In a dusty corner of the Internet is a post from my angsty, teenage Tumblr that reads: “Life is SO full of possibilities. I think my greatest fear is regret.” Years later, this feeling still resonates. Regret might be one of the most unpleasant feelings life has to offer, so it’s worth noting that over the long-term, we’re much more likely to regret the things we didn’t do. Which leads us to my message: Don’t let your passions and interests become regrets. If there’s something you really want to try,go for it.
I know. This is a little easier said than done. Putting yourself out there and exposing yourself to failure can be daunting, so we’re here to help. When doubts and fears begin to crowd out your thoughts, you need ways to bring yourself back to reality and keep your eyes on the prize. The next time you’re facing a new situation or taking a big risk, try the following tips adopted from a great book called The Charisma Myth:
1. Destigmatize Discomfort
Risk makes us uncomfortable because we feel like we aren’t in control. One way to overcome this feeling is to remind yourself of how completely normal it is to feel discomfort in this situation. For example, think of someone you greatly admire, someone who has accomplished amazing things. Imagine them in a similar situation, feeling equally scared and uncomfortable. (They all really have felt like that, by the way.) Now, think of all the other people in the world who are probably feeling the same way at this exact moment. You aren’t crazy. You aren’t overreacting. You’re just human like everyone else, and you’re trying to wrap your head around a new situation.
2. Neutralize Negativity
In these situations, we’re often our own worst enemy. We see things from the worst possible angle, and before even giving ourselves a fair shot we convince ourselves that things are going poorly. Instead, realize that your thoughts and perceptions aren’t necessarily the objective truth. Try assigning a label to your feelings, like “self criticism” or “frustration.” Think about them through the lens of a scientist. Your negative thoughts may simply be your brain’s instinctive reaction to a high-stakes situation. Now, imagine that all of these thoughts in your mind are just noise from a radio. Slowly turn down the dial.
3. Re-write Reality
Let’s say something goes really wrong, whether it’s because you took a risk or because you didn’t. You’re here now, so what can you do about it? All it takes to turn a stressful situation into a positive one is a change in your perspective. You’ve probably heard something like this before, so how do you actually translate this into reality?
Let’s think through a real situation. Maybe you just received a negative performance review at work. Find a piece of paper and write down all the possible ways in which this situation could actually end up being good for you. Imagine how this might be the first step in a series of events that leads to a great ending. Maybe the performance review shines a light on a problem that you can now work through so you can become incredible at what you do. Or maybe you realize the way your company measures you simply doesn’t mesh with who you want to become.
By deciding to interpret bad situations as first steps in a story with a happy ending, not only will you see the light at the end of the tunnel but you’ll actually be equipped with the perspective to turn the situation around.
Now that you’re equipped to handle stressful situations, let us know how you cope with risk and doubt. If you try out these tips, share your experiences in the comments below!