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Letting Go of Fear

Letting Go of Fear

Letting Go of Fear

The question of “how to let go of fear” often comes up with the clients I work with, as well as in my own life of course.  I think this is a complicated issue. There are many kinds of fears that exist in our lives, each one presenting specific challenges.  In starting this new business I find myself wrestling with lots of professional fears.  Questions like – Am I qualified for this?  What can I charge?  Can I afford to take this professional risk?

These questions are all based on fear of failure or incompetence.  The truth is that I have many years of educational and professional experience to draw from and that I am definitely qualified for what I am doing.  So why is there still fear?

In my work with individuals regarding professional fears, what often comes up is the fear of pursuing what is most meaningful to them.  This fear is often based in belief that says “there are not jobs available,” “the market is too saturated,” “I don’t have the credentials,” or many other beliefs. While some of these fears are more concretely rooted in actual barriers, I believe that letting go of the limiting belief is the first fear to address.

Letting go of limiting beliefs is liberating

Consider the following ideas –

  • There isn’t enough (work, money, opportunity etc.)
  • There is only scarcity
  • All others in my field are competitors

What if we shift our perspective to thoughts like –

  • There is more room for my service or business
  • Other people in my field can be my collaborators
  • There is an abundance of work available

This shift in perspective can of course be applied to other kinds of fears as well, not just professional.  Changing a belief or perspective may create some paths to progress.  Fear inhibits progress in a number of ways –

  • Inhibiting creativity
  • Reducing insight and understanding of alternative perspectives
  • Acts against motivation for action

How would this shift in perspective open up new opportunities for you?

What I have found in my own life, as well as what works for my client’s, is taking small steps in the direction of a change I want to pursue is the best course of action.  It’s easy to say – “you just have to decide to let go of your fear” but this is a bit vague.  I think that creating some kind of regular, consistent practice that promotes empowerment can help to reduce fear, as long as it is practiced regularly.

For example, if your practice is to attend networking events in an effort to improve your business and challenge your introversion, then this should be practiced weekly in short periods rather than attending long events but inconsistently.

What I have found in my own life as well as those I’ve worked with is that overcoming any professional fear only opens up new opportunity and possibility.   Letting go of fear is empowering.  Empowerment is often accompanied by change.  If you are choosing to face a fear, be prepared, things may not be the same afterwards.  For example, addressing a professional fear may result in the following –

  • New awareness about a direction to take
  • Career change
  • Promotion
  • Retirement
  • Going back to school
  • Increased confidence

Three Tips for Addressing Fear –

  1. Take time to understand what you really want.  What is the fear really based on?
  2. Taking the time to figure out where the fear comes from and what it is connected to may open up new awareness about a direction to take.  Once you understand what you truly want, then start taking small steps in that direction. Do the research to determine some of the steps that you need to take to set you on the path that you want. If you are unsure, consider working with a coach or mentor.
  3. Set small achievable goals that can be built upon. Put into place a daily routine that works towards overcoming the fear.   Prove to yourself that your fear can be conquered, and then your belief in what is possible will change.

Best,

Michael

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How to Reduce the Stigma of Therapy

 

How to Reduce the Stigma of Therapy

During the last 100 years or so there has been an interesting evolution regarding the helping professions.  The stigma around seeking help for guidance is a somewhat unusual cultural phenomenon.  In most cultures, seeking guidance is a relatively accepted and supported endeavor and has been for many years.   For a more detailed exploration of stigma as it relates both to mental health as well as stigma towards seeking professional help, see this article on Help Seeking from the British Psychological Society. In this article there are many examples of sited research, as well as interventions, to help to reduce stigma of seeking help.  Some research suggests that normalizing issues that people are facing may help to reduce stigma for seeking help.  So the purpose of this post is to provide some anecdotal information from my own experience to help normalize seeking help.

Here are some reasons I have seen in my own practice that may impact how seeking help becomes stigmatized, as well as how to reduce the stigma of therapy.

Throwing out the baby with the bathwater –

I have come across many people over the course of the last decade who say that they tried therapy and didn’t like their therapist.  Not having a connection to the therapist is an important factor to consider.  Research shows that the goodness of fit or “therapeutic alliance” (how well you connect with your therapist) is one of the largest predictors for change.  So if we know that the connection experienced between therapist and client is so important, then this should be a focus.  Unfortunately, often time’s people will see a therapist that they don’t connect with, only attend briefly and then assume that therapy is not effective. This may be due to the therapist not checking in with the client or the client not having the understanding of the importance of this dynamic, but it does happen.  If you are looking for ways to explore the “goodness of fit” in more detail, see this article on How to Choose a Therapist.   An important thing to keep in mind when looking at therapy is that therapists are like many other professionals, there are great ones, good ones and ones that may not be the best fit for you.  To offer a comparison – if you hire a plumber and they do a bad job, would the assumption be to discount plumbing altogether or call a new plumber?

Therapy doesn’t work –

Sometimes people go to therapy once or twice or maybe three times and then assume that nothing is happening, so it obviously doesn’t work.  I often have the conversation with clients about how to get the most out of a therapy.  My hope is that these conversations take place in most therapy offices.  The truth is that when you have meetings with a therapist they are typically only one hour.  This also means that whatever is discussed in therapy may take implementation and practice outside of the therapy office.  For change to occur, practice and patience are important.  There may be times where someone continues to attend appointments even though they feel that nothing is changing for them.  Whatever the feeling is, bring it up with your therapist and see what is missing.   Remember, if something is not working, try to identify why, and fix it.

These problems aren’t bad enough –

We all have similar problems, to a certain extent.  We definitely all have things we are stressed about, are scared of, are hopeful for, are insecure about etc.   Therapy does not have to be only for those struggling with something that society deems “serious.”   Fortunately many people see therapy as an opportunity to self actualize, seek understanding of one’s self, process something confusing, determine what is most valuable to them or many other reasons outside of the context of exploring pain, trauma or dysfunction.  Therapy is not for sick people.  Therapy is an open platform to explore whatever you decide is important.  I repeat, whatever YOU decide is important.   People seek guidance and empowerment for a variety of reasons and the depth and importance of those reasons only get to be decided by the individual.   Reducing the stigma of therapy can be accomplished through recognizing a few simple statements:

It’s OK to take a look at who we are.

It’s OK to explore what is working and what isn’t working.

It’s OK to want to make changes to better ourselves.

Best,

Michael

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The 100 Day Intention Experiment – Part 1

 

The 100 Day Intention Experiment

 

About two months ago I was involved in an accident.  Since this accident I’ve had lots of questions, first of which was how did I survive. I had slipped and fallen off of a high waterfall and landed in about 1.5 feet of water, but mostly rock.  When my friends arrived down to where I had fallen, the look on their faces was as if they had seen a ghost.   Thankfully they were able to help me hike out of the woods.  I’m lucky to have such great friends.   The waterfall was 75 feet.  I managed to grab some branches and rocks on the way down so the free fall was only 30 feet or so.  I went over the falls head first, but managed to turn myself around and point my feet down so that I was falling vertically.  I am very thankful for years of martial arts training that taught me to relax and focus during times of stress.  I believe it was this ability to focus, as well as being able to relax and exhale on impact that helped to reduce trauma.   After a series of x-rays it was determined that I didn’t even break anything.  It was a miracle.   I’m still working on rehabbing my ankles and knees, but overall I’m good.

This post is less about that story and more about what this experience pushed me towards.  Like I said, I’ve had lots of thoughts since this accident; gratitude, curiosity, wonder, fear etc.  One thought that has come up regularly is intention.  The experience made me ask a great question – “How intentional are my moments, days, weeks and general direction?”  So I decided to create an intention experiment.

I definitely have lots of good things going on right now and am busy, but wasn’t as intentional as I would like, so I changed.  Today is day 50 of a 100 day experiment I decided to start.  This experiment was inspired by my study of daily practices in graduate school, my martial arts practice and an inspirational story I heard about a man named Hal Elrod.    If you don’t know Hal’s story, you should look into it.  He wrote a book called The Miracle Morning, which is also worth checking out.  The idea is about setting a routine at the first part of the day that then sets the tone for the rest of the day, physically and mentally.   So, why 100 days?  It seemed like a nice round number and also enough time to form a new habit, which is my goal.

Having a daily practice is not something new for me.  However, I haven’t had a regular routine like this that is regimented and covers a few different focal points.  I want to share the routine because I’ve found it to be so helpful.   The order has had some variation but for the most part this is how it goes:

  • I wake up, brush my teeth, splash some water on my face and sometimes put in my contacts.
  • I do 10 minutes of seated meditation. The meditation I do is mostly just focused on relaxation and how I’m breathing.   I do this first because I’ve noticed that I recall my dreams much better, which often times there are some nuggets of inspiration there for me.
  • A short warm up, stretching and moving and then into a Tai Chi form that I have been practicing for the last 7 years or so. I think I’m at the point now finally that I can do this form and feel like a beginner.  There is so much to the art of Tai Chi, but that’s for another post.
  • I then start a Chi Kung which I have also been practicing for some time now. Chi Kung is another kind of meditation.
  • I do about 10-15 minutes of movement that helps to get my blood flowing even more. Usually this consists of martial arts forms/movements/stances, pushups, pull ups, sit ups and some stretching.
  • To wrap it up I journal. The journaling usually has three elements.
    • I write about whatever mood I wake up in or what’s on my mind.
    • I write about my dreams I remember and what kind of meaning I can draw from them.
    • Most importantly, I write about my intention for the day. I find that writing my goals and what I intend to accomplish for the day has been a powerful exercise for me.  Sometimes I write down intentions for longer term goals as they relate to what is happening currently.

Since I started this routine I’ve noticed some really great opportunities develop in my business, I have been feeling better physically and seem to be more productive.  This may just be coincidence, although I don’t believe that.  I do believe that creating clear goals and intentions for our time, creates results.  I have noticed that my time has been spent more focused.  This routine has helped me get clear about the direction of my business as well as directions and goals I am taking on personally.

I really believe having a daily practice has so much to offer.   My story and practice is unique, just like yours.  Starting the day with focus on mental clarity, physical health and intention seems to be a great recipe for success.  It works well for me because I’ve incorporated some practices that I already love.  Combining practices that I really enjoy with ones that are harder to do (especially in the morning) has been a good mix. I look forward to reflecting on this practice after another 50 days.

What is your recipe for success?

Best,

Michael