What keeps you awake at night?

Description of hands creeping out of the ocean

It’s that time of year when we’re surrounded by all things spooky and scary.

But what is it that REALLY keeps you awake at night?

I think for me, the biggest thing I struggle with is self doubt.  And it’s definitely something that creeps up on me.

Things That Go Bump In The Night

It often starts off with an uneasy feeling.  I begin to feeling unsure when I’m making decisions.  Then I’m overthinking decisions and actions.  Worrying about all the possible things that could go wrong. And dithering or putting off doing things, because “what if it does all go wrong?”.

The Ghost of Decisions Past

If you recognise that this happens for you too, then you might also be visited by the ‘Ghost of Decisions Past’.   You know the one…it often starts lurking around 3am when you can’t sleep, and the suddenly you’re replaying conversations and situations over again in your mind, and you hear the whispers of mistakes and regrets gone by.

Unwelcome Visitations

We’d like to think that we can shake off these ‘visitations’, but their effects can remain with us subconsciously.  It’s almost as though a little poisonous seed has been planted, which starts to latch on to our conscious thoughts.  And then every time we try to make changes or take action, the little seed sends out the venom to kill off our positive ideas.

Facing The Demons

There are things that can help to tackle self doubt, however.

For me, this first step is being able to notice when it’s there.   Because it is something that often creeps up on us, so we might not even notice it at first.  Getting curious and asking what is behind those uncomfortable feelings can sometimes help to pinpoint what is triggering it.

Secondly, it also helps to consciously recall and focus on the times where I have overcome my doubts in the past.  Or at least, persevered in spite of it.  Because feeling uncertain and anxious about the outcome in certain situations is normal.  So if I can recall at time where I was dreading something, but actually it turned out better than I’d anticipated, then this can remind me that my thoughts are not always true.

And thirdly, I write myself a realistic plan.  Because I know that feeling unprepared will pretty much always lead to me feeling less confident.  If I have the time, then I like to think of some possible outcomes or scenarios and then ask myself what I could about it.  The key thing here though is to keep it realistic – that means not getting carried away with every possible outcome, but which ones are most likely, and which outcomes can I control.   

So if self doubt is an unwelcome visitor for you, try some of these ideas out for yourself.  The only way to conquer those fears is to face them.

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If not now, when?

Scrabble letters spelling out the quote, If not now, when

As we head into the last quarter of 2022, you may be feeling the pull to end the year on a high.  Perhaps you started the year with good intentions and plans…but other things got in the way?

But the reality is, there is always something that will get in the way.

If you’re looking for perfect timing, or the ideal conditions, then chances are you could be waiting for a while.  And although feeling prepared will help your confidence, procrastinating and letting time slip away, will eat into your confidence even more.

It’s a cliche that “we always regret the chances we didn’t take”, but regret and frustration from not taking action can really eat away at self esteem.  And it impacts how likely we are to put ourselves forward for things in the future.

Recognise where you might be holding yourself back by waiting, and ask yourself whether waiting is actually serving you in the long term.

If not now, when?

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The downside to self development

An image of someone standing with two arrows ahead, pointing in different directions

We often think that making change is a positive move.   Most of the time it is, of course.  But have you ever experienced the downside to self development?

Wait, what do you mean?!  How come there’s a downside?

Well, if we’ve been feeling stuck or lost for some time, starting to make new changes or routines can suddenly highlight the things we’ve been missing out on.  We might notice that we get frustrated or annoyed at ourselves because we’ve spent a while drifting.  We might even start to compare ourselves to others, and think we’re falling behind, or not good enough.

Sure, these feelings can be used as motivators, to give us the momentum to move ourselves.

But accepting that they are a common side effect of taking action can help to normalise some of the more negative feelings we might experience too.

If you notice that you’re feeling this way when you start to make any changes or progress, then allow yourself some time to reflect on what’s coming up.  But also allow yourself to appreciate that you are changing, and are gradually moving away from that place of ‘stuckness’ or inertia.

Listening to your emotions, and accepting how you are feeling, is all part of the growth process.  So, embrace the learning and keep going!

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Growth requires change

An image of a hand holding a small green shoot

One of the hardest steps to growth is making change.

But it doesn’t mean that we have to make massive change all in one go.

Changes that kickstart growth can be a simple as mixing up your daily routine. Such as getting up 20 mins earlier, going for a walk straight after work, or writing a meal plan before the new week starts.

All good growth – and by that I mean growth that you can sustain – begins with making those small incremental differences.  These are the things which build confidence, or change habits.

And they are also a way to boost momentum and get you moving to the next step, and the next after that.

Often what people find hardest about change, is that they try to do too much at once.  This is when you find that you haven’t properly planned it, or anticipated the time you need to commit properly.  And we convince ourselves that we can’t do it, or it’s going to be too hard.

So try making one small change this week.  It doesn’t have to be too drastic.  Not life changing in the short term, but something that over time will help you build a more positive habit.

You can do hard things….gradually!

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Why self development is all about the domino effect

An image of a row of dominoes about to be knocked over

No, this isn’t a homage to my favourite game as a child.  (But it was all about Domino Rally in the 80’s!).

It is in fact a great visual reminder of how things impact on another.  And in the case of self development, this works in both positive and negative ways.

I’ve had a busy couple of months with work and study, and I’ve let the non-essential things slip.  Such as exercises and eating healthily.  One missed gym class became a week of missed classes.  One convenience meal became a daily pattern of snacking and making poor meal choices.

I say the non-essential things, because we often assume that they aren’t that important, right?  These are the things that we can put off thinking about until tomorrow, or the weekend, or next week.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said next week I’m getting back to the gym every day, or I’m going to cook every meal from scratch.  And if I’m honest, I usually get annoyed with myself when I don’t get things done.

Going for the ‘boom or bust’ approach of “I have to do all the things at once” isn’t helpful either.  Often, we start off really motivated and focussed, and with all good intentions.   But then work happens, or social events happen or, well, life happens – and we’ve skipped a few days, or  week, and we start off back at where we started.

The most successful approach to any habit, is to take it gradually.  To build up patterns and routine, to ease ourselves in and build our confidence.

It really is the small actions we take each day that add up.  And it’s much easier to maintain small actions, rather than tackling an overwhelming amount of stuff all at the same time.

So if you’re thinking about making some changes, try and visualise the domino effect.  Small action can create movement and progress.  It’s never wasted!

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How often do you try and predict the future?

An image of a crystal ball

Planning and preparation can help us to anticipate problems, and give us the chance to make adjustments if we see something on the horizon which could be a problem.

But we can also become too distracted or focused on the ‘what ifs’…and end up creating new problems for ourselves.

Trying to find that balance can be hard.  We want to do our best and avoid any pitfalls, but in doing so, we lose sight of the here and now.  Maybe we appear distracted or not interested in what is going on around us.  Or we freeze and can’t take action, because we’ve built up all of these scenarios of failure in our minds.

Try and notice how much time you spend on the ‘what if’ scenarios…and whether you’re thinking too much about what ‘might’ happen, rather than what ‘is’ happening.

Being able to recognise these thought patterns is the first and most important step.

 

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No one is born an expert

Characature of Albert Einstein

No one is born an expert.  Not even this guy!

One of the biggest buzz-kills to motivation is the false belief that we have to be brilliant at something.   It’s as if we can’t fail, otherwise “what’s the point?”.

If you recognise that you have high expectations of yourself whenever you attempt something new, you might have had these thoughts before too.

Putting so much pressure on ourselves from the outset can be a barrier for attempting to learn new skills or put ourselves out there.  We fear looking like a novice or beginner, or worry that other people might notice our weaknesses.

We all want to feel successful at new things, especially if we put time and effort into something.

But if we’re willing to accept being a learner for a while, it can really help when we feel rewarded for our hard work by noticing our improvements and progress.  These incremental gains can help to build motivation and give us the incentive to keep going.

Go on, dare to try something new…and be willing to learn along the way!

 

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Motivation isn’t like a light switch

An image of a light switch that can be flicked on and off

How do you view motivation?  Is it all or nothing?  Either all ‘go’ or all ‘no’.  It can be helpful to remember, motivation isn’t like a light switch.

We can easily talk ourselves out of things when we feel less motivated,  and the more we do it, the more difficult it can be to overcome it.

If you can think back to a time where you’ve struggled to get motivated with something, can you remember how you felt about yourself?  I’m guessing it was pretty negatively.

We can start to blame ourselves for things going wrong and the more we avoid situations or taking action, then we are at risk of starting to see ourselves as a failure.   This type of thinking gets us believing that motivation is something we either have or don’t have. And if we don’t have it in that moment, we blame ourselves.

In reality, there are a lot of different factors that impact on our motivation, and it’s normal to feel more or less motivated at different times.  Even when it’s something important or enjoyable.

So if you notice that your motivation is a little unpredictable, go easy on yourself.

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How conscious are you about your behaviour?

An image of a water wheel

How conscious are you about your behaviour?  

If you’re someone who is actively going after a goal, then you are probably already aware of the impact of your behaviour.   You should have an idea of the input required to get you to where you want to be, and are taking steps to modify your behaviour to get you there.

But often we go about our daily lives, just ‘getting things done’.  We might not give a great deal of thought to it.

In CBT, the role of our behaviour is key to understanding not only why we have certain issues, but also how we might be maintaining them.

In other words, how we behave might be contributing to the fact that the problem doesn’t seem to be getting better.

You might notice for example that if you are feeling low in mood, then you might start cancelling plans or you might not have the motivation to do things you used to enjoy.  Things feel more of a chore than usual.

Or alternatively, you might recognise these change in behaviours as an indicator that you’ve been taking on too much and need to rebalance.

This month, I’m looking at some of the common behaviours that can have a big impact on how we feel…whether we’re conscious of them or not.

Identifying behaviours that might be impacting or holding us back, is a key first step in making change.  But with a few small tweaks, they can make all the difference.

 

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Where Is Fear Leading You?

Do you feel that you are being led, rather than leading?

If so, this could be an indication that fear is running the show.

Sometimes we’re aware of it, but often we’re not.  There are so many fears that can impact on how we feel, without us knowing.

Fear of failure, fear of getting it wrong, fear of looking silly or incompetent. These are all quite common.

But so is a fear of being stuck, a fear of not reaching our potential or getting left behind.

Fear in that sense can be helpful. Because it highlights what will happen if we don’t act.  In other words, we’ll stay exactly where we are.  And that can be the scariest thought of all.

Fear is there to teach us something

So don’t be scared of fear.  Fear can be good.  Use it to motivate and move yourself.  Use it to make positive changes towards the life you want. Not the life you feel stuck in.

As Susan Jeffers famously wrote, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

 

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