I’m as anxious as you are; I just choose to do it

Being anxious of new and unknown is the same as walking into a foggy forrest - it looks scary, but once you make that step, you start appreciating the journey
Photo by Egor Myznik on Unsplash

Background

Have you ever looked at someone and thought – “wow, that’s so easy for them! I wish I was that fearless”. That ever happened to you?

I’m not talking about successful people only, but pretty much anybody. Just by observing others doing things that scare us, we assume that they aren’t dealing with negative emotions, such as – fear, anxiousness, nervousness and feeling like sending everything to hell and going into mountains.

Let me debunk that immediately. We are all scared and anxious and frightful, especially when it comes to doing something new and unknown. Every single one of us. But the difference is – some of just choose to do it.

Real-life Story

Here I am, talking to a friend of mine about an article that I recently published. “Eh, it’s easy for you”, she said. “Writing comes naturally to you”.

** dramatic pause **

Just … just trying to explain the avalanche of thoughts and questions that hit me the second I’ve heard that, is just, … just impossible.

“What do you mean ‘it’s easy for me’?” was the only response I managed to blurt out. “Well, you finish, polish and publish an article within a day, while I struggle even starting one”.

And that’s when it hit me. The illusion of What You See Is All There Is (WYSIATI). The one that prevents the casual observer from seeing the full time scale and spectrum of emotions that comprise a writing of a new article. Or pretty much anything else.

Let’s talk WYSIATI.

What You See Is All There Is (WYSIATI)

The term What You See Is All There Is was coined by Daniel Kahneman in his masterpiece – Thinking, Fast and Slow (if you haven’t read it, trust me, it’s well worth it).

Here’s a Wikipedia excerpt about it:

This theory states that when the mind makes decisions, it deals primarily with Known Knowns, phenomena it has observed already. It rarely considers Known Unknowns, phenomena that it knows to be relevant but about which it does not have information. Finally it appears oblivious to the possibility of Unknown Unknowns, unknown phenomena of unknown relevance.

Source: Wikipedia

If that boggles your mind, let me simplify it for you – our minds are lazy and they assume that what they see is all there really is. And they make a story around it, without ever considering that there might be more hidden stuff underneath the surface. This is also a reason why you look at other people’s Instagram profiles and you assume how their life are way more exciting than yours is.

It’s a cognitive bias. One that takes an educated tremendous effort to work around it. That kind of explains why we are all so easily tricked into it, right?

Things that I’m anxious of

If I went to list all the things that make me anxious, I’d probably be writing forever. The trouble is that I can’t even remember all of them, let alone write them down.

Instead, I’ll give you just some juicy ones that would probably make you wonder; doubly so if you know me in person. Here we go:

Going to a (new) gym

Crazy, right? I’m a guy who works out 5-6 days a week, like a clockwork. 8AM and I’m in the gym, earning my day.

And yet, the thought of going to a new gym for the FIRST time, or even going to the same gym at a different time (e.g. in the evening), when there will be a completely different set of people? That freaks me out, seriously.

But I choose to do it. Because, I know that once I go over the initial step, I actually even forget what I was scared of.

Meeting new people

Another crazy one, eh? Such an extrovert who carries a backpack with his balls in it, having zero problems meeting and socializing with people.

And yet, the sheer thought of having to meet a new person, be it a friend of a friend, my GF’s mom or a new interviewee (yes, we interviewers have emotions as well!) – it goes from having my palms sweaty all the way to having a mini panic attack.

But I choose to do it. Because, I know that the nanosecond that I make a contact, I completely forget what it was that was blocking me and I figure out how much I actually enjoy learning about others.

Writing blog posts

Was that unexpected or did you get the gist already?

Yes, someone whose been actively blogging actually is anxious every single time that he has to start, finish or publish a blog post.

But I choose to do it. Because, I know that the moment I put a first pair of letters to that blank page, it starts pouring out as if I unclogged the hidden canal connecting the hemispheres of my brain. And the feeling of sharing something that people enjoy reading outweighs pretty much anything that was bugging me!

And the list goes forever …

It really does. And as I said, I can’t even keep the track of it all. Neither I want to, honestly.

But I hope you got the point by now – the higher the perceived discomfort, the higher the gratification you get out of it once you do do it.

(Pretty much) Everyone’s anxious

Before you start thinking it’s just you and me being anxious of things, let me share who else is also being anxious as hell – EVERYONE. At least everyone having a healthy emotional chemistry.

Let me give you one of the most recent examples – Matthew McConaughey. I listened to a podcast with him and, without spoiling it too much, either go and listen to that podcast, or grab a copy of his autobiography (amazing read!). But, do take my word for it – all the shit that I thought I fought against in my head, is crap in comparison to what this dude went through; before he turned 30!

Want more examples? Read biographies of Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Bob Iger, Ed Catmull or just about any person that you admire or consider to have been successful. Or go and listen to podcasts with Kevin Ross, Guy Ritchie or David Goggins. Actually, you know what, just google for a podcast of your favorite person and see what I’m telling you.

Do you ever get over it?

No. Just – no. As Kevin Ross puts it — you take that motherfucker to the grave.

But the good news is – it becomes easier over time. You learn to live with it. Whatever it is that you are scared of doing, it eventually eases down or you just get accustomed to it. It’s still there, but the more you do it, the less you think about it. And that’s OK!

It’s usually the first step that scares us. Be it going to the gym, approaching a person you like or putting a styrofoam plate into a microwave, it always boils down to the fear of unknown.

So how do you make that first step? Well, I’ll leave that to another article that I’m planning to write about – Art of Starting Things ๐Ÿ™‚

Your turn!

It’s your turn now! Pick one thing that you’ve been putting to the side for a while now and take that leap of faith.

You will be anxious, you will be scared, you might get sweaty, but, take my word for it – once you do it, you will laugh and regret not having it done earlier!

Conclusion

We are all prone to a cognitive bias of What You See Is All There Is (WYSIATI). It tricks us into believing that it’s just us being anxious, while everyone else is having it easy. What we need to realize is that, like with all biases – you can’t ged rid of it. It’s part of an imperfect design of our brain.

What you do instead is to try and remember that IT IS a bias and that reality is often more complex than it looks like. Everyone is scared, everyone is anxious and we are all uncomfortable with doing something new. Yet, some of us choose to do it, because we learned over time that it’s just bias and that the outcomes far outreach the initial investments!

Good luck and let me know how that worked out for you!

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8 thoughts on “I’m as anxious as you are; I just choose to do it

  1. “Just do it” one thing at a time until it becomes natural and then “Just do it” to the next thing and to the next and the next until death set you apart from the next “Just do it” ๐Ÿ™‚

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