Fear Setting

Verbal to Visual has provided a helpful image to illustrate this TED Talk.


Seems like a backwards concept, right? Why would we want to amplify our anxieties when we could focus on our goals, our successes?

Tim Ferriss speaks of the value of better understanding our lowpoints in his TED Talk. As he lives with bipolar depression and has found himself many times on the edge of darkness and suicide, his insight is worth a listen.

So what do I mean by “fear setting”? Well, we all know about goal-setting, a practice even I’ve probably talked your ear off about. It’s most effective to physically write out what you hope to achieve for yourself so you can keep those thoughts at the forefront. You can then better align your daily actions with those goals and make them that much more tangible.

Yes, you’ve heard that one a few or plenty of times from me. But what about fear setting? Mental illness or not, we’ve had points of hesitation, of self-doubt. If an opportunity arises, we fear its implications and might automatically push it aside. This could be anything from accepting a new job, going out to a social event, or even just taking a break for yourself when you feel overwhelmed with work.

The first step is to make three columns. The first list, write out every fear you have associated with a particular situation. For example, if that’s going on a vacation to get away from a hectic schedule, you might fear the unknown of what could go wrong on the trip, or you fear getting so far behind in your work that you risk failure.

Now you list what you could do to prevent these fears from happening. In this case, you could research ahead of time your travel plans and prepare accordingly, and you could let others know of your plans and work ahead to get major assignments out of the way before you go.

Inevitably, there are some things you can’t control. Life is unpredictable, and no matter how much you plan and prepare, things can fall through. The third column then is listing how to repair the damages if your fears were to happen. So maybe your luggage is lost or a flight canceled. You can always readjust your schedule and make do with what you have. If something arises with your work or schooling, talk with those involved and work something out. Either way, no matter what happens, it’s not the end of the world. Admittedly, that’s easier said than believed.

But here’s another thought to think and write about. What would happen six months, a year, even three years down the road if you did not choose to partake in these opportunities? If you let your fears get the best of you, what effects will that have? If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be working your tail off until you implode. You’ll fall into unhealthy, harmful behaviors, relying upon stimulants to get you through the day. You’ll regret not giving yourself some relief. You might find that you had less work to do than you realized, and then fall into depression for overthinking it all. Which, trust me, I’ve been through this pattern too many times to count.

Self-awareness and reflection is so powerful. Being able to look objectively at even a snapshot of our racing thoughts really can change your perspective. When we allow those thoughts to just continue buzzing through without questioning them, they can truly run our lives. They can isolate us into what we see as safe, comfortable status quos that, in reality, hold us back from truly living.

A single list probably won’t change your life. If you have specific fears, you probably will continue facing those even after listing and rationalizing them. But at least you’re becoming an active voice above your anxiety. You’re not entirely allowing it control. You’re making progress in the right direction. Hopefully you’ll realize your mental strength is far greater than you ever imagined.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie


Inspired Intern

This is my first week since the beginning of July that I am not technically an intern for the Borgen Project. I actually did not imagine myself so emotionally attached to a position like that, but surprise!

I’ve had quite an employment experience over the course of my young life. We all accept positions we need to make money, whether we like it or not, or we accept positions we think we’ll enjoy, but eventually we gradually end up resenting ourselves for starting in the first place.

Maybe that’s just me. Simply put, it’s been a bumpy road. So when I looked more into volunteer opportunities this summer, finding the Borgen Project was really on a whim. Knowing that it’s nationally recognized, well-established, and located many miles away, I didn’t think I’d even be accepted.

But after an initial application, writing sample, and an interview, I managed to find a place as a writer, making two articles a week and even doing fundraising on the side. Didn’t expect myself to fundraise, an idea that internally makes me cringe in fear. But I did it. And beyond navigating a new setup in working via telecommuting, I have learned so much.

Not only did I gain more knowledge that actually feels important and relevant to me, not just random assignments thrown at me for no reason beyond keeping me occupied for a couple of hours, but I learned so much about myself. About what I’m capable of, what I’m passionate about, what motivates me. I didn’t realize what I was missing out on until I found what I enjoy, and what an eye-opener that is.

I was blind to what I assumed I liked and was destined to do. No wonder I was so shocked to find I wasn’t that great at it, becoming resentful about how challenging it was for me to pick up on skills that seemed to come so easily to others, to feel mediocre when I always strive to be my best. Perfectionist tendencies, yes, but it still drives my motivation and ambition, so hearing criticism that isn’t helpful just makes me more uninspired. I’ve gone through the downward spiral cycle too many times for only being twenty.

So here is my point: I love humanitarian work. I love being an advocate about world issues that really deserve more attention. I love taking action on those issues and feeling like I’m making a positive contribution rather than being a static supporter. I’ve realized the importance of little things like phone calls and emails to Congress members; yes, it is a very minor inconvenience in your day, but seriously, it shows lawmakers what the people care about.

I love being the voice for those who are voiceless. It’s a phrase I’ve used many times, probably just on this blog, but it’s potency is true when your voice also includes action. You not only spread important ideas and information, but you incorporate that into your actions and intentions. I genuinely get excited when someone asks me about my work with the Borgen Project, or now with the Peace Corps and NAMI, because they’re all things that I truly love to do. It’s work that fulfills me. Even if I don’t necessarily get a paycheck at this point (obviously that’s a goal for the future), it’s getting my toes wet for possibilities that could so soon be in reach.

I want to practice what I preach. This experience with the Borgen Project as been just that. I wasn’t sure about the different components of the position, the expectations laid out in a Google Doc to complete every week for three months, but I accomplished them all. I made my fundraising goal of $500. I wrote physical letters to my Congress members and even the White House to discuss the foreign affairs budget. I found new ideas every week to bring awareness to global health, education, and its correlation with poverty. Perhaps people might look down upon me working on an “online” and “unpaid” position, something that isn’t exactly to-the-T what my department at college would push on students to pursue, but I’m beyond grateful.

Everything does happen for a reason. You get knocked down enough times, it’s that single hope you keep just so you don’t feel like you’re drowning. And it always turns out to be correct, in one way or another. Things work out as they should. You have to work through the muck and fall down a few times, but you do eventually get there. It’s not on our timing; the opportunities we need will come to us.

I am now motivated, now more than ever, to see what happens next rather than loathing and fearing an unknown. I have a solid direction now, something I really haven’t had until now. Better late than never, right? And if you feel like you’re wandering around aimlessly, trust me, your path will alight soon. If you continue to work hard and be your best self, your intentions and goals will find a happy middle ground.

Shameless plug, but I truly do recommend that you peruse the Borgen Project website. I wouldn’t get involved with a nonprofit that wasn’t reputable, that didn’t stand on a solid reputation with its work. Global poverty is something we should all care about.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

All a Fantasy

"If a cluttered desk signs a cluttered mind, of what, then ...
Clutter can denote an active mind constantly buzzing, but there’s a difference between goal-setting and daydreaming.

I’m a big fan of being organized, and the act of decluttering certain parts of my life feels so satisfying. Not that I’m overly sentimental and attached to too many of my belongings, I can see how others might find more difficulty in doing so.

An concept that I’ve come across when meandering through all things minimalism and decluttering (which, I certainly don’t claim myself to be minimalist, the mentality is quite intriguing) may help in your own struggles to lighten your load. Because, in all honesty, how much do we as individuals truly need? How many material objects in our possession are necessary to lead a full life?

When you’re looking at things you own or even things you want to buy, it’s important to differentiate what motivating factor is at play. Herein lies the concept of your “fantasy self.” Chances are, you have a version of yourself that you envision you might become in the future. Someone who is all of your best qualities and all the things you hope to be.

It’s fun to daydream about the future. Who knows what might happen and what direction we might take in life, and don’t we want to be prepared for that, or even encourage our current selves to become more like that fantasy self?

Well, to an extent. What goals do you have for yourself that you might associate with certain items? Maybe you want to develop a sense of style unlike what you usually wear. Maybe you think it’d be great to take up a new hobby, or decorate a house you don’t live in yet.

The thing is, giving up certain objects with goals in mind doesn’t mean to give up on those dreams. Goal-setting is a part of growing and developing as a person. But in this moment, what purpose is it serving you? If you have something for so long and it hasn’t necessarily spurred you to reinvent yourself, then what’s the point? You can always repurchase something later if you truly do need it.

I’m not trying to tell you to just throw away everything you own, but to generally live more intentionally and in the present moment. Constantly we are in the habit of looking beyond the only guaranteed time we have. We lose who we are, our authentic selves, by thinking of what could be. But how helpful is that?

Rather than picturing yourself as somebody you know deep down you aren’t, the best means of “self-improvement” or fulfilling the accomplishments that truly matter to you, is looking at your life right now. The person you are right now is the most important. The tasks and goals you can accomplish with what resources and circumstances you have are what you can use to even think of what your future holds.

And accomplishing those goals you have don’t originate in the objects they potentially represent. Cheesy, but that drive to make the most of life comes from within. You don’t need something taking up space to find that, nor should you rely upon outside sources to validate yourself.

This is where I insert a quick critique of our society, so nothing new. But our instinct to seek instant gratification limits our own abilities to motivate ourselves. We feel like we need to fill our goals and desires with buying things, and that will be the solution to everything. We expect inanimate objects to be the reasons why we complete a task or feel fulfilled. A touch of self-bribery.

Believe in who you are, right now. You’ve obviously evolved as a person, have experienced new things and learned new lessons. And for that, you should celebrate and not necessarily just move onto whatever you think will come next for you. Relish this moment.

Minimalism is about reducing the clutter in your environment so you have more room and clarity for what you truly love and treasure. It’s a not a one-size-fits-all lifestyle, but a way of viewing the world through a lens of gratitude and self-awareness. It’s about becoming more mindful of your actions and more clearly seeing how they align with your values.

We are so much more than our things. Fantasy or not, we will get exactly where we’re going, at the moment it’s supposed to. Life is probably going to take us toward a direction we least expected anyways, and that’s the beauty of it. Let’s trust in what that reality will be and leave the especially lavish fantasies in our wandering dreams.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie