Make a list of the things you’ve been putting off or todo’s that make you anxious.
- Give each one a Safety Score from 1 (failure has big financial or safety cost) to 10 (failure is mostly fear of rejection)
- Give each one a Burden Score from 1 (very little emotional maintenance) to 10 (causes anxiety/worry frequently)
Add up the scores for every item. The ones with the highest total are a significant burden to you emotionally but still low risk. Said another way: it might hurt if they go south, but it’ll hurt a lot less than carrying them around every day. You’ll probably feel incredibly relieved to have them behind you too!
I use this system regularly to isolate “fear vitamins,” essentially little scary things I can do one day at a time to keep my overall anxiety low. If you just try to do one every day then pretty soon you’ll be caught up and carrying a lot less stress around with you every day.
For example I really wanted a guy named Daniel to mentor me, but I felt so scared of asking. For some reason I was so afraid of rejection or being ignored. The act of asking itself was just one email, but it’s like I had built it up so much in my head. The fear didn’t go away, but I did realize that procrastinating and letting the fear fester was worse than getting ignored. So I clicked “Send.” The thing is, he said yes, and he’s been great help to me. That’s just a detail though, what is more important is that the price of failure was so much smaller in reality than in my head.
The story is very similar with new projects I’ve been scared to jump into, all the girls I’ve asked out, all the writing I’ve been scared to share on the internet, the bosses I’ve asked for raises, the events and meetups I was scared to go to alone, the trips I was scared to take, the friends I was scared to reach out to because it had been a long time.
For most of these things, the worst case scenario is simply getting ignored or nothing happening at all. That might not be ideal, but isn’t it better than having all this dread and anxiety and worry while you procrastinate?
Here’s the rub: once you try the thing you can learn and move on. Maybe it goes well, maybe not. But it’s over. A quote I love is that “Everything in your life requires emotional maintenance.” So how many things on your to-do list do you want taking emotional energy every day?
The cost of failure is a lot lower than you realize. And most of the time it’s not even failure, it’s just the cost of a lesson learned. If Daniel had told me no then at least I could have moved on and asked someone else. Same thing with asking people out, going to events, and most anxiety inducing tasks in general.
To be honest, we underestimate the relief of being done even more than we overestimate the cost of failure. Let’s lighten that burden you carry. Even if these things you’ve been putting off don’t go flawlessly at least they’ll be done. Can you imagine how great that will feel?
Further reading: If this resonated with you then you would really benefit from The Power of Now by Eckhard Tolle. He does a great job explaining how most fear or pain does not come from the present moment, rather it comes from the future or the past. He presents many incredibly helpful tools for focusing our energy on the present (where we can actually solve problems we have and enjoy the richest part of life: right now).