Step 2: We Are Enough to Face the Unknown
Second, unpack your fear of the unknown and examine it for a moment. The unknown is frightening because somewhere inside virtually every one of us, there’s a firmly held belief that we are not enough to handle what’s around the corner.
A well-programmed voice in the head tells us we’re not prepared, we won’t know what to do, we won’t have the resources ... ultimately, that we’ll die a horrible death, bankrupt, alone and unloved if we go around the corner. AAAHHH! We quake imagining the kind of saber-toothed tiger that we’re absolutely certain is just over there!
But if we examine this fear, we realize we don’t know for sure whether what lies ahead is actually a saber-toothed tiger. It could be a rock in the shape of a tiger ... we could easily go around a rock. It could be a shadow of something we encountered in the past, say in 10,000 BC ... we could walk right through a shadow.
Even if a dangerous predator does sit out there, maybe it will be fast asleep by the time we walk by. Maybe it will go after someone else. Maybe it’ll be a bad pouncer and miss us. Maybe we can calmly saunter past it while it’s looking at a bug.
Maybe we’ll hit it at exactly the right place with a marshal arts move we learned in high school and knock it out, if it does charge.
Or ... maybe it’s roaring because it has a hurt paw.
Or maybe we can charm it with our charisma and he’ll become our buddy. Hey, we could have a saber-toothed tiger pet!
By imagining alternatives, we can coax ourselves into realizing, hey, we may in fact be enough to face whatever lies ahead, even if we’ve never experienced it before.
So instead of spending time and energy imagining the worst, cultivate a calm confidence that you are enough to manage whatever comes. Let go of any thoughts that tell you otherwise.
Step 3: Don’t Leap to the Future, Stay in the Present
Third, bring yourself into this particular moment. What in this moment is the problem?
Alfred Hitchcock once said, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”
Almost all fear is future oriented: the anticipation of future doom, future harm. The dread of getting to the corner and facing the imagined saber-toothed tiger freezes us and chills our bones.
The actual danger lies in the future, but by anticipating it, we experience the doom right now, long before the consequences have materialized.
We become so afraid, the tiger may as well sink its teeth into us now because, internally, we’ve already decided that’s what’s going to happen -- we can feel our flesh ripping apart and the blood spurting! Internally we’re already going through the very doom we’re trying to avoid.
So what happens? We can’t act, we lose clarity, we panic, we don’t know what to do, we make rash decisions. We’re stuck.
Albert Einstein recommends, “A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.”
Our expectations and judgments color what we see in the world. Some say they even create what we see in the world.
To reduce fear, take yourself out of the mode of judging what is, and instead put yourself into the mode of simply observing what is. As the wise master turtle Oogway says in the delightful film Kung Fu Panda.
Shifu: “Master master, I have ... uh, it’s very bad news.”
Oogway: “Ah Shifu, there is just news. There is no good or bad.”
Do your best to see what’s happening as simply news, not “bad” news. (For the advanced course, try and do this when you’re watching FoxNews.)
Begin to let go of anticipated doom. Perhaps there will be bridges that need to be crossed at some point. Keep your focus on the now.
Ask yourself, “Am I safe right now, in this moment?” Do you have food and a roof over your head right now? If you feel safe now, can you let that feeling of being safe expand?
If you feel unsafe now, can you coax yourself to let go of that feeling of being unsafe, just for a moment? You have the ability to hold onto feelings, or let go of them. See if you can let go of the feeling of being unsafe.
Also start to let go of judgments about the circumstances you find yourself facing. Can you allow things to be different from how you think they are? Can you allow things to be different from how you worry they will be?
Above all, let go of beating yourself up for being in whatever predicament you are in. Can you let go of blaming yourself? Can you let go of blaming others just for this moment?
Can you allow yourself to feel you are enough to handle your current circumstances, whatever you are facing, in this moment?
Use the three exercises to defeat your own saber-toothed financial tigers. As you may have realized, the most important saber-toothed tiger to defeat is within ourselves.