My boss shared some incredibly wise words with me this week. He said: "Haley, it's always best to run toward the problem."
He had run toward a problem earlier that day. On the way back to the office from a client meeting, he suddenly realized that something had been overlooked and forgotten during the meeting. So, instead of procrastinating or hiding this oversight, or stalling while trying to determine the best course of action, we turned the car around and went directly back to the client. On the way there, he gathered all of the facts, and proactively formulated a solution to propose to them. In the end, the client was grateful that he had been forthright with them, and relieved that he had already considered their best interests and had a solution that would meet their needs. Crisis averted.
This situation prompted me to think about my own approach to problems, both in work and in life. I'm not always as forthright as my boss was that day. I waste a lot of time fretting over the millions of potential outcomes that could result from delivering bad news, or having a difficult conversation.
Sometimes I procrastinate, and avoid, and deflect.
I once ignored a broken trash can lid for a month because I didn't know how to fix it. I've procrastinated scheduling doctor's appointments because I was scared of what they might tell me. I have avoided talking with loved ones after a fight because I didn't want to deal with having to discuss the issues and work through them.
But these problems don't just go away. The longer we ignore them and hope that they will resolve themselves, the longer they fester and grow and annoy us; always there in the back of our minds creating unnecessary stress and anxiety.
It is exactly the same with our fears. Left unchecked, they will transform from something small and innocent, a natural human emotion, into a huge, scary, inhibiting, life-altering handicap.
So what if we approached our fears in the same way that my boss suggests facing our problems - RUN toward them. Lean into them. Explore them. Address them head on. Yes, it may get messy and ugly and extremely uncomfortable. You may make a fool of yourself, you may fail, you may be vulnerable. But as Glennon Doyle Melton says: "You can do hard things."
And I can do hard things. I don't like to do them, but I can. And I must.
And as Gretchen Rubin says: "sometimes, the things that contribute the most to our long-term happiness don't really make us happy while we're doing them."
Facing fears and facing problems is definitely not my happy place, but I've learned that the only way to that place is straight through the fear.
What fears or problems are you avoiding in your life? Why not take a step toward it this weekend. Schedule the dreaded doctor's appointment. Publish that blog post. Have the talk with your loved one. Or just fix that broken trash can lid. I'll be right there with you!
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© Haley McManigal 2015
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