Neurohacking Everyday Fear
Retraining your brain to have a different relationship with fictional fears is a practice and will take a certain amount of energy on your part but will have amazing returns on that time and energy investment. Therefore, especially in the beginning, it’s important to make a risk and return on investment assessment when you feel a fictional fear coming on.
Anytime we’re able to identify our fictional fears when they’re happening is a win in my book! But we want to start going beyond just identifying and into molding and shaping them to better serve us. This is especially true when it comes to decision making.
We’re constantly bombarded with decisions every day and fear of making the wrong one, especially when the stakes are high, can make us feel frozen and overwhelmed.
Barry Schwartz is a Professor of Social Theory and wrote a book called The Paradox of Choice Where he discussed an idea on how we make decisions. In his book, he argued that people gravitate towards being either a Maximizers or a Satisficers… I know – it's a weird work – but I didn't make it up.
Maximizers like to get all the data before making a decision, while a Satisficers settles for good enough and doesn't worry about the grass being greener on the other side.
So, which one are you most of the time?
I used to be a big old maximizer and a perfectionist. However, I learned that perfectionism is a symptom of fear – and once we start dealing with our fears of being wrong, being without, of failing – then we can start making quicker and better decisions.
Satisficers according to Swartz, are happier and less stressed.
Now I’m not suggesting you half-ass all your decisions, but if you are a maximizer perfectionist, like me, think about all the valuable energy you’re wasting on decisions that don’t really matter.
So how do you fear forward into better professional decisions.
Step 1: Let go of being a maximizer on daily life decisions that have relatively low impact if they go terrible wrong. Decision making power is a finite resource and if we waste it all on what to wear in the morning or what to eat for lunch – we have less of that mental energy for the big decisions that will make us successful.
Head nod to Steve jobs that wore the same black turtle next every day.
I encourage you to hit pause and think about where in your life can you give up over analyzing and make quicker decisions? This may mean you set up systems, set things on autopilot, or choose the same thing repeatedly. For example, I eat a bean and rice burrito almost every day for breakfast. Sometimes I throw some cheese or salsa on there to make it fancy, but breakfast is all about fuel on most days. I get up, I know exactly what I’m having for breakfast and I know it’s healthy. I don't have to waste precious brain space by agonizing over bagel vs cereal vs eggs.
Simplifying those smaller decisions on the daily will then help you have the energy to make the big choices without going into fear inducing decision fatigued.
For the bigger decisions, those that will have a substantial impact on you and yours, I recommend getting out a whiteboard and a dry erase pen - this is my favorite method because studies have shown that when we’re struggling with something, a pen and paper can seem to permanent and cause even more anxiety. Having a large white board helps us expand our thoughts and the temporary nature of dry erase pens makes us feel more at ease jotting down random solutions.
If you get nothing else out of this video, get a whiteboard! I have them in my home, my office, my classroom – everywhere – and the bigger the better with lots of different colored pens.
So, here are the questions you should be physically writing down the answers too for big decisions. I say physically write them down because just this act of movement helps to gain clarity.
First, think about
Why the decision is important?
What are the benefits of saying yes?
What are the benefits of saying no?
And Detail the consequences of saying yes vs. no.
Then list in detail what the potential obstacles and possible solutions would be. As many as you can think of.
Then detail What the literal worst thing that could possibly happen if you make the wrong decision in this one instance would be as well as detail What the literal BEST thing that could possibly happen if you make the RIGHT decision.
In these last two, really get into your human senses – how does that outcome feel in your body. Be specific on what emotions and sensations you would be feeling.
Lastly, jot down who you could ask for advice or counsel on this specific decision. Even if you don't personally know someone, I’m confident that someone, somewhere has been in your situation. Doing some research can get you out of your own experience and gain some perspective.
ROI is all about a return on your investment. For us, that means a good return on not just your financial investment, but your time, energy, and mental head space. We humans have a finite amount of all these things, and we can only do so much. Doing this ROI and risk assessment practice will absolutely help you make quicker decisions with better outcomes and gut check your fear to make sure IT is not navigating YOUR life.