Fear-Based Planning

Whether we know it or not, we are often planning.  A voice in our head that we didn’t necessarily choose for ourselves, talks to us all day long, often filling our head with what I will call “Shoulds & Would’s.”  That voice says things like “you should work out more…you would look better if you did,” “you should make more money, you would be able to travel to more exotic places if you did” or “you should be married by now…you would be happier if you were.”  That little voice thinks it’s motivating you to do the “right” thing, the “best” thing, what you “should” do.  What I have found time and time again is, that this voice is immature, short sighted, and desperately seeking approval, because it thinks approval must equal love.

It actually makes sense. A baby cries, and if all is right in its world, it’s tended to, fed, rocked, and lulled to sleep. A child matures, asks for help, and if all is well, is given a decent amount of attention, made to feel safe in the world, and goes about exploring with a light curiosity.  Sometimes we grow up without that comfort. Without being told, “it’s OK, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but in the end, you are loved either way.”   We might miss out on that lightness, the ability to be in this world with a certain flexibility.   It’s a basic human desire as social creatures to want to belong.  Some call it love; science calls it “positive attachment.” Either way all humans seek it. 

I think almost everything we do is in search of love and belonging.  From plastic surgery to making more and more money to share with our friends and family, we are trying to bring more love into our lives.  It’s a great goal as long as we don’t confuse love with meaningless markers of outside approval. This means that after our basic needs are met, our relationships with people are our greatest asset.  Even the most exotic trip or delectable meal is only as amazing as those we share it with.

So what does this mean?  It means that we can benefit from an occasional “Taking Stock” of our priorities and how we go about accomplishing them.  In it’s simplest form, it can be reduced to a math problem.  If we know what we want our outcome to be, we can then figure out our options of getting to that outcome.   Taking Stock means getting off autopilot and not assuming that what you did last year or three years ago is still working for you.

How to Take-Stock:
Look at how you are using your time, even down to the hour.  Look at the ROI (return on investment) of that use of time. Are the long hours in the office affording you more help at home? Are you using your gym membership?  Are you enjoying staying home with your kids full time? Do you miss something?  Is work travel worth the time away from your family?  How do you spend your evenings, weekends, and free time?  Where does most of your money go?  How are your relationships?

After you Take Stock, you can begin to search for what might bring more love and peace into your life. The trick here is to avoid fear based planning, which often our inner voice encourages.

How to avoid fear-based planning:
Fear based planning usually includes the word “If”. Example: “If I don’t find a new job this month, I will never find a better paying job.”  This often means your goal will be a smaller more shortsighted goal, fail to take into consideration all of your resources, and will not to include all of your actual options.  Both individuals and organizations can get into a habit of planning like this.

Counterpunch: A clever client of mine used the term “Counterpunch” in reference to talking back to their negative inner voice. I love this phrase as it attests to not just a gentle ignoring of your negative self talk, but an aggressive shutdown of the often negative (and unhelpful) inner monologue. A counterpunch example to the thought in my example above of fear based goal setting is: “I’m able to live with my current income, and I have plenty of time to research, network, and get support in finding a new job with an increased salary.”  Training yourself to talk back to your negative inner voice takes practice, but once incorporated into your daily life shows quick results with respect to increased peace of mind, reduced anxiety, and an ability to think clearly and  therefor increase productivity.

Stick to the facts: Don’t let your emotions cloud the facts. Example: “I’m so lazy, I barely workout, I don’t cook enough, and my house is a mess.”  What are the facts?  How are you actually spending your time? I bet it’s not sitting on the couch 24 hours a day. Are you working? Do you have a family? Friends?  Look at how you really are spending your time.  What are the facts?

In short, fear can really get in our way, prevent us from experiencing gratitude, and in turn, stunt our ability to both appreciate our present moment as well as prevent us from living boldly.  The great news, is that it doesn’t have to.  We all deserve to live inspired lives and we all deserve to figure out what that looks like for us personally.

Happy Summer Folks,