Putting fear through the sausage machine of exploration.

Tin mug with 'the adventure begins' written on it, held up against a backdrop of forest.

Fear often holds back those I work with as they struggle to decide what to do next in life. It makes an appearance in many forms:

They worry they are wasting time.

They fear failing.

They ruminate on the financial risk.

They feel frustrated by the lack of clarity.

They lack the confidence to make a choice.

I have found the most empowering way to slowly reduce the hold of these fears is to work with a flexible framework that offers both safety and a sense of adventure.

I want to introduce you to the 3 phases that shape the journey I work through with my clients, affectionately known as the sausage machine of exploration.

Phase 1: discover your hidden treasure

You have everything you need within you, you just haven’t discovered it all yet.  

I call this finding your hidden treasure, and yes, there is always something to discover! You may well be worrying about whether you have the right traits, skills or experience to propel you into a new phase of your life and to go digging around might just prove your suspicions are correct.  Then you really will be stuck, with even less of an idea how to move forward. Great.

Cast this melancholy aside and watch as hope unfolds.  Let’s put these fears through the sausage machine!

I spend quite a bit of time in this stage with clients as I know there is so much richness to be unearthed, patterns that emerge, threads that weave through the stories. Much of it is known but there are always things that have been unseen, swept aside as not useful or just lying dormant as years have passed and life has demanded attention elsewhere. It is important to coax all the treasure out so, as we move to the next phase, we can discover how to fit what you want to you. There are no square pegs being forced into round holes on my watch.

In my own journey I discovered that I like writing (remember the life drawing and writing class?!) and slowly it dawned on me that this wasn’t a new thing. Rewind nearly 20 years and I could see how a connection to writing was present in my English Literature degree. It had not been tended much after I graduated and there was no thought given to how I could carve a career out of anything connected with my degree or how I could cultivate it as a part of my life in other ways.  I chose English Literature because I liked it and I thought I would probably never dedicate time to read and study literature again in my life.  

Now here I sit, writing (I am smiling at this thought).

Let me give you an example of how you can begin to start digging around for your hidden treasure.

Try thinking about what has interested you at different stages of your life, from school right through to now.

Think about the books you read, the extra-curricular courses you have done, where you have invested time and money as an adult.  

Can you notice any themes throughout your life? Does something pull at you now, even though it’s not something you’ve thought about for years?

Don’t dismiss anything! This is your hidden treasure. It’s in the next stage that we explore what you could do with it all.

Phase 2: explore the possibilities

‘Don’t give up on your dreams. If cauliflower can be pizza and courgettes can be noodles, then you too can be anything you want.’ – Unknown

I saw this as a meme over the weekend and it was partly the inspiration for this week’s topic (I am moved by the most ridiculous things).

It’s in this phase that we go wild and conjure up all manner of possibilities for what you could do next in life. We take all we have learned about you, the real you, and start to explore what this could allow you to do – the possibilities. 

Notice I said, what and not how. 

We don’t judge the ideas, no critiquing the feasibility, no whipping out the spreadsheet to track the estimated cost in time and money and certainly no pros and cons lists! These do come later – don’t panic those of you who thrive on this type of analysis, I have you covered.

It’s very important to create a safe space to undertake this approach. Fear and worry often accompany the contemplation of doing something different in life which then creates limitations, a cage even, so you are probably only entertaining what you perceive to be low risk options. It is here we can explore how a possibility may emerge in different ways, with differing levels of risk so you can challenge what you think is possible in safety.

With only the what in mind, try this exercise on something that’s not too important to you or something hypothetical. 

For example, bringing more reading into your life.

  • Create a scale of 1 – 10 horizontally across a piece of paper.
  • 1 = the smallest and easiest way reading could be brought into your life e.g. I will read for 5 mins a day or I will read a page of a book each day.
  • 10 = the largest and what you probably perceive as the most difficult way to bring reading into your life e.g. I will read for 7 hours a day or I will run a book club full time.
  • Start with identifying what 1 and 10 could look like (as in the examples above) and then explore what 2 – 9 could look like.
  • You have just created a spectrum of possibilities.

When you are ready you can go through this exercise with possibilities that are meaningful for you.  

Then you are ready to begin learning how to bring these possibilities into your life with minimal risk.

Phase 3: go on an adventure

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – The Lord of the Rings

Now you can begin to pull possibilities of what to do next in life into reality.

Keep breathing! 

This can feel uncomfortable.  It is here that you experiment, test and analyse whether the possibilities you have identified can work. 

You are going on some little adventures.

Let’s use the example above of bringing more reading into your life.  You look at the spectrum of possibilities you created and choose the number where you feel most comfortable or drawn to start.  For example, number 4 on the spectrum could be to join a book club. This may seem reasonably feasible so you decide to find a book club and try it out for a month. 

As you undertake this experiment/adventure, you observe what sits well and what doesn’t. What does being a member of a book club give you, what is missing? If it doesn’t hit the mark at all, you go back to the spectrum of possibilities armed with the new information you have and pick a different number that seems closer to what you are looking for (you may even find you want to change the ideas you have on the spectrum). 

Or maybe, you need to tweak something – the genre of books, meeting in person rather than virtually, the size of the book club, the frequency of meeting etc.  Go out and experiment again to test your new findings.  Stay curious!

You will almost definitely need to go on a number of these little adventures, each one enabling you to experience possibilities without too much risk, thus keeping the fear at bay, especially in this phase of pulling things into reality.  

You keep tweaking an existing possibility or explore another one altogether until you find the right fit for you.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if you begin taking what you would have previously perceived as bigger risks – those ideas further up the spectrum of possibilities.  Your confidence will grow and those pesky fears that have been holding you back will quieten. 

Here’s to putting fear through the sausage machine of exploration!

Photo by unknown on Canva.