My back was bothering me the other day. Fortunately, I have a chiropractor who works wonders, so I called his office for an appointment: “The doctor is on vacation, sorry.” “When will he be back?” “Hmm. Let’s see. He just left yesterday and he’ll be gone 10 days, and…” I didn’t hear the rest of what the receptionist said. I immediately went into “fear and dread” mode.
Ok, not dread maybe, but certainly “fear and anxiety.” As in “What if my back gets worse while he’s gone?” “What if he’s all booked up on his return and I can’t get an appointment for another two weeks or more?” Whereupon my hip decided to join my back in its pain, and I thought, “Now, what? I’m falling apart!”
Hardly. But that’s what fear and anxiety do. They drag us down a negative rabbit hole that frankly does us no good whatsoever. Oh, a little fear nudge here and there is useful. Fear and anxiety are, according to research, basic survival mechanisms which tell us that there is potential danger ahead, and to pay attention.
But that’s all fear and anxiety are designed to do: warn us. Our task is then to look to solutions, life-preserving responses to the potential danger. And the first, critical response is to switch from negative thinking to positive thoughts. No, this isn’t pixie dust magic.
The ability to refocus our thoughts is what changes our perception of what is possible. Literally. We perceive the world around us according to whatever we’re focusing on. The more we focus on disaster, fearful events or possibilities, the less we perceive the opportunities for solutions that abound everywhere.
Our minds obediently jump onto our current negative thought bandwagon and offer more of the same. Of course I began to feel pain in my hip. When you understand the power of focus, it makes perfect sense.
Imagine how differently Ginette Bedard’s life, for example, would have turned out, if she’d trained her focus on all the possible problems and issues she might encounter as she started running at age 69. Like: “Who starts running at 69? That’s way too old. You have to start in your 20s, or at least by your 40s.” “How will my body hold up? Knees? Hips? The rest of me?” “Can I develop the kind of stamina at my age that a runner needs?” Somehow, Ginette managed to train her focus instead on all that would make her running possible, regardless of her age.
At 87, Ginette is still running, having participated in over 350 races, including 44 half-marathons and 20 marathons. She has no plans to stop. Ginette runs three hours a day, every single day of the year, regardless of the weather. Yes, even in winter, on a path shoveled through the snow.
The power of focus is tremendous, both for and against our desires. Those of us who persist in opening our minds, and thus our eyes, to what will allow and facilitate what we want, are those who, like Ginette, reap the rewards. Those of us who stay fixated on fear and anxiety, worrying ourselves into tortured thoughts of more negativity, will not be open to and not see all the positive possibilities around us.
Is the answer to ignore the warning signs of fear or anxiety? Certainly not. Pay attention to the warning, be grateful for the warning, and then deal with the “warned” situation so you can move on to the fulsome accomplishment of your desire.
Whether it’s running a marathon or having a pain-free back, matters not. What matters is your ability to switch your focus resolutely from negative to positive. Resolve what stands in your way, rather than giving in to fear or anxiety and tumbling miserably down that rabbit hole.
What happens to you physically and mentally when you feel anxiety or fear? What skills have you developed that reduce your anxiety or fear levels?