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perspective

What‘s the worst that can happen?

What‘s the worst that can happen?

Ever heard the advice that only when you get over your fears do you actually stand a chance at accomplishing much of anything in your life? While I believe that the advice is well intended, my own experience suggests otherwise. Rather than rid ourselves of fear we actually need to face them full on. This means naming them, accepting them and getting to know what's the worst that could happen because of them. 

  1. Name your fears: so many of us are ruled by fears without even knowing what they are. Especially when faced with a personal challenge or aspiration we would like to reach, without identifying our fears we find ourselves stumbling across the same trip-ups and coming up against the same walls. If you notice this pattern taking place, try taking a step back and understanding what is keeping you from reaching the next level. What are you afraid of that holds you back from really taking a leap of faith, trying something entirely new or investing in a risk? Like meeting someone for the first time, once fear has a name it is no longer a complete stranger to us. 

  2. Accept your fears: while fears may prevent us from attaining some dreams, they may also be protecting us and keeping us alive. Rooting back to our hunter-gatherer days, the survival mechanism that is fear functions as a checks and balance of sorts, making sure that we double and triple think about our goals and plans before we pursue them. Accepting and even appreciating the benefits that fears can have for us begin to change our relationships with our fears altogether. Perhaps we can view them as guides or even friends, helping us navigate our dreams while still looking out for us and our safety. Sometimes, our fears served an important role when we were younger in protecting us. These same fears may still be around today even though the dangers no longer are. Understanding our fears in this way also allows us to begin changing the relationship we have with them.

  3. What's the worst that can happen? While some fears consume us like a bottomless pit, the truth is that even our deepest fears at some point come to a dead end. Although it's not easy, try a game of engaging with your fear. Ask your fear, "What's the worst that can happen if I do ____?"  When you find the answer, then ask, "And then what would happen?" Keep asking the "And then?" question until you arrive at the very end of the absolute worst chain of events that could happen if you pursued whatever it is that is provoking the fear. Perhaps you now have a written list of 10, 20 or even more events in this chain. Now take a step back and look at how many things would need to happen before that very worst fear-based scenario came true. Consider how much is in your control to actually turn things around for each of those events. Reflect on how many safety measures are most likely already in place that would prevent you from even moving through the first 3 or 4 events. For many of us, it can be empowering just seeing this and realizing how far away the worst reality is from our current reality. 

Once you've gone through these three steps, sense into whether the fear still has as much of a dominant a grip on you as before. The fear may not need to disappear at all for you to have developed a much friendlier and more self-aware approach for how to manage it. In fact, it might even make you stronger. 


Unlearning everything you know

Unlearning everything you know

Nowadays even a Masters degree doesn’t grant you a round of applause. It seems like the pressure is only increasing to acquire as many degrees, diplomas and certifications as possible in order to stay competitive, sharp and ready for an unknown tomorrow. However, when it comes to heart intelligence what we actually need to start doing is unlearning everything we’ve been taught.
Have you ever noticed what an awareness children have about their bodies from a very young age? Even before being able to speak, children have an incredible capacity to sense through smell, touch, temperature and sound. Their ability to rapidly connect with other children is incredible when compared to the amount of time it can sometimes take adults to connect. As we get older, mainstream schooling focuses our attention more and more on our cognitive capacities, placing emphasis on intellectual intelligence over emotional and somatic intelligence. As a result, we start interpreting the world around us only through facts, judgments and rational thinking. We start losing the capacity to really feel and sense our surroundings through our hearts. In fact, most of us completely shut off our physical sensing capacity and spend time in busy cities, crowded subways and packed elevators trying to pretend that we are completely alone.
Despite the fact that many adults go decades without using their heart’s intelligence to navigate their worlds, this capacity to physically connect remains intact and ready to engage whenever we allow it to. In order to start feeling again, we actually have to unlearn the educated tendency to process everything through our rational minds.
One way to get a sense of how powerful that connection can actually be is to stand on a subway platform and just notice all the people around you. Notice the direction they are facing, how far they are from you, and whether they are sitting, standing or leaning against a post. Also take note of the patterns that groups are forming: are people standing in a straight line, in a circle or clump, individually or in pairs? Who is still and who is moving? While you bring your awareness to all of this notice what feelings arise in your heart. Does your heart automatically respond to some people more than others? Do you feel a tingling in some places or discomfort anywhere? What images and pictures come to you while you take in all that is around you on the platform? This simple but profound experience of extending your awareness beyond your own bubble while simultaneously staying mindful of what it is feeling may give you an incredible sense of how powerfully your heart relates and connects to what is happening around you. While it may not be able to communicate through words, it does express itself through feelings, metaphors, sensations, images and other methods unique to you.
If you bring this subway platform sensitivity with you to other parts of your life -- when driving in a car, when walking down the street, when entering a room full of strangers or when waiting on line while shopping -- you may begin to notice that there is an automatic and natural connection that your heart has to everything going on around it. In fact, your heart is always connected whether you allow yourself to notice this or not. It is the most basic aspect of being human. This connection isn’t something that needs to be improved and practiced. Rather, when we unlearn the habit of rationalizing everything and begin suspending the mind’s constant chatter we start to notice the richness of experience that our physicality can take in and process. With time even the most simple of shapes, gestures or movements from people and beings around us invite us to notice their incredible beauty and the feelings and intelligence they provoke in our hearts. And if we notice our mind trying to jump in and analyze all of that heart intelligence, best is to try settling it down and putting it temporarily on hold. There are already enough other moments in which to process our worlds through our very educated heads.