How To Overcome Fear

We all have worries and fears. They can easily disempower us and keep us stuck. I’ve seen it in myself and with others.  Falling into the trap of worry and fear doesn’t have to be the default.

Here is an example of how I worked through some of the fears with, Susan, a pseudo name of a person who came to me to free blocks that were preventing her success.

Susan began the session sharing worries, doubts, and uncertainties in her business model.  She even discounted her abilities. She said, “I am excited about my vision.  I know it’s a good business model.  I just have such a long way to go before it will come to fruition. It’s so overwhelming and keeps me stuck. How can I keep sane and make it to the finish line?”

I empathically replied, “One small step at a time. Look at what you have already accomplished. You have written the blueprint and have an outline to follow. Most people don’t even have the courage to take the time to think of a concept out of their normal routine job, let alone write the procedures. Give yourself credit and recognition of how far you’ve come.”

“True, true. But it still feels so overwhelming,” Susan responded.

It is overwhelming when you think of the overarching picture. It’s easy to think of where we want to be and not acknowledge how far we’ve come. Self-criticism and judgment is NOT helping the matter now.

Stay in the Present Moment

The present is all you know and can control. Acknowledge the past accomplishments, give praise where praise is deserved and then ask yourself, what can be done now?

Thinking into the future, brings worry. The future can feel like light years away. Forward thinking is daunting and overwhelming. It does nothing but stop you in your tracks. And that certainly isn’t moving forward at all.

Learn from the Past

You can reflect on the past, think about other goals you’ve tried and didn’t succeed. There might be some belief you’ve developed that’s keeping you stuck. Could it be something from my childhood? Was there a time in your past where you worked hard and circumstances unexpectedly took them away?

Susan began a story about a time when she was thirteen. “I was so excited for the upcoming dance recital scheduled for the end of the season. I had prepared for months going to dance class religiously. I consistently did my chores, saved my weekly allowance and bought my uniform. I hung it proudly in my closet anticipating the big day. And then bam, it was taken away. I got into trouble hanging around the wrong crowd and my punishment was I could not go to the dance recital. It tore me apart.”

Susan, that must have been so disappointing to work so hard, to feel so proud, and then have it shattered. I can imagine that hurt and disappointment and betrayal can feel like it may at any moment come back. But what is different now versus being that thirteen-year-old little girl?

Susan thought for a moment, “I am an adult and nothing is going to be taken away because I have no one to answer to but myself. I am the only one stopping me now. “

Yes! As a little girl you have no control over how your parents respond, but you are not living under their roof anymore. You are not dependent upon them for your survival. You are taking care of yourself now. You have worked hard, are able to pay your mortgage, buy your own food, and live comfortably with friends and others that support you. Many changes have taken place.

Susan was able to shed some light on her beliefs and move to a new perspective in a loving manner and as a grown, mature woman.

Worry and anxiety comes from a place focusing on the past or the future. The solution is the present. Concentrating on the past hinders what can be done in the present. To get unstuck it is important to focus on the present. What can be done now?

Unfold the Full Truth

Acknowledge what is going on right now. Name the fears and then assess each one. The truth of the matter is that you are fearful of possibilities of the future. Perhaps failure, even success, looking like a fool, or that no one desires what you have to offer.

Those are all possibilities. But what other possibilities exist? You can handle any disappointments and learn from them. Obstacles are pieces of information on how to improve.

Success can be controlled. If you are so successful, you can back off and regulate what makes you feel comfortable.

You may look like a fool to yourself, but I bet some people find your vulnerability courageous. It takes great bravery to expose your endeavor.  You have worked on your project for a long and hard time.

Lastly, if you desire what you have to offer, what makes you think you are the only one? You made a big leap and gathered some friends who were willing to do a practice run. You received invaluable feedback.  Acknowledge the courage it has taken to achieve the progress you have made.

Worry, fear, and despair will never disappear but it is those that learn to acknowledge the fear and move into it that succeed. You can’t thrive unless you try. Reflect upon your past, learn from it, and then use positive self talk to encourage your progress.

When worry and fear overwhelms, stay present and unfold the whole picture.  Anxiety may seem to cloud other emotions but next to anxiety is excitement. Find the excitement within your stress and you can then move forward. Anxiety likes negativity. The overall picture is never one-sided. Find the positive to counter the negative.


Use the Wisdom of Your Future Self to Make Your Dreams Come True

“It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.”   Donald Winnicott, Playing and Reality

We all have dreams and hopes for the future but so many of us have lost of self in the daily grind.

Your future plans have gone astray and your dreams feel like a distant memory.

Your life feels blurred and undefined.

You want to connect with your dreams and are ready to commit to a path to make your dreams a reality. Many lingering questions arise.

Where do you begin?

How do I get there?

Will I ever achieve my dreams?

How can I gain some clarity in my life?


Visualization is a profound technique that offers an opportunity to tap into and draw upon the wisdom from our deepest consciousness. By using our imagination and the joy of play, we create scenes, patterns, and dramatic processes.

  • Transpire new beginnings
  • Resolve trauma
  • Comfort a younger you
  • Provide resolution
  • Grieve endings and losses.

Many of our emotional reactivity, fears, and worries stem from unresolved issues from our history. We have the skills, strengths, and knowledge within us that can help to better navigate current challenges or obstacles.

Here is a guided visualization to Meet Your Future Self and Gain Wisdom and Clarity for Now

Settle into Relaxation

Find a comfortable place to sit.

Sit upfront, putting your feet flat on the floor and gently resting your hands on your thighs.

Relax and center yourself.

Sitting comfortably.

Closing your eyes.

Take a few long deep breaths.

Start with the in breath.

And then with the out breathe.

Let the breath release and just let go.


And again.

Welcome a Loving Light

 Letting the breath settle into its natural rhythm, imagine a bright, loving light surrounding you and protecting you.

With each new breath accepting the loving light more

And more with love and relaxation.

Begin to Transport in Time

Now allow the glowing light to fill your body and lift you up out of your seat and exit the room.

Imagine yourself slowly drifting upward, high above your building, looking down all around you.

Now imagine this glowing protective white light carrying you forward in time.

Choose Your Timeframe

You may go three years into the future or…

Five years,

Ten years…

Depending on how old you are and where you are in your journey.

Meet Your Future Self

Now I invite you to encounter your future self.

Let yourself see what they look like.

And what the feeling of their presence is like.

What’s the quality of that presence?

What’s the feeling of how they look at you?

Communicate Your Struggle

Let your future self know of something in your life that is difficult. Maybe to do with work, your health, relationships, how you relate with your self.

Ask for guidance.

Allow your self to be available and to listen with an open heart.

Gain Wisdom From Your Future Self

Before leaving, find out if there is anything else you need to know.

Is there a message your future self wants you to know, to leave you with, that will serve you well right here.



Right here, over the next few days, in the moments of your current life.

Use Your Senses to Embrace Your Newfound Wisdom

Take a moment to imagine the feeling,

The vision,

And the wisdom of your future self filling you.

Filling your cells.

The spaces between your cells.

The spaces in your heart and mind.

Connect with and Embrace the Shared Wisdom

Sensing the expanded light and the warmth of your future self within you. And the possibility of remembering and connecting with this awakened heart during daily life. Sense the calming; the knowing, and the wisdom of your future evolved self.

Come Back to the Present Moment

Now take the words of wisdom and courageously bring it back to your self here and now. Allow yourself to journey back to the present, to this room, where you are right now.

And when you’re ready open your eyes.

Let yourself engage with that, going forward in time.


Write down what your future self looked like.

What messages did your future self want you to know?

What will serve you now?

What will serve you tomorrow, in a month, six months, a year?

What feelings about your self arose?

What was the essence of your future self?

What is the feeling of how your future self looks at you?

What was the main lesson or wisdom learned?

After writing about your experience with your future self, solidify the experience by gathering old magazines, watercolor or acrylic paints, oil pastels, markers, or pens to create a vision board.  Piece together images of your dreams and the wisdom shared on how to make your dreams a reality. The vision board is a powerful tool to remind yourself daily of what you need to know now. Your dreams are possible. Begin today with your vision and the daily steps will follow.

6 Tips to Improve Communication With Difficult People

Dialog between man and woman

Image source: (Fotolia)

Some people are just downright difficult. No matter what you say or do, it feels like there is no way out. Emotions overrun rational thoughts. Conversations turn into heated arguments, and nothing solves. It’s times like these that old patterns of communication need a make-over.

We learn our communication style by our environment and upbringing. If we come from households where our thoughts were not valued, listened, or supported; we learned not to talk. If we were dismissed, ignored, or criticized by cultural gender norms, we learned to remain silent. We adapted to suppress our thoughts and feelings to survive. As adults, we are now confronted with shame, anger, and denial of our thoughts and feelings.

When we retreat from communicating directly due to cultural norms, gender norms, or social norms we deny ourselves. We disallow access to our authentic self and to deeply connected relationships. Our fear of not being liked, avoidance of conflict or perfectionism keeps us isolated. We don’t give our relationships a chance. We hide from who we are, what we think, and what we feel. In turn, we treat ourselves with the same criticism and suppression as our childhood environment.
There is another way. We don’t have to run and hide. We can speak openly, honestly, and directly. It is not difficult. With practice communicating our needs and wants becomes second nature.

Learning skills to be assertive opens up courageous possibilities to be vulnerable. Exposing our real selves involves taking risks. The benefits outweigh discomforts. A richness of meaningful experiences of love, a sense of belonging, trust, joy, and creativity evolve naturally.

With assertiveness, we learn to stand-up for ourselves and not violate the rights of another person. It is a direct and honest expression of our feelings and opinions. We act, think and feel supporting our rights and the rights of others as equally valued, expressed, and respected.

Test Your Assertiveness

1. Do you find yourself saying “yes” to requests when you really want to say “no?”
Yes      No
2. Is it hard for you to make a decision?
Yes      No
3. Are you unable to express your discontent with a friend or partner, even if you think it is justified?
Yes      No
4. Is it difficult for you to ask for help or assistance?
Yes      No
5. Is it hard for you to express an opinion that is different from other people’s opinions?
Yes      No
6. Is it hard for you to share something positive about yourself?
Yes      No
7. Do you not speak up at work, a class, or meeting, even when you know the answer to a question or have a solution?
Yes      No
8. Do you find it difficult to accept a compliment?
Yes      No

If you answered “Yes” to one or more of the questions, you might have difficulty using assertive communication.

6 Tips to Communicate Assertively Using the Acronym, P A S A R R

1. Pause.

Quiet the mind for a moment to check in and listen internally. Noticing our thoughts gives us the opportunity to assess what we desire. Paying attention to our first intentions positions us to listen to our intuitive voice and bash any defeating self-talk. Being aware of how we feel and what we want to say enables us to stay true to ourselves. With consistent practice, reflection and self-validation the process will take less time.

2. Acknowledge the Truth.

Mirroring body language and giving credit where deserved credit helps deflate a heated moment. Agreeing with a kernel of truth in the complaint also provides time for internal reflection. For example, your boss says, “Your work is always screwed-up.” Ask, “In what way did I screw up?” If she says, “You just are a screw-up,” agree with one discreet example (if it is accurate), but correct her overgeneralization.

3. Stay True to Self.

Using clear and definite “I statements” validating our thoughts and feelings keep the conversation focused on the behavior not the person. While beginning a sentence with “I think” or “I feel” then go on to briefly describe the other person’s behavior.

4. Ask for a Request. Following what we noticed in the other’s person behavior with how their actions affected us kept the focus on cause and effect of behavior, not the person. Then make a request. For example, “When you are late and do not call, I feel afraid that something happened to you. I feel angry that I am waiting. I feel irritated that you don’t value my time. I would prefer it if you call to let me know if you are going to be more than 10 minutes late. Can you do that for me?”

5. Repeat.

Encouraging others reflection ensures mutual understanding. We are practicing self-validation and asking for what we want.

6. Repair.

If the steps above have not helped, continue to ask questions. Inquiring about others thoughts and feelings shows curiosity and their thoughts and feelings matter equally to yours, and a mutual solution is desired. During this phase paying attention to our non-verbal cues such as tone and volume of voice, eye-contact, and body position enables us to be in control of our self. It is also important to ensure we stay true to ourselves, saying “No” when needed to provide healthy boundaries, and validating our thoughts and feelings.

Using assertive techniques is a skill. It improves with practice. With time communicating our desires becomes easy. Following these steps as a guideline to stop before a heated argument, reflecting and staying honest to ourselves and others, and maintaining healthy boundaries allocates opportunity for a joint resolution, self-value, and increased confidence. Knowing that we took a risk to stand-up for ourselves demonstrates that we matter, that our thoughts and feelings are valuable, and we are worth defending.

In love and dignity, speak the truth – as we think, feel, and know it – and it shall set us free.
~ Melody Beattie

10 Ways to Get Things Done

“An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

“If you think you can, you can.  If you think you think you can’t, you’re right.”  – George Bernard Shaw

“The future belongs to the common man with uncommon determination.” – Baba Amte

“Practice is the best of all instructions.”  – Publilius Syrus

achievementIt’s another year gone by.  Bloggers, editors, and writers are scripting about resolutions, goals, and fresh starts.  Each New Year seems to bring a surge of renewed energy to make this year the best year yet.  Yet come February/ March that enthusiasm fades.  Why?  What is it about the New Year that brings a desire for change but then it quickly dwindles?

Change is hard.  Breaking old habits takes a consistent effort.  Casting your magic wand doesn’t just make it so.  It takes action, accountability, dedication, repeat and do it again.  Research supports it takes at least 21 days, some say 8 weeks to replace a bad habit.  It really depends.  It depends on the new habit, how long you have been doing it, the benefits of continuing, the immediacy of the payoff, and how often and automatically you perform the behavior.

To break the cycle, it is imperative to be conscientious of your thoughts and behaviors around the routine you desire to alter.   It takes consistent modifications every minute, hour and day.  For how long, well depends. Just repeat the desired change.

Wow! That seems overwhelming, huh.  It doesn’t have to be. Write.  Put your desired behavior modification on paper.  Post your desires on a visible spot that you see daily like your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or front door.

Take some time (as much as you need) and reflect on the past year.  Look at what you achieved, what you learned, gained, and liked.  Review what you didn’t accomplish.  What were the blocks that prevented you from achieving those marks?  What do you need to make them happen in 2014?   Now write this down and keep it in a safe place to review often.

The answers to the questions above help you analyze past behavior, learn from successes and failures, and make fresh intentions.  The best way to accomplish this thorough investigation of your life is to break it down into professional, relational, body, and spiritual goals.  Again, write your thoughts down!

Next set small goals with specific due dates.  Break down those big ideas, dreams, and aspirations into tiny, manageable, and achievable goals.  Ensure they are realistic.  You don’t want to set yourself up for failure before you even start.

Find support.  Join a team or involve friends and family.  Tell them your aspirations, the due date, and ask them to follow-up and inquire upon your progress.  Involving others ensures accountability, support, and friendly reminders.

Here is a list of 10 Ways to Make Ideas Happen:

1. Remove the words “I can’t” from your vocabulary.

2. Focus on the possibilities instead of the limitations.

3. Remember that there is a solution for every problem (some are just harder to find than others).

4. Write it down and set a deadline.

5. Allow yourself to receive help (there is no reward for doing it all yourself).

6. Be open to feedback and suggestions.

7. Learn how to enjoy the process (it may take you a while to get there, so you might as well enjoy it)!

8. Reward yourself often.  Be proud of even the tiniest steps of progress.

9. Hang around with people who make their ideas happens.

10. Start even if you don’t know how you are going to finish.



what-is-meditationMeditation is concentration of the mind on one or more things, in order to aid mental or spiritual development, contemplation, or relaxation (Encarta Dictionary: English (North America, 2012).

The benefit of meditation is profound. Meditation can significantly decrease blood pressure and muscle tension (Amen, D. 1998). It can increase flexibility, creativity, focus, and attention span (Colzato, L. S., Ozturk, A. & Hommel, B., 2012).

There are several types of meditation with each providing different benefits. The first is Focused Attention (FA) meditation. It is thought regulation, monitoring, and focus of attention on a chosen object. An example of FA mediation is the sensation of one’s own breathing, at the expense of all other internal and external sensations. This type of mediation helps improve the ability to focus and retain concentration.

The steps to FA are focus, breathe, relax, and count.

1. Focus on one spot, object, or sensation.
2. Breathe slowly and deeply.
3. Relax and progressively release muscle tension.
4. Count from 1 to 10 and then 10 to 1 as you continue your attention on your breathe, good thoughts coming in, bad thoughts exiting out, and relaxing your muscles.

For a detailed example of FA mediation exercise read, “Self-Soothing, A Technique for Coping During Times of Stress and Anxiety.” It takes less than ten minutes to complete.

Open Monitoring (OM) meditation is mind-wandering. It is opening your mind to all emerging thoughts, feelings, and sensations. This type of meditation allows for all internal and external sensations to be experienced with the same openness, without focusing on specific objects or sensations. After practicing OM mediation the mind is more free and flexible to access new ideas. Recent studies show that it can actually benefit your thinking and creativity. You can make better plans for yourself and solve problems with increased diversity and creativity. So letting your mind drift far and wide isn’t bad for our daily performance, in fact it can actually enhance our lives (Mooneyham, B. W., & Schooler, J. W., 2013).

Visual Imagery is creating a relaxing experience during a stressful event or visualizing details of successfully maneuvering through a race or athletic event, or imagining presenting confidently in front of a large audience. For example, if you have a fear of riding in an elevator. You can free yourself of the anxiety by exposing yourself slowly and using your imagination to experience a calming and relaxing place. It can be the beach, the mountains, or any haven that brings you a sense of serenity. When creating your safe haven, imagine it with all your senses. For instance, create an imagery and sensation of the sand between your bare toes, the smell of the salty, warm air, taste the salt on your tongue, hear the children play, watch the waves crash along the shore, and sand castles playfully being built.

Visualization is helpful for competitive athletes, creating, clear career goals, or resolving stressful situations. Set your goal, create a clear idea or image, focus on the event daily, and affirm it with positive thoughts.

Using all three types of meditation can be extremely useful in many aspects of your life. I would love to hear how you use mediation in your life.


Amen, Daniel, M.D. (1998). Change Your Brain Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness. Three Rivers Press. New York, New York.

Colzato, L. S., Ozturk, A. and Hommel, B. (2012). Meditate to create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking. Frontiers in Psychology 3:116. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00116

Gawain, Shakti (2002). Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life. Nataraj Publishing. Novato, California.

Mooneyham, B. W., & Schooler, J. W. (2013). The costs and benefits of mind-wandering: A review. Canadian Journal Of Experimental Psychology/Revue Canadienne De Psychologie Expérimentale, 67(1), 11-18. doi:10.1037/a0031569

How to Turn Work into Joy

pathTOparadiseThis article written by Bruce Kasanoff of Now Possible, LLC. provides a good explanation how fear can prevent us from going after the life we seek.  He gives clear mental and physical steps to push fear aside and let that encouraging voice come through. First is to be aware of that inner critic and then provide positive reinforcement to encourage change and small actions toward your dreams.  I hope you find the article useful and informative to conquer your fears and start making those changes toward living the life you have always imagined.

We are standing on the edge of a mountain in Utah, and the slope below is frighteningly steep. Under normal conditions, it would too steep for my son and I to ski.

But the night before it snowed 22″, altering our relationship with the laws of physics. We know the powder will slow our speed, so we point straight down and push-off. It’s not scary, it’s magical… we are floating, seemingly flying down the mountain.

You can’t experience this sort of exhilaration at work, or can you?

The thing is, I still remember, long ago, when skiing scared me. I remember countless times when fear caused me to tighten up, to be over-cautious, or to hustle for the safety of the lodge. Skiing reminds me that the path to the high points in life often requires overcoming fear.

Much as I love public speaking, I still get nervous before a big speech. No, nervous isn’t the right word. Scared is. This fear is what motivates me to rewrite the speech five times, and to practice until it’s just right. And, yes, I get the same sense of exhilaration during a speech as when floating down a mountain.

The secret to finding this sort of joy is to create goals so bold they scare you. It’s to dream so big that at first you dare not share your dreams with others, for fear of embarrassing yourself. “You want to be the CEO?” your friend might question, “You’re only three weeks into being a product manager.”

But as you pursue your dreams, and face down your fears, something magical happens. Your dreams start to become realistic. You can say them out loud, and others don’t laugh.

As you develop the habit of dreaming big and chipping away at fear, you expand what’s possible in your life. You start to understand the difference between impossible and difficult.

When I stand on a mountain at 10,000 feet, my brain often sends me two messages. The first is: stop, it’s too steep! The second is: nonsense, you can ski this safely. The first message never completely goes away, I just move it to the back of my mind.

This is what we have to do to turn work into joy… at the right times, we have to stand on a mountain so high it scares us, and then we have to move fear out-of-the-way.

If you’re bored by work, or frustrated in your career, perhaps you need to take on a bigger mountain. Often times, boredom is your brain screaming an important message: you are capable of greater things, aim higher.


Bruce Kasanoff is the founder of the personal branding agency, Now Possible. He is the co-author of Smart Customers, Stupid Companies, with co-author Michael Hinshaw.