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Date: 2/10/2018 1:29 PM EST

A few years ago my friend Lisa started dating someone new, and initially felt very optimistic about the relationship. She was happy for the first six months and then started to worry. As we sat over coffee one day, Lisa asked me, "What if he breaks my heart? What if he's not who he says he is? What if I let myself really fall in love, and it doesn't work out?"

I responded by saying, "Okay, what if everything you're worried about comes true; he breaks your heart; turns out to be a phony and it doesn't work out. What would happen to you?" Lisa sat for a minute, and then said emphatically, "Well, I wouldn't like it!" "Yeah", I said, "that's pretty clear, but what would actually happen to you?" She stared at me, sighed and said grudgingly, "I guess I would survive."  

She spoke with such exaggeration that we both laughed out loud. Despite her sullen tone, Lisa's conviction was pretty strong. She knew she would be okay because, like many of us, she had gone through tough times before and had survived.  

When you're worried, your mind becomes a maze of anxiety. You speculate on situations whose outcome is unknown. It's easy to get caught up in a "loop of fear", convinced that the worst will happen. If you don't do something to shift your perspective, you can end up feeling paralyzed by that fear.     

Below is a technique I call completing "the incomplete picture." Once you know what you fear the most, you can start to figure out how to face it and get support. It's all about taking the unknown and making it knowable.   


  • Identify what you are worried about (focus on one thing at a time).
  • Is it a person, situation or event?
  • Rate your worry on a scale from 1-10 with 10 being the highest state of worry.  
Answer the following: 
  • I am worried because__________(fill in the blank).
  • I fear that_______(fill in the blank) will happen to me or another person or in this situation.
  • If the worst outcome occurs, what would that be?
  • Then what would happen?
  • After that, what would happen? 
  • Then what? (Keep asking this question until you get to where you have reached the worst possible outcome).
You are now faced with the worst case scenario and need to make decisions. 
  • What would you need to recover from this circumstance?
  • Who could you help you figure it out? 
  • What action do you want to take?
  • What options have you identified? 
  • Is there anything else you need to do to help ease your mind?  
  • Now think about your original worry and rate it again from 1-10.  
Your worry may not have moved from a 10 to a 1 but you probably have identified options, strategies or people that could help. Each time you complete the incomplete picture, you help your mind shift from worry to clarity.   

Looking for a way to calm your mind during your busy day? Join my inner confidence community and receive your free 5 minute stress reduction meditation download.

Posted by karolward

Date: 12/17/2017 1:44 PM EST

If you have the intelligence, drive and creativity but are still struggling; then it's not about intelligence, drive or lack of creativity.  

What it usually means is that there is a conflict inside. 

Take a moment to go inward and ask what may be in the way.  Often it is on of these 3 areas:

1. Fear  Is there some unresolved fear about taking action or becoming more successful? Think about how you can address this fear through coaching, therapy, mentors or reading about others who have overcome professional blocks. 

2. Lack of Support Do you need some cheerleaders in your corner?  Turn to the friends, colleagues, or mentors for the enthusiasm and motivation you need to get you going. Be selective about who you choose for  this particular method of support.

3. Lack of information Sometimes you just need advice or a clear methodology to get you out your stuck position.  If you are not afraid or have plenty of support, then what specific information do you think you need  that would be helpful.  Reach out to people who have that expertise or others who can point you towards real experts. 

Posted by karolward

Date: 11/21/2017 11:28 AM EST

Lately, all I seem to be doing is watching sports movies whenever they show up on TV.  But not just any sports movie, just the sports movies about underdog athletes who feel they missed their chance and unexpectedly get another opportunity.  These are the characters who have been sidelined by life but decide to try again.  Maybe that's what all sports movies are about and I now understand the appeal.

Whether it's Invincible or The Rookie the plot just sucks me in. Though I wish I were more familiar with movies that feature women as the centerpiece, (and please feel let me know some titles) I still get very inspired by the stories of men with feet of clay.  These are the ones who are considered past their prime, not just by society but by themselves.  They have given up on their dreams.

So, of course being a coach and therapist, I have to look within myself to why these movies appeal to to me at this time.

I believe it's because I have overcome a health issue and now want the reassurance that there is still time for me'; time to be healthy again; time to accomplish my professional goals and time to enjoy life.  I also have witnessed my clients and patients experience these same longings and who are willing to take the courageous steps to try again.  Many of them have experiences losses of every kind; issues of emotional and physical trauma;   the bottoming out on alcohol, substances, excess spending or have beat a serious illness.  Yet, despite these setbacks, when the second chance opportunity captures their attention, they are willing to open their hearts and try again.

I admire them greatly.

It's good to have dreams and to not give up on who we are. Maybe the dreams have changed form or have been scaled in some way, but perhaps the essence of what they are, can still be explored.

How do you know you are ready for a second chance?  Here are a few things to consider.

Notice what you are noticing:  What is capturing your attention at this time?

  • Do those commercials on finishing a degree fascinate you?
  • What type of music, movies or books are you turning to over and over?  Why?
  • Are you lingering over that email about the improv, art, or speaking class?
  • Does the offer to teach or lead light you up?
What are you noticing? 

You feel flushed with emotions: Taking a second chance is not always easy and their are usually a variety of emotions.

  • You find yourself vacillating between the fear of being stuck and the excitement of wanting to try.  I call this emotional turbulence and it occurs during change.
  • You feel restless because there is suddenly time, space or the unexpected opportunity to think "what now"or "it's time".
  • You feel nostalgic about past accomplishments and pursuits that made you happy.
Pay attention to how you feel and why these feelings are showing up.

Second chances are all about opportunity and timing.  When you honor your right to try again, your spirit will soar.  Share your dreams with those you trust and then find the courage to take that first step.

You are more than ready to try.

Posted by karolward

Date: 10/28/2017 11:11 AM EDT

Runaway thinking can cause most people to look at their lives through a distorted lens. Triggered by fear, issues become amplified and the ability to think clearly goes out the window. At these times, it’s important to disrupt and shift this cycle of irrational thinking and get off the hamster wheel.  

Here are three strategies to try. 

1. Face Your Fear. It’s okay to be afraid but most monsters under the bed remain scary until we shine a light on them. Take a deep breath and think about what you fear instead of running from it. Avoidance heightens fear and causes it to grow. The more you understand what you are facing, the more you can plan accordingly. You may need to think it through numerous times but each time you look, your fear will lessen.

2. Get a Reality Check. Find support from trusted people to help reign in your runaway thinking. Remember, this type of thinking is distorted, so having another set of eyes and ears will help you find your center again. Think about the personal and professional relationships you can lean on at this time. Talk it through with people who are calm and thoughtful. Once you do, you will start to gain perspective. 

3. Take Small Actions. Action has energy and taking action creates empowerment. What small steps can you take to help you feel more in charge? Even a simple act of self-care such as getting enough sleep or eating well will help you feel more in control of your life. When you take an action, you move away from worrying about what’s going to happen in the future to creating what’s going to happen in the future. And then you can move forward step, by step, by step. 

Posted by karolward

Date: 10/24/2017 9:36 PM EDT

It's tempting these days to feel pressured into connecting and staying connected all the time. The way you can tell is that feeling of anxiety that you are not "doing enough", "posting enough", or "showing enough" of your life to tons of people.

What I have found, as a therapist and coach, is that the most successful people I know, surround themselves with genuine people. They take the time to form authentic relationships with people who refer business and opportunities. I have found this to be true for myself as well. The connections have a organic and at times spiritual feel to them.

What keeps things flowing is to not take take these relationships for granted and give back in the same way that you have been given to. This kind of giving, results in an effortless and elevated way of doing business. The number of relationships may be small but the results are huge.


Posted by karolward

Date: 10/21/2017 2:10 PM EDT

Have you ever had one of those days when it seems that everyone else has it all together? You find yourself staring at images and readings posts that make your own life seem small. On those vulnerable days, it's easy to feel that somehow you are doing something wrong or are just way behind everybody else.

But, from my experience as a coach and therapist, the outside of someone does not always reflect the inside.

It is the rare few who have not struggled or had to work through issues of pain and unhappiness in their lives. It happens to most people at some point along their journey. And while the success and happiness of others is to be celebrated, it's important to keep things in perspective.

On the days where you feel the whole world is dancing while you are just trying to put one foot in front of the other; be easy with yourself. Sometimes putting one foot in front of the other is all that may be required. There is nothing wrong with accepting how you feel on those days and then assessing what you can, or need to do, to make things better.

I have found that identifying what you feel, or noticing how your body feels, can help you figure out what you may need. Here are two anxiety mindsets and the actions that help:

  • Frustration, anger, irritation and physical tension--These emotions usually shift through concrete action. You can use the fuel of these emotions to do things that will move you forward. Make that call for coffee; send that email; work on your resume; practice your speech; whatever you need to do break up the feeling of being stuck. Concrete actions moves energy and that will help you feel better.
  • Sadness, worry, fear and physical exhaustion--These emotions usually mean you need support and recuperation. Connect with people who "get" you; shut your office door for 20 minutes; take a nap; sit somewhere quiet and take some slow deep breaths. Supporting yourself this way will help relax you into a better frame of mind.
And in general, when you are having a day of anxiety and stress, limit the time you spend looking at other people's lives. It usually won't make you feel better. Keep the focus on yourself and handle what really matters to you at this time.

Posted by karolward | Post a Comment

Karol Ward, LCSW
Confidence Expert

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