Have you ever been in a situation where you have wanted to make a change in your life, make a big decision or even just try something new, but you can’t get past the ‘what-if’s’? This could be anything from trying a new food, hiring help, saying no to something you’ve been asked to do, making investments, buying a new house, having kids, not having kids, getting married, getting a divorce, applying for a new job or a promotion, leaving your job and starting your own business etc. Whatever the situation is, often it’s fear that keeps us stuck and not able to take action.
This whole topic has been on my mind because lately, I’ve come across a few people who have been stuck in indecision for months. When I’ve spoken to them about why, it’s because of a few underlying fears and their belief systems that are getting in the way of making the decision. When we have big decisions to make that will impact our life, I believe that deep down we have almost an intuitive/instinctual knowing of what we should do, but then we let our mind jump in and override that knowing, often confusing us to the point that we believe we don’t know what to do. We start thinking about all of the ‘what-if’s’, like ‘what-if I don’t like it’ or ‘what if it doesn’t work out’ or ‘what if others get upset with me’ or ‘what if I fail or ‘what-if people judge me’ (this is actually one of the biggest fears a lot of people have). Then our minds will go one step further and start making us feel the consequences of those ‘what-ifs’ almost like they have already happened. We can start to feel the emotions of that decision not working out and the impact it will have on us. What we need to recognize is, these are just stories our mind is telling us. They haven’t even happened but yet somehow we convince ourselves of the perceived negative consequence being a reality. Sometimes we can even let our minds not just feel the ‘what-if, but already be so certain of a particular outcome that we shut the idea down before we’ve even given it a chance.
When we are faced with these decisions, our limiting beliefs start to surface and the larger, riskier the decision is, our subconscious beliefs start playing a much bigger role. A small example of when I let some limiting beliefs stop me is, a little while ago I was catching up with friends for a meal and I wanted to try something that I'd never had before. However, I ended up talking myself out of it and going with my usual order, because I was worried I wouldn't like it and regret ordering it (the ironic thing is I regretted not trying it for the rest of the day). I let the fear of taking a small risk get in the way of trying something new and beliefs had arisen of never liking it when I try something different and being disappointed and regretting it every time (although that has happened maybe a handful of times). Since I caught myself in this limiting belief, I quickly decided I didn't want to be closed off to trying new things and ended up trying it (and loved it). Although ordering something new seems like an inconsequential decision, it is impactful to me because I intentionally want to stay open minded to trying new things in life and getting out of my comfort zone and it helped me realize the limiting beliefs I had that would hold me back from those intentions.
Let’s take another example like hiring a nanny. There are big benefits of being a working parent with a nanny, however in some societies where this isn’t the norm, the mind can jump in with beliefs such as ‘well, aren’t I supposed to look after my own children; what if my kids think I’m never there for them; what if they end up liking the nanny more than me; what will other people think, they may think I’m not a good parent and I’m choosing work over my children; or what if people think I’m having all of this time to myself and just leaving my children with a stranger; what if I end up feeling guilty for not spending more time with them; can we really afford it; shouldn’t I be able to handle it all myself?’ Those that I know who hired a nanny (myself included in the past) have never looked back on the decision, even though they may have agonized over it for a very long time.
What about for bigger decisions though where there is more risk involved? As I said, I’ve been seeing people I know lately mull over decisions for months on what direction they should take in their business. The thing is, they already know the answer and have known it the whole time. But this is where their subconscious fears have started surfacing around money beliefs and worthiness beliefs and has kept them stuck for months, asking the same questions over and over. Once they were able to recognize the core beliefs that were holding them back (often they can be quite tricky to pinpoint and recognize), they were then able to work through them.
I know right now there are a lot of people contemplating leaving their jobs to do something else (here in the US, it’s been deemed ‘The Great Resignation’). However, I believe there are many more people that are thinking about it but stuck in fear and can’t make the decision. Often the questions and thoughts swirling around in their minds are; ‘what if I fail, then everyone will know; what if I’m not able to make the same money as I do now; what if I’m not good at the sales & marketing; what if people say no or reject me; I don’t even know how to build a website; I’m no good at technology; do I really have the ability to do this; what if I end up working more hours than in my current job’ etc. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with asking these questions and they are good ones to ask, however where it becomes detrimental is when we get stuck in the answers that we come up with. The subconscious beliefs that start to surface and the ‘consequences’ we perceive as happening by making this decision. Then we end up sitting on the decision and not moving forward or taking very slow action while these thoughts continuing to ruminate in our mind. When I made the decision to leave my 25-year corporate career, it was very scary. I had all sorts of fears arising and subconscious beliefs surfacing. But I had already been doing the inner work and was thankful I had multiple coaches, tools and techniques to help me work through my fears and change some of my beliefs. Once I realized the beliefs I had, I didn’t want them lingering and holding me back because starting this business was something I really wanted. One of my beliefs was not seeing myself as an entrepreneur (I never planned to leave corporate prior to this), which led me to questioning my ability to learn a whole bunch of new skills that I’d had limited exposure to before. This hit me at both a a core identity level and had me questioning my own competence (Human Design was a big factor in helping me through this. I do offer Human Design readings if anyone wants to understand who they are at a core level and their innate skills and talents). However, I knew deep in my heart that starting this business this was the right next step for me and my passion for helping people in a deeper way was in the forefront of my mind. So that helped me stay focused on why I needed to work through these fears and change my beliefs that were holding me back.
So, if you have found yourself in a position letting fear keep you stuck in whatever circumstance or decision that you have wanted to make in your life, then here are six steps to help you move through it:
Write out your desired decision and all of the benefits of it, then observe your thoughts and see what objections are arising. Write them all down, no matter how big or small they seem.
Ask yourself what is behind these thoughts, try to pinpoint any belief patterns you see. Keep asking yourself until you can get to the root of a core belief (for example, you might start with a question like what if I regret this decision; what if my life gets worse not better; will other people think I’ve made the wrong decision; isn’t the situation I’m in now just the way life is supposed to be; am I living in a fantasy land thinking I can get my wish; will it really work out better for me anyway; what if I cause others pain in the process; am I really good enough to have what I truly want; am I even worthy of succeeding. Bingo – you’ve pinpointed a worthiness belief – that is the core belief you need to work on.
See if you can find out why you feel that way, perhaps it was a situation that happened long ago and you’ve been reinforcing it in your own mind for decades or just the environment you grew up in where maybe unconditional support and encouragement wasn’t given, someone else's needs were always put ahead of your own, or even constantly hearing statements about ‘life is hard and not supposed to be fair’ or ‘not everyone gets what they want in life’ etc. There are so many reasons we get conditioned to believe certain things, but it can be helpful to find the first time it happened or approximately when the belief first started. Then once you’ve identified the situation or circumstance – write out what you made it mean about you. What is the story you associated with it.
Ask yourself if you hang onto those beliefs, what does it mean for your life in 1-years’ time, in 5 years, in 10 years, in 20 years. Then ask yourself, is this what you see for your life, or do you really want something different?
Write out what new beliefs you want to have instead. Something far more empowering, where success is inevitable e.g. I have full control over my life and happiness, no-one else is in charge of me and my decisions; I am worthy and deserving of getting everything I desire; I am only responsible for my own thoughts, actions and emotions and I am not responsible for others; I easily earn money without having to work excessively for it etc. Make a list of all of the new beliefs you want to uphold and put them somewhere that you can look at them every day, even multiple times a day. The idea is to keep reading these to ingrain them into your conscious, which will then seep into your subconscious.
Lastly, take your list of the old beliefs and one by one, cross them out and say aloud ‘I now replace this with…' and read one of your new beliefs. This tells your brain that you are ready to let the old belief go and instill your new belief instead. It sounds overly simple, but our brains actually like simple and it is far more effective than making it so complex that we subconsciously don’t buy into it.
Now, I’m not saying fear is a bad thing completely as fear does keep us safe. But this is really intended to help us move past fear keeping us so safe, that we never take risks or get out of our comfort zone. By staying stuck in fear, it will keep us living the same life and making the same choices over and over. Ultimately, it becomes an obstacle to our own growth and achievement and holds us back from living the life we really desire.
The most important thing to remember is we will always feel fear. We are not going to make fear go away. There is a saying that I love ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. However, a big part of this is accepting that we will feel fear and leaning into it to find out what it is trying to tell us. Allow it to bring these subconscious and limiting beliefs to the surface and take it as a gift that you have an opportunity to work on them and heal them, so it allows you to create a more fulfilling and empowered life, where you are one hundred percent in charge.
I hope this is helpful to you if you need to get unstuck to make some important decisions in your life. However, if you need any help developing your vision, identifying what is holding you back or need more techniques to work through your fears, please take advantage of my offer of a free transformational coaching session which you can book here.