I firmly believe that you create your own reality. By that I don’t mean that you think your life into being, although I do believe in the power of the mind. (But that’s a conversation for another day.) What I’m saying today is that you get to choose how you interpret and react to things in this world. And you can choose to react in a positive way or a negative one. By doing this, you create your own reality through your expectations, interpretations, and reactions.
But you have to overcome a few things in order to create your own reality and dreams. Fear of the future is a big one. Fear can be paralyzing, and so uncomfortable that your brain starts to believe that it would be easier/better to stay where you are rather than moving forward. That the place you are now is as good a place to be as any, no need to move forward towards your dreams or the great unknown.
We all have our moments where we are paralyzed by “what ifs”.
- What if we sell the house and quit our jobs to follow our dream and then end up homeless?
- What if I get what I want and it turns out it’s not really what I wanted after all?
- What if I’m not really worthy to get my dream? What if I get there and then it’s taken away?
- What if I have to give up something important to me in order to realize my dream and I can never get it back?
- What if I lose something or someone important by following my dream?
- What if what I think is a good choice is actually a reckless one?
- What if I just stayed where I am? That would be okay. Yes, I should probably just stay where I am.
What ifs – They can be the ultimate buzz kill. Even now, in the midst of our bliss, I still occasionally run into a wall of what ifs. Last October, I had a sleepless night before a long bus trip in Honduras (a delightful place, but one with a bad reputation – not always deserved – for violence on the roadways). Lying awake at 3 am, these thoughts were swarming through my brain.
- What if we take that public bus and it gets robbed along the way?
- What if we miss our stop?
- What if we get lost and can’t find where we’re supposed to be and it gets dark?
- What if it’s pouring rain and our pack covers don’t work and we end up ruining all our electronics and soaking everything we own?
In those moments, the doubts and fears can feel like enough to make calling off the whole trip a possibility. At these times, there are a few things I do in order to talk myself off the ledge and manage my self talk a bit better.
Live in the moment
A lot of fear is about living in a negative idea about the future, or dwelling on negative things that happened in the past. By letting go of that worry and just living in the moment, you can overcome a lot of fear. For me, I have a lot of what if moments in the middle of the night. So I will usually decide to let go of the thoughts and focus on my breathing instead. Every time the thoughts try and creep back in (& they always do), I set them aside and focus on my breathing. Many a night of what if-based insomnia has been cured by this process.
If it is during the day and I find myself the victim of negative “what ifs”, I try and focus on the moment. A chat with my husband, enjoying a beautiful view or meal, a good conversation with a friend, meditation, working on my photography or writing, or going on a walk to refocus are the things I tend to do when I’m feeling stressed about what ifs. We all have our own unique ways of dealing with stressful moments and finding a way to let go of all the worry and just be. You just have to figure out your strategies.
In this example, I focused on my breathing. Then snuggled up with Kyle and chatted about all the things about Honduras that I was looking forward to, including my birthday celebration (which was on the other side of that bus trip).
Turn those negative thoughts on their nose.
My father is a psychologist, and he has a saying: “Watch your self-talk (that inner dialog you have in your head). Make sure it’s not getting too negative.”
So, when I find myself worrying about things I cannot control, I take the negative thoughts, recognize them as such, and then try and re-envision them as positive moments. In the case of my fears and concerns about our bus trip, I changed them into this:
- What if we get on the local bus and everyone is nice and we have an interesting conversation with our neighbor and get suggestions on what to do in our destination?
- What if we have an uneventful and safe trip (which is the norm for us)?
- What if we tell the bus driver where we need to go and he tells us where to get off?
- What if a friendly local helps us find our way when we think we’re lost?
- What if the sun is shining when we get off the bus and we don’t have to worry about rain?
Recasting fears as positive moments is an effective tool for reshaping your reality. It calms me down and appeals to my optimistic nature. It also creates a powerful shift in energy (both mental & emotional). Because now, instead of putting so much energy into worry and fear, I’m putting that same energy into positive thinking. And that creates a huge shift in both thought and emotion.
Focus on the Dream
Since a lot of the fears we have are about striving for or reaching our dreams, I find that focusing on the dream, and what it will feel like in those amazing moments once it is realized, can be a powerful tool for overcoming the fear. For our bus trip, I refocused my negative energy onto positive things and chose to focus on all the amazing things we had heard about Honduras and all the things we had dreamed about for ourselves on this trip. It didn’t hurt that my birthday was coming up and I could focus on all the fun things we had coming up.
Take some time to set aside worry and negative thoughts and choose to focus on what it will feel like (& be like) when you embrace and realize your dream, no matter what it is. The mind is a powerful tool and by focusing on your dream you can chase away a lot of the fears about the future and bring yourself that much closer to making your dreams come true. Then settle in and do the work. We promise you that it is worth it.
And that bus trip. Well, all the good things I envisioned about that trip (& every other bus trip in Honduras) came true. And our time in Honduras was some of our favorite times in all of Central America. All that worry was for nothing.