We often exacerbate and compound our stress by “borrowing” anxiety from the future.
What makes this anxiety “loan” even more problematic is that most of these thoughts are not rooted in reality.
Many of the ideas that run through our mind are not substantiated by fact. And in fact, we find ourselves fortune telling the future, and 9 times out of 10, in a negative way.
It’s normal; our brain defaults to thinking negatively before it thinks positively.
The downside of course is that we have extrapolated the worst case scenario even before we’ve confirmed the facts of the case.
When I find myself doing this, I immediately slam on the mental breaks and visualize a big red STOP sign in my mind – as if I was speeding toward an intersection with seconds to break: the intersection of WHAT DO I KNOW FOR SURE and WHAT IS THE STORY I’M TELLING MYSELF.
When I force myself to list the facts of what I know for sure vs. what I’m creating in my mind or the assumptions I’m attributing to future events and conversations, that have yet to happen, I recalibrate my mind to begin from a place of knowledge, rather than a place of presumption.
I’m able to make clearer decisions based on FACT, not FICTION.
The big red stop sign serves as not only a visual cue in my mind to halt a negative thought pattern, but it also allows me to manage the stress of borrowing tomorrow’s unvetted challenges and prevents me from bringing them forward to today’s reality.
Brené Brown, whom I admire in a slightly uncomfortable hero-worship kind of way, put it best in her book, Dare to Lead, when she said “the first story we make up is what we call the “stormy first draft” or the SFD” (if you’re familiar with Brené’s work, you know her first option for “stormy” was not as kid-friendly, but we’re keeping it clean today on Thought Partner Friday).
“When it comes to our emotions, the first stories we make up – our SFDs – are definitely our fears and insecurities romping all over the place, making up worst-case scenarios.”
In keeping with our final week on Feedingforward rather than Feedingback, this weekend I want you to think about a story you might be telling yourself, maybe it’s about a certain situation or individual in your life at this moment.
- Are you borrowing anxiety from the future?
- Is that really a loan you want to pay back with mental interest?
- Can you kick that SFD to the curb and focus on fact vs. fear?
- What more do you need to learn about the situation?
- What more do you need to learn about others in the story?
- What else do you need to tell yourself?
REWRITE that SFD.