Put more focus on those non-material parts of life

Put more focus on those non-material parts of life

12 July 2011

WITH today’s financial crisis continuing to put pressure on us all, we have become both consciously and unconsciously more fearful of making changes to improve our quality of lives.

With the focus on employment, housing and financial stress etc., it is very difficult to feel happy and fulfilled, even more so with the run up to Christmas. We suggest though, that if we made changes in our daily lives and if necessary, broke them down to more realistic steps, it would put more focus and positive energy on non-material things and make the evaluation of life more holistic and pleasurable.

Risk refers to the chance or possibility of an undesirable outcome occurring. The probability of such an outcome ‘ranges from practically zero to practically 100 per cent’. The more feared the outcome, the more probable it is in your mind that it will occur.

Failing or rejection are probably the two main reasons why people avoid taking risks — not because of financial or material loss. Simon avoided asking Mandy out because she might say ‘no’ and he believed he would be devastated by her decision. Maxine wanted to leave her public section job to set up a private practice but could not accept the risk of leaving ‘the nest’ and crashing to earth as a failure.

Both Maxine and Simon made the mistake of seeing risk as one-sided (ie that the feared calamity would occur) rather than also allowing for the possibility that their desires might be fulfilled. In other words, they assumed their negative predictions were accurate. Also, they saw the risk as a fixed outcome (eg forever crushed by rejection; a lifelong failure) rather than a continuous process of change, adaption and learning.

Life is neither Utopia nor misery because life isn’t static. We cannot halt the flow of change. Change is the only continuity you will ever experience so long as you are alive.

But the great plus point is that change brings with it the continuing opportunity to modify and shape change.

And through accepting that we are both the products and agents of change in an uncertain world, we are offered the possibility of achieving real personal growth.

Achieving real personal growth can start with you learning to take the ‘horror’ (emotional disturbance) out of risk taking. If you think, for example, that rejection or making a mistake is the ultimate horror, how would you evaluate becoming paralysed from the waist down or being horribly disfigured in a fire?

If Simon saw rejection as no more than an inconvenience, he would ask Mandy out — feeling anxious but confident that the outcome would be more fulfilling than total avoidance.

If we do not take risks, then we will have little chance of overcoming our fears or the automatic dull routine of daily life.

Risk taking means that you will have some chance of success on some occasions while avoiding risk means hardly any chance of experiencing success and fulfilment unless it falls onto your lap.

People learn by experience: If they never experienced failure, they will be unlikely to change their negative irrational thinking patterns and low self belief in themselves and the behaviours that complete this cycle. You can practice by asking close family or friends for help, advice and finding out what makes them happy and how they spend their free time.

It helps to write ideas down, maybe even using a specific ‘ideas and thoughts notebook’ because on paper it stays there unlike fleeting thoughts and images giving you more space and time to consider changes and how to go about doing things realistically and at a pace that suits you.

To summarise, it is difficult to work on the fears you have about changing things in your life unless you actually experience it.

• Eva McAlea and Mary Brannigan are directors of the Chrysalis Counselling Centre, 34a Main Street, Castlewellan. Contact them at:

www.chrysaliscounsellingcentre.co.uk email: chrysaliscentre@btinternet.com