A coaching client emailed me this question:
Good Morning, Coach Colleen!
Just touching base…
Not very successful in meeting last weeks’ goals.
Today I am asking myself –
What am I afraid of… if I was to let go of something?
I know what papers I want to toss or move – but I am holding on to something.
Hopefully we can move past this block.
My response (edited for confidentiality and content):
“Hmmmm….. what ARE you afraid of?”
We set goals because we want to achieve a certain outcome. We’re also aware there may be side effects from achieving those goals. The fear of those side effects weighs us down.
- This client has boxes of old papers to review and purge. She wants to wrap up the paper project before starting another. She has done great work in many ways, but reviewing and purging the papers in these these last few boxes feels scary, like she might let go of something important.
- I heard the story of a client secretly afraid of an empty in-box. It seemed that if the in-box was empty, she wouldn’t have any more excuses for not doing the other harder, more emotionally painful tasks she’s been putting off.
- A friend is worried that she’ll lose too much weight and then she’ll have to buy new clothes and it will be expensive. So she doesn’t even start.
- I alternate between wanting to be super-busy and then freaking out because I’m so busy and can’t do all the things I want to do.
We all have fears, it’s how we face them – what we do with them – that matters. If you ask yourself what you’re afraid of, your mind might not produce an answer. If you’re feeling blocked, you can instead ask yourself, “What’s the worse that can happen?”
As in, “I’m conflicted about a possible outcome. It could be good, and it could be scary. So what is the worse that can happen if I achieve this goal?”
Using the weight loss example, what’s the worse that can happen?
- We feel some discomfort with being hungry or sore from exercising, until our body adjusts (we can survive that, no biggie).
- We lose weight and then have to buy new clothes (not really so bad).
- We lose so much weight we look like one of those crazy skeleton people on the news (not really very likely, now is it?).
- We work out so much we look like those freaky body builders (also not too likely).
- There is the unlikely event that losing weight could cause other health issues, but the list of health benefits outweigh the fears.
In the case of this client, what’s the worse that can happen if she let go of the wrong papers?
- Someone may ask for the information (sometimes the answer is “No, I don’t have that paper anymore” and sometimes we have to go out and find the answer again. Neither is too scary).
- She may forget about it (if the paper represents something important, she will be reminded in other ways).
- Again, the benefits of completing this paper project, and freeing up space in her house and schedule exceed the fears.
This afternoon I found this quote while working at a different client’s house, took a picture and texted it to my client. I loved her response:
“Wow, doing 365 things a year could make a person become ruthless [her goal is to objectively and ruthlessly purge her papers]! And then nothing will scare them!”
So face those fears, and make those lists. I bet what you fear isn’t so scary after all!