had a very bad experience previously so now just the thought of calling the agency creates such distress in you that you are literally trembling.
Break down the task of making the phone call into itsy-bitsy fragments of steps.
For instance, one day you put it on your To Do list to just think in general about phones. Perhaps you find it interesting that they were invented in the late 1800’s. You may find it fascinating thinking about the amazing changes telephone technology has gone through in the 139 years of its existence.
That’s all you have to do for the day. You can cross it off your To Do list! Make sure you congratulate yourself–pat yourself on the back for a job well done! Then reward yourself: listen to your favorite music for a half hour, read for 15 minutes, watch an episode of your favorite TV program, spend a half hour with your favorite hobby.
The next day you write down that you want to think of the phones you’ve had over the years: the clunky wired ones of your childhood all the way to the sleek wrist models that recently came to market.
Once you do this, then you’re done for the day. You don’t have to think about phones or phone calls to the recruiter at all! Again, cross it off your list and then celebrate your victory!
The following day, think about your current phone, it’s color and style. Remember the feel of it–its shape and its weight in your hand. Maybe, at this point, you can push yourself a little bit and think about the last conversation you had using it, or when you talked to your friend or loved one on the phone.
When that’s done, you can cross it off the list and celebrate. You did it!
Over the next few days you take the next few bits of steps: You’ll look at the phone; another day you’ll touch the phone; after that you’ll pick up the phone and listen to the dial tone. After each task finished, you’ll cross it off your list and celebrate.
Notice that each day you have something to cross off your To Do list–this is evidence that you are making progress which builds confidence and momentum. Notice, too, that you celebrate each day what you did that day. This shows your mind that facing your fear and taking small bits of action results in making progress and that there’s a reward for dealing with scary stuff and that reward feels good and makes you happy.
This conditions you to focus on successful outcomes!
Gradually you’ll progress to dialing the agency’s phone number and actually speaking to a recruiter.
While this example may seem silly and extreme, the principles apply to how to break down your action steps into teensy-tiny specks.
Sometimes, in order to conquer fear so you can move forward, the actions you take must be itsy-bitsy. If this is how small you have to break them down in order to move forward, it does not make you a weakling or incompetent, incapable, or silly.
Quite the contrary.
It makes you very, very brave because instead of shaking uncontrollably and staying frozen to the spot with fear, you are finding a way to move forward–in spite of your shaking and in spite of the terror.
That makes you brave.
That makes you courageous.
That makes you a hero!
Your homework is to take the next step. With your head held high, break that step into smaller and smaller pieces until you get to the tiny dots that you know you can easily accomplish. Then do them!
Then look in the mirror and see what a true hero looks like!
You can do it!
I’m so very proud of you!
Your Friend and Pep Pal,