I recently wrote about something I am plagued with, a particularly acute case of the FOUL Syndrome, Fear Of Unknown Logistics.
Upon reflection, I realized that I also experience a kind of low-level general fear of the unknown. For a long time, I let said fear get in the way of things I wanted to do…but since I was either not consciously aware of it or simply didn’t want to admit it, I was unable to deal with it.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve worked hard to minimize the implications of what is a very normal fear. In fact, I have found many manifestations of this malady where the afflicted is either unaware of it (and thus unaware of its impacts) or attributes their behavior to something other than fear. In either case, these people are unable to get from their current Point A to their desired Point B, despite the fact that often the path to get there is short, flat, and straight–allowing them to get their with little effort.
So what I did to help myself was to start being hyper-attentive to when this “fear” was preventing me from doing things or was impeding my enjoyment of things. I started to address it by doing things that were slightly outside my comfort zone. At first these were primarily social in nature. In general I don’t consider myself all that social or extroverted (remember, I tend to the pensive). Plus I wasn’t working at the time (and I’m fighting a relapse now, because I am not working again), was single, and felt I had little to bring to the table. My sister had passed on some words that someone had passed on to her, and simple as they were, they were transformative. (As an aside, it’s important to note that the most basic things can often provide you with direction and motivation, so don’t ignore anything that moves you.) Essentially, the words of advice were, “If you always say no, people will stop asking you.”
So I started saying “yes.” Instead of using flimsy excuses in support of my cowardly “no” answers, I started saying yes. To cookouts and dinners and golfing and whatever other social invitations came my way. I started meeting a lot of new people and developing new relationships and skills…slowly developing a different attitude about these things, and about myself. Without really knowing (fearing?) it, I was gaining confidence and diversifying my life, and learning to talk about all kinds of different things with “strangers.” Not only that, I was having a good time doing it.
With a slightly altered perspective fueled by the success I had to date, I thought a little more about tackling my other fears…and I started to assess them in a classic “risk vs. reward” way. In many cases, there was no risk associated with taking these particular chances. And in virtually all of the cases I considered, the most “catastrophic” risks had pretty much no impact. So what if I tried a new recipe? So what if I tried 10 boxing classes at a local gym? What was the worst that could happen? A crappy batch of cookies? I get my ass kicked by the trainer? And then I realized, “So what?” It was a huge breakthrough for me. Some things are worth caring about and assessing and breaking down and weighing pros and cons and some simply are not. There are pros and cons to everything. But for me, anything low-risk? I try it now.
In some cases–and I did this–you can reduce the risk further by being accountable only to yourself. Try things on your own time and at your own pace…set your goals and start moving toward them. You can talk about your successes when you have them, and along the way you’ll learn from anything that didn’t go according to plan. When you’re accountable only to yourself you can be more forgiving. If you’re going to bother to work hard to get over your fear of things unknown, don’t trip yourself up by creating the new limitation–fear of letting others down.
And if you think you don’t fear the unknown, take a minute to reconsider. Case in point: my sister jokes about my case of FOUL and I laugh right along with her, because I know sometimes I am being ridiculous. But recently when we were vacationing together, she noted that it was great that I was there because my niece wanted to start making smoothies and since they had no idea how, I could teach her
I marveled at that. How could they not know? And how could they not just do a Google search to find out? Or watch a YouTube video? It was of interest to them, but not of critical importance, and they had a long list of reasons why they weren’t able to get it done. Excuses? No matter. For whatever their reasons they weren’t willing to risk making a crappy smoothie.
And now that they leveraged me and my trial-and-error smoothie making? My niece is making herself smoothies all the time and my sister–notorious for skipping breakfast–now makes herself one in the morning, doing the necessary metabolic kick start.
(Yes, there are a million types of smoothies, and recipes are easy to find. But if you want to eat healthier or whatever and are overwhelmed trying to start, well here’s how I told them to make a smoothie.
Put in your blender in this order:
About a cup of orange juice
About a half cup of vanilla Greek yogurt (with plain yogurt, I like to add 1t of honey)
3-4 pieces of frozen banana (peel them and break them into 4 chunks per banana and then freeze; I always keep plenty of frozen ones on hand)
About a cup of frozen fruit (my favorite is the Dole Wildly Nutritious Blend that has pineapples, mangoes, strawberries, and grapes)
I use almond or coconut milk and not juice.)
In any case, fear of the unknown can stop you from doing a lot of things. Today, commit to tackling at least one of the low-risk, low-consequence ones that is getting in your way. When you see what you can do, you’ll be shocked at the confidence you build, and how that allows you to do more.
Another case in point? Me, writing this blog and telling you this.
I think I’ll go make a smoothie.