Overcome Anxiety, Build Character

Fri, 06/15/2012 - 00:00 -- Dan Bolton

Because of this tendency to seek positive emotions and avoid negative emotions I think that people have prioritized comfort over happiness. But do you truly feel happy in the comfort of your daily routine?  Do you really feel happy going home after an 8-10 hour work day to catch the latest episode of the latest reality TV show? Sure numbing yourself after a long day at work feels comfortable, and we all need to do this sometimes. The problem is that with the heightened demands of life and our jobs to be productive this numbing into a state of comfort can become an everyday occurrence. Yes, comfort is the absence of negative emotions, but it is also the absence of the natural positive highs that can be experienced in life as well. In this sense comfort does not equate to happiness because when you are prioritizing comfort you are not living your life fully alive.

Happiness comes with striving toward being the best you that you can be and taking the action that is going to move you in that direction. Carl Rogers believed that all people have the internal resources required for personal growth, and that striving toward growth is innate in all humans. Growing into being the best you that you can be means that you are going to have to take risks sometimes. If you don't take risks there are no rewards. If you're not a risk taker at least some of the time you're never going to grow beyond the confined area of your comfort zone. Character is built by reaching, constantly, far outside your comfort zone on an ongoing basis. This reaching outside your comfort zone does not always lead to getting what you want, but it always involves pushing yourself toward something bigger.

On the other side of the coin, when people who always micromanage people or situations in an attempt not to fail are punished by life, particularly in the social domain. Caution elicits suspicion, tension, and the belief that there is a hidden agenda at play because it does not seem authentic. Outside of this social dimension of trying to micromanage success, another reason to throw caution to the wind is that procrastination kills character building. Approaching something with a “Not Now” attitude only delays your learning experience. If my mind tells me 'not now' or “I’ll try that later” about something that creates anxiety, that is a signal to me that I should take that action- that's where the growth is. The only place where caution is a trait that is highly valued, and should be practiced, is with finances.

Keep this in mind: Doing something new and breaking your ingrained habits will elicit some negative emotion. Doing something new will bring you out of your comfort zone and it won’t be easy to keep up with it at first, even if it’s something you like the idea of. Once you’re out of your comfort zone your mind will resist. Doing something risky will make you anxious, and when you feel anxious you try to find reasons and ways to stop. If you give in to this avoidance it will subvert your own growth.

Stop trying so hard to keep yourself safe. Slog through the initial pain period when starting something new, creating a new habit, or even trying on a new way of being. Growth is slow at first, but will pick up speed and momentum if you stick with it. Allow yourself to persist through feeling stuck to the point that you open up to feeling a surge of possibility in your life.

Next week I will provide some examples of ways to overcome internal and social pressures.

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Email Dan Bolton, LMHC at: danboltonlmhc@me.com

1) Carl Rogers: Unconditional Positive Regard

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