From time-to-time, I encounter a situation that is more of a have-to than a want-to. If I allow myself, I can quickly become consumed with dread, resentment, and a feeling of entrapment. However, those do not serve to improve my situation, so I take a different approach. Instead of looking at the negatives, I seek to find the positives. Yes, a “glass half full” type approach. Before I know it, I have replaced dread with anticipation! And in some cases, I build from my new-found anticipation, and before I know it, I am filled with giddy excitement, which is far better than the heaviness of dread.
Next time you are dreading an activity or situation, consider the following ways to turn your perspective into one of anticipation.
Top Ten Ways to Turn Dread into Anticipation
1. Plan ahead. Many times our dread or fear comes from not being prepared. If there is a tough conversation to be had, mentally prepare for what you need to say; if you are giving a speech, know your material inside-out; if you are facing a test, study. When you take action to prepare, you are empowering yourself.
2. Examine the source of your apprehension. So often we react out of habit. For instance, if I have a meeting to attend, I often find myself saying, “I do not want to go!” Looking at the why behind my resistance, I will notice if I am tired, fear being bored, or simply have something else I would rather be doing. With awareness, I am then able to have an internal dialogue–which is often a negotiation–and come to terms with delaying my preferred desires.
3. Find the positive. In the example above, my internal dialogue will include the positives such as it’s a short meeting, or having this meeting will provide answers, or I am a valuable team member and my input is necessary. Identifying your role, outcome or other parameters encapsulates the situation and gives you something to anticipate! Simply changing your thoughts and statements from “I have to” to “I get to” makes a huge difference! Do you dread Mondays because you have to go to work? Well, aren’t you lucky you get to! You get to earn money to sustain you, you get to do something of importance and you get to make a difference in our world. Do you dread making a presentation or sales call? Consider how lucky you are to get to voice your opinion or share something of value! A little shift in approach can make a great difference.
4. Take charge! For years I dreaded the holidays. I overspent, over-committed my time, and got lost in all the have-to’s. One year I was in the throws of preparing a holiday meal, stressing over the myriad dishes I was preparing–enough to feed a dozen people although I was cooking for only our immediate family of four–when reason hit me squarely upside the head! Actually, I dropped a hot casserole on the floor and was distraught we wouldn’t have it as part of our meal. When we sat down to eat, I apologized to my family and what I found was none of them cared! They weren’t especially fond of that dish, but only ate it because I went to the effort of making it. It was then the light bulb came on: I was replicating holiday traditions that were not MINE; I was trying to maintain my in-law’s traditions. I stopped and instead created new family traditions for MY family. From then on out, our holidays have been fun, relaxed, and a source of joy…things to anticipate.
5. Play devil’s advocate. Again, this requires internal dialogue (or if you prefer to talk out loud to yourself, far be it from me to discourage you). What is the worst-case scenario for the situation you’re dreading? For example, I used to face roller coasters with fear and loathing. One day my kids asked me why. Hmmmm…I didn’t have an answer other than, “Just because!” Of course, that isn’t rational, so what was really behind my reaction? Fear! The truth was, I was afraid the car would leave the track and send me hurling to my death. While that is a very remote possibility, the opposite of that thought is that the ride will operate without a hitch–and there was far more evidence to that scenario–and I might actually enjoy myself! Once I rationalized my fear, I tucked my new perspective away for another day. While on a family vacation, the kids lined up to get on the biggest roller coaster first. I stood in line with them as I normally did, then followed them onto the ride. I will never forget their surprise and joy that I was a participant rather than a bystander. I have lived–and enjoyed myself–through many roller coaster rides since that day.
6. Look for opportunity. Many times dread is born of change. Ending a personal or professional relationship is never a pleasant situation, but look for ways you or your organization will grow and move forward with the change. Spending time with someone who treats you like you are still a child can be infuriating. Instead of dreading the interaction, recognize an opportunity to demonstrate the ways you’ve changed–which may include demonstrating maturity and not being goaded into old behaviors around them. Every situation holds an opportunity if you take time to look.
7. Look beyond. Sometimes things are simply unpleasant or uncomfortable to endure, no matter how you try to spin it. In that case, the best thing to do is create anticipation for the future. For instance, losing something of value is painful, but if you can weather the storm and identify future possibilities, you are taking steps toward positive anticipation. Sometimes the simplest, most efficient way to dispense with dread is to get the thing done and over with so it is no longer hanging over you like a heavy weight!
8. Adopt a global perspective. Put the thing/event/person you dread in proper perspective. In the big scheme of things, how important is it? How much will it impact your life? Have you faced worse with a positive outcome? How much will it matter to you in a day, a week, a month, a year? Try to step outside your own bubble and gain perspective and clarity.
9. Don’t over think. Dwelling on anything allows it to expand. If you are focused on fear or dread, allowing negative scenarios to run through your thoughts, you’re giving more fuel to negativity and soon the dread will grow beyond containment! If you cannot (will not) change your thinking around a dreadful subject, simply stop thinking about it–either deal with it and move on, or put it out of your thoughts. Believe it or not, it is that simple! You have complete control of your thoughts, not vice versa.
10. Draw on your wins. As previously mentioned, oftentimes dread is a byproduct of fear. What is the fear feeding your dread? Fear of failure, fear of confrontation, fear of loss, fear of embarrassment and fear of pain are common. Look to your past and identify other times you’ve felt fear and dread and recall the times you overcame the fear. What did you do? How did you feel? At that time, were you doubtful you could conquer? You are strong, you are competent, and you can rise to any challenge! Use your past wins to bolster you through your current challenge!
By taking a little time to examine your dread, you can turn things around and live a life of joyful anticipation!
That’s all for today, have a great weekend!