F.E.A.R.

We had to make a big choice yesterday – big enough that it was easy to start feeling a bit panicked about it if we let our fears direct our decision-making.

Sometimes fear can do a great job of keeping us safe. But it also can keep us trapped and, well, a bit crazy.

Recently, I got drawn into one of those special programs public television broadcasts during fund drives. Psychiatrist Dr. Amen was discussing his book – and the only thing that stuck with me from the program was: You don’t have to believe everything your brain tells you. In other words, just because your brain asserts something as true or real, doesn’t necessarily mean it is.

So, was what our brains were telling us about this big decision real or not?

I’ve learned that it is imperative to ask this question when I am afraid. Unless the danger is real and immediate (look out for that speeding car!), my experience has been that fear is a really incompetent consultant when it comes to making good decisions.

So often it’s true that FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real.

Being more of a problem-solver than drama-queen, I love the notion of “evidence.” It reminds me to evaluate the “facts” and determine a solution, rather than listen to the hamsters running madly on the wheels of my worried mind.

I find that “facts” are a lot easier to evaluate if I can get them outside my head – which means talking with someone or putting them to paper – anything to get them to hold still long enough to take a good look at them. So we discussed our priorities, considered our options and crunched some numbers (it was partly a financial decision, so there was some math involved) – giving as much weight to the desires of our hearts as the rational demands of our minds. And it turned out that what we feared most wasn’t likely to happen, even in a worst-case scenario – which made the decision remarkably easy. After that it was just a matter of planning a course of action. Whew.

Next time you are feeling a bit panicked by your fears, stop for a moment. Step off the hamster wheel. Catch your breath. And ask yourself if they are real. Not sure? You might want to try The Work by Byron Katie. Its brilliance is its simplicity: just ask yourself four questions.

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can I absolutely know it’s true?
  3. How do I react when I think that thought?
  4. Who would I be without that thought?
    and then Turn it around.

* * * * * * * * * *

How do you address your fears when you have a big decision to make? If you’ve made decisions based more on what you feared than what you wanted, how well did they turn out?

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