He throws himself at the ball and tumbles to the ground. “I’m ok!” he shouts as he runs away, determined to get that goal. I am always amazed when I watch my 4-year old grandson play. There is one, almost millisecond, when we hold our breath, expecting a wailing, unhappy mess. And sometimes, that’s what we get. But most of the time, we exhale with a smile, “I’m ok” echoing in our ears.
In that millisecond there’s a debate in my grandson’s head he probably isn’t aware of. Checking for pain, deciding whether it hurts enough to stop playing. But he wants to be ok because he wants to keep playing. So even if it hurts a little, even if he has pebbles sticking in his knees, he decides he is ok enough to play. And boom – he’s completely focused on playing, not on the fall he just had.
We adults can learn a lot from that. How often do we experience a setback and waste time worrying and obsessing – focusing on what happened, not what’s ahead? Too often.
Susan Jeffers zooms in on this point, amongst others, in “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway”, one of my favorite books. Instead of “I’m ok”, she suggests hanging on to four words “I can handle it”. She teaches that we can overcome fear by realizing that we can deal with whatever comes our way.
Over the years, I have developed the same kind of millisecond debate/analysis as my grandson goes through when he falls down. It’s a flash assessment – and the outcome is almost always “I’m ok” or if not, it’s “I’ll be ok”. Why? Because even in the worst-case scenario, I am ok and dealing with it.
If you break down the possible outcomes and actions for any situation, there are, as Dr. Jeffers reminds us, multiple choices to make. No matter how much is out of our control, there are choices and decisions that depend directly on us. It is the final assessment – whatever happens, I will be able to deal with it – that brings peace and gets rid of the anxious churning of all those possibilities. The quicker you can get to that assessment, the faster you can stop feeling the fear and start to act.
So, next time you have a setback, remember to focus on what’s next instead of agonizing over what already happened and what might happen. In time, you’ll be able to quickly get back to the game of life with a resounding “I’m ok!”