A few years ago my son’s bedtime regime included the typical bath, teeth brushing, and bedtime story. However, it also included a slightly unusual routine of “Monster Spraying” his side of the house. This involved a healthy dose of “Monster Spray” (better known as Lysol) to ward off Monsters that may be lurking under the bed, behind the bathroom shower curtain, and in the laundry room (which with a door leading to the garage is clearly a most favorable monster entry point).

Being somewhat of a germaphobe myself, I wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to Lysol a few spots around the house, and if this ritual made him feel more secure, I was all for it. After doing this for a bit, I became a little curious and I simply asked him “Do you believe this special spray protects you from Monsters or prevents them from entering the house?”. He looked at me as if he was torn and didn’t know what to say. He finally said, “Mom, I know it’s just Lysol but can we keep doing it?” We did.

I can’t help but draw some parallels between imagined monsters lurking under our beds as kids and ones that whisper insidiously scary messages to us as adults. They can be one and the same, and if you aren’t prepared with your own “disinfectant”, they can move in and live rent-free in your mind until you summon the courage to evict them.

We have a tendency to imagine the worst – our brains are prone to negativity bias. We get an email from our boss saying, “Can you give me a call or stay after the meeting?” and our pulse starts to sprint. You have a bit of acid reflux and suddenly “I’m having a heart attack!” You get a promotion and “I’m never going to be able to meet their expectations; why do I think I can do this new job?” (despite being successful enough to have been chosen in the first place).

Our imagination can be a fire-breathing dragon seeking to scorch our path to success. 

Here are a few tips to defeat the Monster that seeks to establish residence in our minds…

1. Instead of imagining the WORST, imagine the BEST (SUCCESS!!) Professional track athletes run every race in their minds before they take the track. They literally see themselves running successfully. If you can’t imagine it, you can’t achieve it. Why do you want to imagine yourself failing? Stop that.

2. Imagine obstaclesIf you don’t imagine obstacles or challenges, you will be unprepared. Imagined monsters can actually be useful if you use them to help inform the next action or alternative way to be successful. Your spray doesn’t have to be a proprietary formula, it can be common Lysol. Be prepared with what you need when you need it.

3. Imagine doing nothing What if you didn’t do anything? I guarantee you that won’t feel good. You will paralyze yourself with fear, the what-ifs will lead you nowhere in a hurry, and the consequences of staying in the space place and job will only last so long until you realize it’s time to raise the rent and evict the Monster.

It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s scarier than we care to admit (aloud). And sometimes we just need a little help from someone who might have a can of Lysol. I happen to have a few; reply to this email and reach out. I’m not as scary as your Monster.