Do you let worry stop you from pursuing your dreams?
Worry held me back for a long time.
Deep down, I wanted to follow my heart, my interests, but I was held back by the thoughts dancing in my head.
It was like an unstoppable virus.
But eventually I found the antidote. I found the answer.
In this piece, I share what I’ve discovered.
Let’s start by making sure we’re on the same page.
What is Worry?
Worry is a term that refers to a thought that causes some form of discomfort, anxiety, or fear about the present or future.
Worrying, then, is a sequence of thoughts. You dwell on what might go wrong. And since you believe those thoughts, you also feel them in your body as emotions. This turns into a vicious cycle where your internal systems (images, sounds, feelings, sensations) amplify each other.
You think that something will go wrong. You feel it in your gut. You imagine the worst case. You feel worse. You think more. You feel more. The cycle continues until something breaks it.
Why Do We Worry?
The answer is simple: Because we think it’s useful in some way.
You may know intellectually that worrying isn’t productive, but on a deeper level you don’t believe that.
I can say this from first-hand experience, because I used to worry a lot, and now I worry much less.
I still experience worry, but I don’t get stuck as often as I used to.
When I look back, I remember being unable to stop worrying, because I thought I had to worry. I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t think, think, think.
How to Stop Worrying In 4 Steps
The premise of worrying needs to be challenged.
In other words, the assumptions that your fears and worries stand on must be confronted.
You do this by taking tiny steps, and comparing internal vs. external.
I’ve broken this process down to four steps.
Below you’ll find a video on how you can stop worrying. Below the video, the article continues. I recommend you read/watch both, as they complement each other splendidly.
And if you want more videos, subscribe to my YouTube channel, because I don’t post everything here on the blog.
I used this method back then, but not consciously. I became sick of standing still, so I started anyway. I challenged my worries, and I realized that I didn’t have to take them seriously.
What I did was isolate one worrisome thought, then I challenged it through action.
There is a consequence your mind is dangling in front of you to prevent you from going after what you want.
Find what it is and isolate it.
Record your worry somewhere so you can refer back to it later.
Pen or paper works, but you can also do this digitally. What matters is that you can come back to it.
Sometimes just the act of writing down what you’re worried about will mortally wound the monster standing between you and your dreams.
Sticking with our example, I could write down:
If I start a blog, and share my story, people will think I’m a fraud and a fool, and I will fail.
It can be helpful to go even deeper, in which case I like to ask: And what then? I want to reach the final consequence.
So let’s continue:
People will think I’m a fool, I’ll fail. And if I fail, I’ll end up losing my income, and my friends. I’ll be homeless and alone, and completely useless.
When absurdity begins to emerge, I know I’ve begun to dip my toes in truth.
Next, you challenge the thought. You move forward anyway, no matter how much you’re shaking in your imaginary boots.
Focus on the thought you isolated, and challenge it through taking a tiny step.
For example, I was afraid of starting my blog, because I thought I had to be an expert. The next tiny step wasn’t to start a blog. It was to look at other people blogging that weren’t “experts.”
If my mind told me that I had to be an expert, but others like me were already blogging, was it really true? No, it wasn’t.
I still felt insecure about what I knew, which is why the next step was to start a blog, and challenge that thought.
It comes down to constantly asking yourself: What next step can I take, right now?
Now you evaluate what happened.
Your mind told you not to act, but you took a tiny step anyway.
What happened? Did you die? Did everything fall apart?
Go back to step #2, where you wrote down the initial worry, and write down what actually happened. Reflect on the difference.
After writing my first post in 2009, I saw that nothing dangerous happened. So, I kept writing, and I kept proving my mind wrong.
Since then, I’ve created courses, written books, coached hundreds of people, and I’ve been criticized plenty. People have left 1-star reviews on my books. Even that hasn’t killed me. It was just a story my mind created.
I can only do my best. Some will love it. Some will hate it.
Now, what’s most likely going to happen is that your mind will come up with reasons for why everything didn’t fall apart. It will try to keep scaring you. You just keep challenging it.
Easier said than done, absolutely, but freedom is found where you least want to go.
Let’s say you want to inspire others, but you’re afraid of putting yourself out there.
Here’s a step-by-step process you could follow:
- Isolate: Are you worried about what people will think of you? Or that you’ll look foolish? Or that you don’t know enough to share?
- Document: Explore the story. Keep asking: And what then? Uncover the final consequence, the worst case scenario.
- Challenge: Take a tiny step. Write two paragraphs and share it with your friends. Create a 30-second video. Interview someone.
- Evaluate: What happened? You were worried, yes, but you did it anyway. How do you feel now? How accurate and relevant was your worry?
It comes down to relentlessly nibbling away at the imagined authority of your mind.
Keep taking tiny steps, and keep discovering that your mind is delusional. It believes it is Nostradamus, when in fact it is Homer Simpson.
You can systematically stop worrying by challenging your mind.
Your mind will present arguments. You don’t have to take them at face value. You can object. You can experiment, and see what happens when you take action anyway.
I’ve discovered that I only have to deal with things as they come, as I follow what makes me come alive.
I listen to what resonates with me.
I keep taking tiny steps, doing my best with what I have, and that’s enough.
My mind may object, but it’s irrelevant. My mind is my servant, not my master.
All the best,
P.S. Would you like to learn more about transcending your thoughts, and doing what you love? I invite you to check out my book Do What You Love: Essays on Uncovering Your Path in Life.
Photo by Ian Espinosa