Approach Avoidance

It’s hard not to let our minds fear what’s going to happen on the way up that hill or on the other side.

We enjoy a dip into the unknown every now and again. Especially when we find ourselves in the midst of a new year. We’re wired however with approach avoidance. That reptile like impulse that tell us it’s new, uncomfortable, scary, and it’s going to be very hard. I had a great leader tell me at times extreme focus in something can actually feel like being micro managed. But, if we can just change the way we think about it we don’t have to feel that way.

Approach avoidance was something that I had to overcome to achieve my first podcast. I avoided doing it for almost an entire year. For reasons my mind wanted to make sure kept me from harm. Our brains are wired to keep us from harm when it picks up impulses of fear or anxiety. If we can change our perception to that and literally tell our brain, “It’s okay. I’m going in, it’s safe,” we can get to the other side with little to no feeling of avoidance. It’s a skill we have to train and learn, it does not just automatically happen.

We are completely full of biases and blind spots that we engrained in ourselves from the time we could as children. Those things are hard to un-train. Would you be surprised if I told you one of the biggest things we’ve been taught in our decision to move forward was to resist losses more than seeking gains even when gains show us the better option? It’s been coined as loss aversion. It’s a characteristic by the way only present in humans. Interesting.

One of the best things we can all begin with to get our minds realigned is by considering diverse points of view. That’s why I’ve made it a passion of mine to learn from as many angles as I can, as often as I can. Good decisions will arise from considering diverse points of view from a diverse range of people or studies. The more complex, the more points of view you will need.

If you work for an organization or are part of a group there is usually a hierarchy. Which means a important decision is made for you from the top by a boss or a lead, then you follow it. It does not have to be this way though. Also, the best hierarchies are the ones that plug in and listen to the diverse knowledge of the groups they lead before deciding for the group what’s next.

“You could fill entire library wings with the histories of people who failed to see momentous developments coming.”

Another best practice we can create is using a social circle we trust and create a red team. A red team is a group that typically organizations create to simulate every adversity possible to a strategic decision they can tap into to make a better step forward. As though they were the ‘enemy’ to the idea or plan. In other words, you need a group that is going to poke holes in your big decision or approach so you can use their learns or perspective to overcome potential adversity ahead. It’s an incredible way to get past future setbacks before they even arrive because you’ll be more foresighted. You will already have the plan ready for when that adversity hits, playing less towards feelings of avoidance and more to moving forward.

Sometimes its just easy to wander around in your thoughts before you proceed. By just making yourself intentionally paused before moving on, different options will open up to you as you continue to think it through. We’re trigger though to think that’s a waste of time because of our advancements in technology have sped things up a bit. Fight that feeling you need to go now, and ruminate on the next step. You need to allow yourself enough time to provide your mind with more input. Literally, this can help your mind trigger less avoidance type behaviors. Even after the point to move on is clear, give yourself another rest. This again, gives your brain’s default system to trigger flight to ease up.

Approach avoidance is hard to overcome for all of us. As humans we’re not great at predicting a positive future and whether we’ll be happier or not on the other end. With some diverse view points from different resources and some time out to think through it, it can be easier to move on. Take time. Taking even a traditional approach like ruminating a bit can be extremely useful.

Hope you’re still in your new habits and moving towards a better you for the year. Have a great week! There is light on the other side of that hill pictured above.

When we give ourselves a chance to get to the top of the hill…what a view!

✌🏻 Shawn

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