Fear of failure or loss has become the new saber-tooth tiger in the bushes.
Let me explain with an example.
Q: Would it be helpful to talk about your DreamBiz or Passion Project idea with someone objective?
I bet your first reaction was "Yes!"
And then your brain immediately said, Wait - what are the details? is there a catch? If we talk about it that might make it real. We'll just get excited about something impossible. I don't have time right now.
Naaaaah. Thanks anyway. I need to go re-arrange my sock drawer, I've been putting it off.
See how this works?
I have known for awhile, and you probably do, too, that fear stops us from doing many things. More things than we can imagine, really.
Fear on autopilot = habits our brain thinks are keeping us "safe".
Here is what I did not know a couple of weeks ago - part of our brain is hard-wired to hesitate. If it senses we are contemplating something new and different, stepping out, it will kill our initiative with hesitation while we "think about it".
This was to keep us alive in the days when stepping outside of our cave could get us eaten by a tiger in the bushes if we weren't careful.
The problem is that this section of our brain doesn't know the difference between the tiger in the bushes and what might happen if we take sign up for that new class, take that trip, start that blog, or take action on any other thing that is new and different today.
All our brain sees is the stress (perceived threat) associated with the action.
I imagine that women, as the main caretakers of children around the hunter-gatherer campsite, developed this tendency to hesitate - in the form of evaluating risks - to an even higher degree, keeping track of several things at once.
What to do about it.
In brief, this is what I've learned from a few different sources*:
This is how it works:
First, breathe deeply. This send oxygen upstairs and signals to our brain that its OK.
Second, procrastination is not a bad thing you do because you are bad. It is your brain trying to keep you safe. Don't take it personally.
Third, you are the boss of your brain, right? The way you change it is by taking fast action - like in 5 seconds - on things you are avoiding, and spending at least 5 - 10 minutes on that which you are avoiding. This is how you chase the tiger out of the bushes, because in reality, its just a mouse rustling around.
Fourth, baby steps are key. You could give your notice to a job you hate in 5 seconds, and I'm not going to say you shouldn't. If you've been unhappy for years it may be exactly the antidote. Deadlines work for a reason; quitting your job immediately gives you all sorts of real deadlines. But it also ratchets up your stress level.
Instead, you could turn a more prudent approach (see how nice that sounds?) into a platform for action (instead of an excuse not to act) by grabbing a piece of paper and list the top 3 things to do, now, to transition out of that job in 6 months. For example, start a savings account, update your resume, get help having that difficult money conversation with your partner, get serious about generating part time income from a passion or idea you have.
Then, what is the next fast action you can take on each step? Do that one. I bet after spending an hour of 5 second baby steps you will feel a little woozy and more alive than you have in weeks, months or even years.
This small shift towards a bias for action will change your life. Why? Because life is a series of small decisions, many of them we make on auto-pilot, also called habits.
Here is the piece that was missing from what I read. All of the advice was focused on individual change, and yes, change starts with you.
However, no one does this alone. Women in ancient societies developed collective safety nets for their children. If you are considering birthing a business or passion project, you need 2 things:
Lets take on the tigers together. <3