A long, long time ago, in a world unknown, there were two browsers that ruled internet surfing: Netscape and Internet Explorer; and search engines such as Alta Vista and Excite. They were the kings of Internet browsing.

Then more browsers came along: Safari, Firefox, and then Chrome. And with them more search engines. You might have heard of Google. And Bing. And Yahoo is still with us.

Google is by far the best search engine we have seen yet, but it would have been very easy to think, “Alta Vista and Excite and Yahoo are already out there, how am I going to compete with them?” And the same reasoning could be applied to building a new browser, but the architects of Firefox and Chrome didn’t let the fact that there were already successful browsers out there stop them.

The Scrub Daddy is a sponge that won a deal on Shark Tank and is now in every Bed, Bath, & Beyond. Was anyone siting around unhappy with their sponges? Not really, but one person was and they decided to do something about it. The Scrub Daddy is now a huge success.

Look at the juice market, or the chips market, or the confectionary market, or the hummus market. New brands are always entering the fray and they are gaining shelf space among the giants.

Of course it’s better to build something the world has never seen, but the truth is, there is very little the world hasn’t seen, and so what? That doesn’t mean you can’t find a niche in whatever it is you aim to build or build something better than the world has ever seen.

The Illusion of Limited Resources


I’m always working as though there’s a finish line and if I don’t get there first someone else will; they’ll win the prize, they’ll take the business I would have won, make the money I would have made, get the rewards I would have received and then there will be nothing left for me or anyone else.

This attitude creates an anticipatory anxiety that is neither good for business or personal health. It also happens to be a false premise.

The truth is there is always enough to go around for everyone. The belief that there are limited resources and/or opportunities for each of us to be successful is the very belief that will keep success at bay.

Here are the 4 reasons why along with ways you can counteract getting in your own way.

The Self-Serving Bias

This bias is the tendency to attribute positive outcomes to our own behavior and negative outcomes to external factors. It is a great way to exonerate yourself and blame the world for why you didn’t get what you want.

For example, your business scores a huge sale and you think, “I did this!” Conversely, your business doesn’t score the huge sale and you think, “They/that did this to me!” It is a self-preservation technique to protect your ego.

This is biased thinking, meaning it is flawed, and it mentally places the responsibility for your life into the hands of others rather than yourself, even though – ultimately – it is always you who is to credit for your successes and your failures.

Protecting your ego is nice but it also prevents you from seeing the facts, dealing with them and having the information you need to make better decisions. When you start blaming, you start losing.

Blame creates a feeling of helplessness, that despite your best efforts the world was out to thwart you, so what’s the point. If you feel like everything is futile and there’s no point in pursuing your goals because clearly the world wants to see you fall then you will not have the motivation and willpower to do anything but live a status quo life. You’ll make a living, go through the motions, and in the end hand over the keys to your self-worth to the external world.

To persevere you need to keep your willpower intact. And to keep your willpower intact you need to stay motivated.

 Your Beliefs Affect Your Energy Level

We begin each day with a full reserve of willpower and as we go through the day and make choices, do our work, complete tasks and so on our willpower is depleted. It behooves us to keep our willpower reserve as in tact as possible so that we can stay focused and accomplish our goals.

 

A 2011 study performed by Kathleen D. Vohs, Roy F. Baumeister, and Brandon J. Schmeichel did a study on the effect of our beliefs and motivations on ego depletion.

According to the study, “When the [ego] depletion is slight, there is ample and profound room for subjective beliefs and motivations to moderate the effects” but also that “no person can continue running or swimming forever no matter how much he or she may be motivated.”

Meaning, if we are only mildly depleted and we maintain strong self-efficacy we can keep that fatigue from overpowering us. Conversely, if we lack self-efficacy, the fatigue can gain momentum and further deplete our willpower. But at a certain point of exhaustion it doesn’t matter how much we believe in ourselves.

So, if you’re extremely exhausted it will not matter if you believe someone else’s success has erased your potential, but if you’re not extremely exhausted – the state in which we all typically begin our days – then believing someone else’s success has erased your potential can have a deleterious effect on your willpower, energy level, and ability to stay focused and accomplish your goals.

It thus stands to reason that you might as well give yourself the best chance you can by A) getting the rest you need and B) starting your day motivated, believing there is a space for you in this world to be successful and achieve your goals.

I want to drive home the point that motivation and self-efficacy can keep your ego depletion at bay.

Nothing Begets Nothing

There are unlimited resources for the things we don’t want to come true.

A backwards example of how momentum creates the goals you aspire to achieve is the fact that believing it can’t happen creates the reality where it doesn’t happen.

We build whole lives where things we want don’t happen because we don’t try to make them happen because we believe they won’t happen whether we do or don’t try.

That in itself is proof of success: we’ve become very good at proving nothing will happen with zero effort.

The reverse is also true: things happen when you work to make them happen. Why wouldn’t they? Be smart about it, work diligently, get a coach or advisor, learn from others that have done it already, and get crackin’.

Keep Your Eyes to Yourself

You want to stay focused while you’re building your career or business or working towards a goal. What does wishing you had what others do have to do with your goals?

You have a limited amount of energy given to you each day and you want to use that wisely. You will be shooting yourself in the foot if you expend your energy on what you don’t have, or focusing on what others have.

Instead use your energy to focus on what you want and what you’re grateful you have already. This strengthens the foundation you’ve already created and builds upon it for what you want to come to you in the future.

I don’t mean to suggest that every idea is a winner. Failure is part of life, but the path to failure is part of the path towards success. You’ll learn what to do and not do for the next venture. The key is to start, stay focused, with your eye on the prize, and put in the effort.

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Sometimes when my husband isn’t home at the expected time I assume he’s dead on the side of the highway being eaten by wolves.

So far, this hasn’t happened (but that doesn’t mean it won’t).

Hi, my name is Nicole and I am a Catastrophist.

Catastrophisizing is but one of many cognitive distortions we all fall prey to from time to time, sometimes on a daily basis.

Psychologytoday.com defines catastrophizing perfectly into two parts so I’m quoting them:

Part 1: Predicting a negative outcome.

Part 2: Jumping to the conclusion that if the negative outcome did in fact happen, it would be a catastrophe.

It’s interesting that anyone thinks like this because it so obviously doesn’t serve us, either in leadership or in our personal lives. Yet we do, because we want so badly for the good to happen, that we put equal amount of energy into fearing the worst might happen too.

Catastrophizing is – excuse the redundancy – catastrophic for leaders. As a leader you need to be a beacon of resilience. And unfortunately…

Excessive Worrying Reduces Resilience

One of the most important traits for a leader is resilience. Inherent in leading, building teams and building a business are setbacks. Actually “setbacks” has a negative connotation to it; really what we should call them are “events that happen that move us towards the events we’d rather happen.”

It’s part of the game. It’s actually part of life in general and resilience is crucial for your personal life too, but when it comes to leadership, resilience or the lack thereof can make or break you.

You therefore want to build an arsenal of tools that support the tendency of resilience. You want sleep, exercise, a good diet, recuperation time, and a growth mindset to focus on challenges as opportunities.

The irony about anticipating stress is that it creates stress, so you immediately bring into your life the very thing you’re trying to avoid when you worry that it will come into your life.

Assumptions and expectations that cause anxiety arise from our past experiences, what we witness from other people’s experiences, and what we see in society from film/TV/books/magazines/etc.

You might have been fired in a past job and assume you will be fired in your new job. You might have seen someone else get fired and assume you will also be fired. You might have seen someone in a movie get fired for something similar to what’s transpiring in your own life and you assume you will be fired too.

These are all fictions and fiction never fully reflects reality.

Furthermore, the future is a landscape that doesn’t exist. Worrying about the future is the same thing as worrying about anything that doesn’t exist. Would you worry that you’re never going to get to visit the country of Alparnia? Probably not, because it’s a country that doesn’t exist.

Keep your mind focused on what exists, which is the moment you are living. It is the only timeline you can control. This will help build a resilient attitude, which will in turn:

  • grow your self-confidence
  • give you a flair for adaptation and flexibility
  • cultivate the belief that you can influence life events

The Benefits of Anticipatory Anxiety

  • Makes you feel terrible
  • Creates the reality you fear most
  • Raises your blood pressure, stress level, and can lead to disease
  • Stresses out everyone around you
  • Makes you look incompetent, non-resilient, and fearful
  • Emotional contagion will spur others to leave you

Obviously none of these are benefits, but I wanted to label them as such to shine a light on our flawed thinking.

There’s an illusion of strength with your anxiety, that it is giving you control over the eventual outcome. Somewhere in the back of your mind you think “If I worry over it I can effect the outcome I want by thinking of everything I need to do to make sure what I don’t want doesn’t happen.” This is neurotic behavior that only attracts what you don’t want, because you’re only focusing on what you don’t want.

What you do want is nowhere in the equation.

Would you go about making a cake by focusing on all the ingredients that you wouldn’t want to be in it? You’d never make a birthday cake with broccoli, cumin, beef, sesame oil, and a microphone. At least not for someone you love.

Worrying about what you don’t want to happen is putting all of the aforementioned ingredients into a bowl, stirring them together, and putting it in the oven, all the while saying, “I hope I don’t make this cake.” And the only thing you’re doing is making it.

Why some of us are prone to anticipatory anxiety and excessive worry comes down to our core beliefs, which I wrote about here.

How to Deal

1. Take a moment to stop the train. You may have to forcibly take a moment to stop doing what you’re doing and just pause. Sit, breathe, close your eyes, and project what you want coming true rather than what you don’t want.

2. Find Something Immediately that Makes You Happy. It can be a video, a picture, a memory, it
doesn’t matter, just go there mentally, visually. You need to replace the anxiety with different thoughts. For me, it’s animals.

3. Full Steam Ahead. The best method is to proceed as though catastrophizing is something you’ve never even heard about. Make small choices towards your goals; keep putting one foot in front of the other towards the end game. This helps focus on the here and now while simultaneously keeping the anxiety at bay. What you don’t want is to sit in a chair ruminating without taking any action and/or taking preventative action towards a reality that doesn’t exist.

4. Make the Choice. The easiest and hardest part of moving past your anticipatory anxiety is making the choice to move past it. You have to want to move past it; you have to consciously choose happiness over suffering; resilience over stagnation; growth over regression; peace of mind over anxiety. It’s a choice, and the good news is you always have that choice available to you. Make little choices rather than huge sweeping ones. So, agree with yourself to make the choice not to have anticipatory anxiety. It’s not easy, and it’s not an immediate cure, but it’s a start.

Let go of the delusion that your worry is controlling the external world and creating desirable circumstances. Worry is not control.

The solutions, as the saying goes, “are in your head.” You may not permanently solve your catastrophizing, but you can learn to deal with it more effectively.

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Posted - 25 January, 2017
“Bueller? … Bueller? … Bueller?” Remember Ben Stein as the über-dull economics teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? He was the quintessence of uninspiring. His students slept with their eyes open while he answered his own questions addressed to no