Having a Meeting with Stress and Fear

When you own your business, you have freedom to set your schedule and choose your clients. You also have freedom from a regular paycheck, group-reduced healthcare costs, and shoving the blame for bad decisions somewhere else. Not all freedoms are equal.

Fear, uncertainty and stress make for a bleak personal landscape.

In a down-turning economy, you would think that many companies would offer training to help their reduced workforce do the work of more people. You would think, but that is not happening. So this morning, I decided to have a meeting with my fear and uncertainty.

Looking at my schedule, I see it’s not as full as last quarter. I immediately feel fear, financial stress, and worry. That’s not surprising.  But those emotions doesn’t solve problems. So I sit down to a meeting with my fear and stress. This is actually a great form of  mediation–and meditation. Instead of pushing all thoughts out of my head, as many ways of meditation instruct, I invite fear, uncertainty, and stress in. I sit with them, and ask them what they have to contribute.

“If you don’t get work soon, you will lose the house,” Fear said, getting right to the biggest possible scary result.

“But you only know training and writing and journaling, and that isn’t being used in this economy,” said Uncertainty, “and you don’t know anything about medical jobs–the only ones that have been rising in this economy,” Uncertainty added, quoting facts to make sure I felt deep, proven uncertainty.

“You are too old to get back to school, and that would take too long to retrain you, so you better stop eating or driving, because you are in bad trouble,” Stress said.

“Thanks for letting me know, ” I said, “but once we’ve established all that, what comes next? You’ve told me what isn’t working, but what can I do that will work?”

Fear, Uncertainty and Stress were quiet. Fear spoke up first. “Well, if you don’t do something, you will be in big trouble.”

“OK,” I said, “But that’s the same thing you already said. I want to hear something I can do, undertake, think about.” Again, Fear, Uncertainty and Stress were quiet. They had not been quiet for a long time. Every time I sat down to meditate, they would clamor so loudly that I could feel every muscle tensing. I spent all my time chasing them out of my head.

By inviting them in, listening to them, and asking for specifics, they had exhausted their efforts in the shortest of time. So we sat there, in silence, until I said, “Well, I have two new ideas for journaling courses. And my book is coming out in July, so I have work to do to prepare demonstrations and classes for book signings.”

Fear, Uncertainty and Stress immediately began to talk over each other, bringing up reasons why those ideas wouldn’t work. Uncetainty was the Devil’s Advocate. Fear was the Nay-Sayer, and Stress asked for more ideas to present to the committee. I refused to argue, instead, faced each objection, thinking it through, weighing the logic, and answering it.

At the end of the hour of meditation, I had a plan for classes, demos, and several fresh ideas for promoting the book. I would discuss them with my Creativity Master Mind Group to find the strengths in each idea and discuss areas of uncertainty.

I felt happy and hopeful. Because I sat down with Fear, Uncertainty, and Stress and listened to them, I saw that they didn’t really have good ideas. They were disruptive and bothersome, but the more I chased them out of my meditation space, the more time and effort they used. Inviting them in and facing them reduced their importance and gave me enough space to come up with interesting, workable ideas. Arguing with them allowed me to overcome objections and refine the plan, to put a time limit on my efforts, and to create a schedule to the entire plan.

Meditation is not sitting in perfect inspiration. It’s work, and it doesn’t always demand an empty mind. Just a clear one.

Quinn McDonald owns QuinnCreative, a business that offers training in communications, including writing, public speaking, and turning horrible PowerPoint presentations into interesting, informative communication tools. Her book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art will be published in July of 2011.