What’s Holding You Back? A Story About My (Imaginary) Dog…
If you’re a client, or we’ve spoken on Skype, then you probably know that I have a dog, and that he likes to sleep in my office when I’m working.
I say ‘sleep’, but half the time he’s sleeping and half the time he’s barking at imaginary postmen. Sometimes I think he times his barks perfectly to coincide with my conversations with new clients.
Now, because I know he is real, I sometimes take action to quiet him down, I call him in, or apologise to my clients.
However, if something happened to him (and he’s quite old now so that might not be too far away), then, from time to time, I might remember that I had a dog, and pause when I go on a call, expecting him to bark.
That barking, though, doesn’t exist — I can see that — and I’d probably stop myself doing anything about it. It’s in my head, even though, in that moment, his presence might feel pretty real.
So what? you’re asking. Who cares about the dog??
Well, we all have imaginary dogs. The reason I tell you this tale (ahh, sorry, could not resist ;-)) is that we live more of life like this than we realise.
I spoke with a client a couple of weeks ago who’d recently split up with his girlfriend and was worried about paying the rent on the apartment they’d shared. His motivation wasn’t so much about staying in his current apartment in location A, but about the possibility of ‘having’ to move to location B — somewhere he absolutely did not want to live.
Now, I don’t mind where he chooses to live — we should always aim for whatever we want — but he was worrying about the move. And that worry was like my imaginary dog — it wasn’t real.
“I can’t work in location B”, he told me. “I need light and it’s so depressing over there.”
He wasn’t talking about another continent, it was barely ten miles from where he currently lived, just that it was on the wrong side of the river (in his mind), and he had a lot of (imagined) ideas about what it was going to be like.
“I’m pretty sure they have light in B. I heard the sun comes up, day after day, just like where you live now. What’s the problem?” I responded.
I was puzzled because I couldn’t see what he saw. To me, it looked like he had a chance of a fresh start in a great new location. The sun definitely rose, the apartments all had windows (as far as I knew), and it seemed like a cute location, kinda artsy with lots of good coffee shops — an attractive place to live and work (in my reality at least.)
He saw something very different. He saw a place filled with gloom and a lack of opportunity. I seriously think he even believed it had different weather.
Both of our (imagined) futures living in location B were based on our experience. And both were 100% made-up.
And this is the way we create problems —
we imagine them!
When we make things up, or we imagine a certain outcome — for good or bad — we get so wrapped up in how we think we’re going to feel, that we take action as if that feeling were real. Or we don’t take action because we don’t like how we imagine we’ll feel at some unspecified point in the future.
Although I joke that my dog seems to know when I’m firing up Skype so that he can start barking, I don’t think he actually barks any more when I’m on Skype than when I’m just typing away. If I thought those two things were related, I’d probably never get on a call (or I wouldn’t have a dog…).
It’s the same with anything that is in the future.
I want to do more events and more speaking and, if I thought the events were going to be hard to fill, or that I’d find it hard to get speaking opportunities, chances are that would stop me taking action.
Yet, just like my client’s perspective, it’s made-up.
Maybe my events will be hard to fill; maybe I’ll need to experiment with a couple of different formats to get them to work. Or maybe they’ll fill easily with ideal customers. Who knows?!
Can we let go?
If I let go of any expectations and simply asked for opportunities to get in front of an audience, however large or small, I bet that a dozen speaking opportunities would materialise within a few weeks.
I don’t know how that will turn out. I do know that choosing to act on the basis of what I think will happen is a sure-fire way to create a self-fulfilling ‘truth’.
If my client refuses to even consider a move because he “knows” how unhappy he’s going to be in location B, he’ll continue to worry about paying the rent, about how awful it will be to move — and, in case you can’t see the irony here, he’ll continue to make himself pretty unhappy in the present moment.
Attaching ourselves to an imagined future can sometimes create exactly the reality we’re trying hardest to avoid.
If he realises that he’s actually OK this month, that he has options, and that, in the worst case, he could sleep on a friend’s floor for a month, he might not be so anxious. He doesn’t have to like the change, but he can approach it with more creativity and, therefore, more solutions will open up.
Maybe he could stay where he is and hustle for more work to pay the rent; maybe he could move, downsize and go to a new location, maybe there’s a third option, a new area he hasn’t considered. There is no right or wrong, or perfect solution here.
The key to being successful in anything we do is to understand that whatever we imagine about the future is exactly that — it’s imagined.
Are you willing to try it?
As soon as we can see that what we are thinking isn’t actually real, isn’t tested, then the cloud of worry and anxiety can lift, we become open to new ideas and we free up a heck of a lot of mental energy to take action.
This way of thinking is something I’ll be looking at in more depth with my World Changers. The people who join the group will discover how to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined — and this alone will make them unstoppable in whatever they choose to do.
Even when they don’t know what’s in front of them, they’ll learn to treat everything as a test, to be open to experimentation. Life becomes an adventure when we do that — something to be explored with joy and excitement, not to be scared of.
If you choose to take this outlook on board, just like my World Changers, you’ll find it will change the way you look at, and feel about life, AND it will change your results — massively. Not just for the six-months that we work together, but for life.
No matter where you choose to live 😉
P.S. If you’re intrigued to see whether you’re making assumptions about the future that simply aren’t true, then email me at info @ cathypresland dot com and tell me a little about your situation and let’s see if we can unpick that for you.