Is Your Problem Real?

 by Certified Life Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Take a moment to watch the featured coaching video of me with my goat Phoenix. We are here to ask you a question about all of your worries, anxieties, and stress: “is your problem real?”

At first blush, I’m guessing that you will say "YES OF COURSE MY PROBLEM IS REAL” because you are struggling or suffering to resolve something that is very challenging. Let’s first take a moment to really understand the nature of your problem—is it imaginary, physical or both?

First, what is the aggravating problem that you have been trying to solve? Write it down. For example, your phoning list is drying up. You haven’t prospected in months. You think your Associate Financial Representative might be unhappy and worry that she or he will leave.

Next, can you explain this problem to Phoenix the goat in a way that she shares your belief that you have a problem? Answer yes or no. Write your answer down.

Now, can you actually show Phoenix that goat, right now, that your problem is physically real right now in the moment in your exact physical location? Then your problem is existing in your mind. Tell me where I’m wrong? Anything that causes no physical pain and can’t be explained to Phoenix, or your dog or cat is the product of negative imagination.

If you problem is physical than an animal will recognize it with you: you feel unsafe, you are hurt, you are hungry, you are thirsty, you lack shelter. “But if you’re worrying about future catastrophe, nursing a grievance, or wallowing in self-pity, good luck communicating your problem to your basset hound, or even a talking parrot. They simply lack the imagination for such “problems,” writes Martha Beck in her book “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.”

It is easy for us to become trapped in our minds—worried about failing out of the business, having a sluggish month or a lack of confidence that has crept in and made prospecting and closing almost impossible. While these problems are real, they do exist in your mind.

Here is a Martha Beck exercise to identify the problem in the realm of your mind or imagination:

Spotting the Imaginary Typos Behind Physical Problems

(from Beck’s book Wild New World)

1) When you think about your problem, what do you feel physically?

2) Where in your body is the physical sensation related to the problem?

3) How would you describe the sensation? Is it a burning, tightening, choking, or tickling? How big is it? What color is it? What shape?

4) Describe the emotion related to this sensation. If you had to put it into one of the four categories “mad,” “sad,” “glad,” or “scared,” where would it go (it can be more than one).

5) Allow the sensation to fill your awareness without any resistance; let it run riot. Now find a thought that’s associated with this sensation. If you pay attention, you’ll “hear” the thought internally. Several thoughts may come up: pick the one that’s associated with the most miserable sensation. Write the most horrifying, disconsolate, or enraging thought that accompanies your awful sensation.

Beck writes that if you treat the thought you isolated like broken computer code, it will stop replicating itself throughout your life. Once you have identified what the thought is that is causing you pain, unwanted outcomes or to feel stuck, you can work with it.

You might start by turning the thought to the opposite and asking yourself “is it true?”

For example: “People are rejecting me if they don’t give me referrals.”

Might the following be more true:

People are not rejecting me if they don’t give me referrals. (Is it really YOU that they are rejecting??)

People are rejecting themselves if they don’t give me referrals. (Perhaps the person you are meeting with has closed the door on themselves?)

I am rejecting me if people don’t give me referrals. (Is this really YOUR story—the problem in your imagination—that is causing your pain, and not the reality?)

The next time you find yourself in a downward spiral of negative thinking, first stop by thinking of Phoenix the goat and consider how real your problem is. If it’s physical, you know how to fix that or find help. If if it’s a mental problem, try greeting it with curiosity and see how it might guide you to change your life for the better.