How to Face a Difficult Task

Frequently we must do things that we’d rather not -- like letting someone go at work, or taking on a project that looks impossible or incredibly time consuming.  There are things that need to get done and we are the bearer of the doing.  However, so often and without even realizing it, we make these situations much worse for ourselves.

 just because something seems real doesn't mean that it is.

just because something seems real doesn't mean that it is.

A few years ago I had a difficult phone call to make.  I was in charge of an alternative education organization and needed to let someone in the community know that their child had been stealing.  I rehearsed the conversation in my head and decided on the approach I would take. Then I did nothing. 

I spent two days running through how the conversation might go and imagining many possible outcomes…mostly negative. There was the scenario where the parent yelled at me, there was the scenario where they vehemently denied it and then I’d have to call a meeting and “hold court” so to speak, there was the scenario where they had a nervous breakdown, and so on, and so on.  As one would expect, as I ran through these potential scenarios I made myself anxious, stressed and ever more hesitant to do the task.  

Finally, I bit the bullet and made the call.  To my surprise it went well — very well.  The parent was quite receptive and glad to know the situation.  It was a behavior that had shown up before so this wasn’t news to them and they were anxious to explore solutions.  

After the call, I looked back on my two days of fretting and realized what I’d been doing.  I’d been running away from my own imaginings.  They were ideas and scenarios that were no more real than the imaginary snakes that lived under my bed at night when I was six.  In the same way that those imaginary snakes made me shrink back from getting out of bed without the light on at night, my present day imaginary scenarios were keeping me from doing what needed to be done.

We can’t know whether an action we take will end up worse case scenario, best case scenario, somewhere in between, or some scenario we hadn't even considered -- but that doesn't stop us from spending a lot of time and brain power imagining various outcomes.  The fact of the matter is that no-one has a crystal ball.  If they did, word would have gotten out by now!!  

Once a person sees the truth in this, it becomes apparent that needless fretting, like thinking about how little sleep you’ll get once you start that second quarter project, will not create a better future, but will only create discomfort and inaction in the present.  Unveiling this truth we discover that our disruptive thoughts are no more than the hissing of imaginary snakes.