Life Coaching Tip: This article is about one of the most common ways we sabotage our own success— worrying. And as I pointed out last week, shining a light of awareness on the sneaky tricks your primal brain likes to play is the best way to help yourself move forward. Tell your subconscious mind to be on notice because we are going to be exposing its mischief and setting you free from its tyranny!
Earlier in my career, I worked in the mental health field, facilitating support groups for people living with mental illness and their family members.
My clients taught me so much in those group meetings—as their wisdom came to them honestly—originating from their resilient determination to live a joyful life, despite the challenging and often heartbreaking hand they had been dealt.
Something an insightful woman, Kate, shared one day in the “Senior Women’s Group” stopped me in my tracks. It was a true epiphany for me at the time . . . .
“Worrying is like a rocking chair. it will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” —proverb
Kate told the us that she read this adage as a young woman, and it stuck with her ever since.
Kate was a creative artist and a gifted sculptor, who was compassionate, wise, and kind. She had lived a hard life. As a divorced, single mother who struggled with the serious symptoms of mental illness—poverty made her life even more difficult. This was true for most of the other women in the group too, and Kate was offering words of encouragement to her soul sisters that day.
“I used to think that if I was worrying, I was being productive,” she said. “But once I thought about the rocking chair analogy, I realized that worrying was the thing that was actually getting in my way!”
I mean, of course, it makes sense—but how many of us were brought up to believe that worrying is something we’re supposed to do?
I know, I was.
Not only did I believe that worrying was productive, but I also thought it was synonymous with being intelligent and proactive.
I believed that successful people were informed people, and they stayed ahead of problems by worrying. It seemed like a sensible thing to do.
And sister, I was good at it!
Not only did I worry all damn day long, but I was an especially proficient worrier at about 3 a.m.
I concocted and solved scenario-after-scenario until the point of exhaustion.
And the irony . . . My worry thoughts rarely had anything to do with reality!
I worried that I might have said the wrong thing or handled something wrong. I worried about my job, marriage, and kids. I worried about money and how we would make ends meet if X happened, and Y happened, or heaven forbid, Z happened. I worried about not having enough time to get it all done, and what people would think of me if I didn’t. I worried that I wasn’t being a good enough wife, mother, social worker, daughter, friend . . .
Yikes! I could go on and filled up a whole book with my worry thoughts—and I’ll bet you could too.
My favorite author, Jen Sincero, says: “Worrying is praying for stuff you don’t want.”
It’s true! Not only does worrying take you away from the peace and sufficiency of today, but it often causes unnecessary angst—as your brain can’t tell the difference between something that’s actually happening and something that you’re imagining.
You feel it in your body either way. You feel stressed, exhausted and drained from solving problems that don’t even currently exist—Bananas!
And when I was spending all my energy worrying . . . do you know what I wasn’t doing?
I wasn’t spending any time creating and executing a goal plan to manifest my dreams! My subconscious mind did a fantastic job keeping me “busy” in a disastrous world of pretend—fretting, and solving imaginary problems!
My primal brain made sure I wasn’t utilizing my superpowers—my unique gifts and talents—It held me back, living the narrative of my limiting beliefs.
But once I developed awareness, I was finally able to free myself from the worry trap.
And you can too!
If you’re finding your subconscious mind working overtime—creating stories of worry and fear—then the following exercise can help clean up your thoughts and finally set you free . . . .
1. When you notice yourself worrying, take the time to write your thoughts down—all of them.
2. Next, write a “statement of self-compassion,” and coach yourself. Comfort and give yourself permission to release the thoughts that have been haunting you. It might sound something like this. . . My friend, these thoughts feel heavy. They’ve really been weighing you down, haven’t they? What if you let them go, for now? You deserve to live in the present—and not to miss out on the beauty of today. You don’t have to take on the future all at once, there are so many unknown variables that you can’t control anyway. But you do know the next step you can take towards goals. What if you only focused on that next step today?
3. Then, offer your brain some new thoughts. Remind yourself that you have a choice—and there are plenty of other ways to talk to yourself. Take your brain off negative autopilot! Here are a few examples:
- Whatever happens, I can and will handle it.
- I am brave, strong, and tenacious.
- I only need to do one step at a time.
- When I set my mind to it, there’s nothing I can’t accomplish!
4. As you let go of your worry thoughts, notice what that freedom feels like in your body and hold space for it as long as possible.
5. From that place, ask yourself: What positive new thoughts and ideas are trying to come to me? What has my subconscious mind been trying to block?
6. Once you gain some insight, follow your intuition, and take one step forward in that direction. NOTE: Just take one step — you are unauthorized to think any further ahead than that!
If you make this exercise a daily practice, your worry habits will gradually subside—leaving more room for your mind to delve into your dreams.
Please give it a try and stick with it.
You deserve the calm serenity and space that a worry-free brain provides.
No matter what your primal brain is telling you—you always have a choice about what you focus on.
So, my friend, take the focus off your worries and put it on what lights your heart on fire!