By Debra LeClair Psy.D.
If we were to peel back most peoples’ heads and hear what they were thinking, it would astonish you to hear the dread, fear and self-doubt that surrounds the everyday.
“What if I screw up the presentation?”
“I think I came off too strongly on my date.
“What’s wrong with me that I can’t get my finances together?”
While it’s true that some of that dread alerts us to issues that need to be problem solved, the majority of the worry takes us out of the moment and plants us either in the past or the future, or a combination of both. For instance, you might find yourself thinking, “He’s always undermining me in meetings, wonder what he’s going to say in front of the team tomorrow.” With that, your mind has a fictional picture to focus on, which almost always, exacerbates the stress.
What if instead of living in just the worry, you shifted perspective by consciously thinking about the outcome you’d like to see unfold? In other words, you would purposely enroll your imagination to think about how you’d optimally like to see things transpire.
Moving into the process, we first have to find a place for the dread and fear since it’s not just a matter of trying to block out the automatic negative thoughts and feelings. Begin by just noticing the doubts and insecurities that are coming up. Give yourself a little objective space with those. Acknowledge that you are having those thoughts and feelings and then label them. More specifically, as you feel the doubt come up, label it at “there’s a feeling”. Likewise a thought comes up about a scenario going badly, label that as “just having a thought”. As you do this, in your mind’s eye, allow them to be placed onto a cloud that floats away. They may resurface but by continuing to place them outside of yourself they have less power to hijack your mind and throw you off your better game.
Next, begin to identify what you want to a feel. Maybe you want to experience being confident and energized. Guide yourself into what that actually feels like. Notice the energy rising in your body. Become aware of how you hold yourself when you feel the confidence growing. If fresh negative emotions come along to try and knock you out of the more positive experience, just place that nagging feeling onto the cloud as well.
By sticking with the way you intend to feel and the outcome you want to see, you have now given your brain something positive on which to place its focus. Research has show that the mind tends to move toward creating that which is in its sight. As a gymnast years ago, I was taught not to look at the ground but to the end of the balance beam, to keep myself squarely on top of it. It’s similar to why you want to “keep your eye on the prize”, as behaviors, attitudes and ideas align with the picture you are continually giving yourself.