“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles,
but most of them never happened.”
— Mark Twain
So many of us live in the kingdom of “WHATIF.” In this kingdom brilliant things happen. But there are also a lot scary things, things that stop us from acting on our “what ifs” and holding us back from our brilliance. But what if we named our fears?
My what ifs …
While I was building the back house during the pandemic, every day I found some reason to ask what if this happens? What if that happens? And I also posed the converse just to cover my bases — what if it doesn’t happen? I was constantly trying mitigate risk.
But then another “what if” question popped up: What if it all works out?
Best. Question. Ever.
Because it did! Maybe not the way I imagined but it always did work out.
I’m back in the land of Whatif again as I work on two books! One was already done — the Quarantine Diaries which now I’ll take from e-book to a legit little book. I thought it would be fun to take you through my self-publishing journey should you also have a book you are looking to create. Stay tuned! In the second book I’m sharing what I’ve learned from decades of creating compelling content for my clients and myself.
So the fears begin. There really is only one, maybe two WHATIF questions I have. What if no one cares? What if I’m not the right person for this?
My questions led me to watching Tim Ferris’ great TED talk again about fear setting. It’s like goal setting only you list your fears and then go through a sequence of thoughts and actions that take those very chaotic thoughts to their logical — and more real-world than imaginary — conclusions.
The most important part of this exercise is asking yourself how risky the “what if” goal is — for instance, is it like what if I jump out of that plane without a parachute? Probably not. So, would you die from the “what if” you want for yourself? And then the next part, which is closer to the bone — what is the cost of doing nothing on your dreams or ideas because fear was stopping you?
What if We Named Our Fears?
Here’s how it breaks down.
1. Ask “what if I?”
2. Consider the benefits of even partial success
3. Then look at what the cost of doing nothing would be emotionally, physically or financially
The other day when a friend asked me for some advice, I tried it with her. But I learned, as Ferris points out, it’s only theory until action is taken. One part of facing and getting over the walls we set up is mindset. The other is taking action.
MANY A FALSE STEP IS MADE BY STANDING STILL
— Fortune Cookie
So here’s the story…
My friend had moved into a condo about 10 years ago. She rarely had anyone over because she was embarrassed that she hadn’t “fixed it up.” Finally she worked up the courage to at least ask me for decorating advice. While she was putting off the kitchen until next year, there were other things she could possibly tackle, such as the gold-and-gray accent wall in the bedroom. She hated it and wanted some feedback on what to do.
Sure, the sponged affect was a little dated, but if you saw the room you would not think that she didn’t like the wall. She had decorated the room with a bedspread, curtains and hardware all in gold, as if she loved it.
All those years, she had lived with something she didn’t like — even going out of her way to accommodate it — rather than change it. It would have taken a $27 can of paint, some blue tape and a roller.
Come to find out these are her three fears …
1. I don’t trust my decorating instincts. What if I don’t pick the right color?
2. I can’t paint! I would not know where to start. What if I mess it up?
3. And I’m not sure how to find someone to help me do such a small job.
At least she took the first action – naming her fears. Now she begin to address them. And, in this case, the cost of inaction wasn’t very high. Her life won’t end, there is no permanent damage from doing nothing.
But by doing nothing, she’s paid an emotional price over a decade. The feeling she gets when she goes to sleep and when she wakes up that there is something she’s not taking action on no doubt affects everything in her life the entire day.
On the other hand, the sense of accomplishment she’ll have when she actually paints the wall will be magnificent and might open the floodgates on many other things that are holding her back.
We are all afraid of (or worried about) something. As we move through our lives and careers that something changes almost every day. What’s your gold wall and how can you make a change using the fear-setting technique?