Worrying About the Future? Flexible Thinking Could Help

Poppy Jamie's Flexible Thinking method could help you embrace your future and stop panicking about what lies ahead.

By Poppy Jamie

Photo by Dave Krugman

Poppy Jamie is an entrepreneur, mental health activist and one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30. She launched the Not Perfect podcast and the Happy Not Perfect app after four years of aggregating behavioural studies and developing the app with neuroscientists, researchers, and her psychotherapist mother. She launches her first book, Happy Not Perfect, which offers advice about how to overcome uncertainty, perfectionism, and fears of rejection. Here, she talks us though how to use flexible thinking to stop us worrying about the future.

If you ever find yourself worrying about the future, rest assured that this is totally normal. The human brain is wired to predict and protect and so the thought of ‘not knowing’ what lies ahead can inevitably cause a great deal of stress and anxiety.

Biologically, we are wired to crave certainty and familiarity because this historically promoted the chances of our survival. The challenge we all face is balancing this natural need to 'know' with the fact that we never have 100 per cent certainty. Most of us fall into the trap of thinking that money, job titles or social validation are the solution to our worries, but all those things are an illusion and can be taken away as quickly as they can be given. In truth, the one thing strong enough to ease our worries for the future is self trust. By developing this, we become confident in our own ability to handle anything that comes our way.

I’ve received hundreds of messages over the years, via my The Not Perfect podcast, the Happy Not Perfect app and social media, from people who share the same anxieties and ask similar questions like: “Am I doing the right thing?” or “How do I know which decision to make?” It’s funny in a way because on the outside we think we’re different, but on the inside, we’re all the same. We are all trying to make good decisions in the hope that our basic needs are met - the desire to be loved, safe and accepted for who we are.

If you suffer from perfectionism and worrisome thoughts like me, then the Flexible Thinking method I’ve devised could be just what you need. My book takes you through my journey from stressful stiff thoughts to bendy ones, and shows you the endless benefits that come with a flexible mindset. For me, it has been life-changing and I am now able to diffuse my worries, develop inner trust and feel confident that I’m making the right decisions. The Flex method, as I like to call it, is made up of four simple steps. It works by turning our fear into useful energy, propelling us toward our truest values and most compassionate version of ourselves.

 

Courtesy image

This story originally appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR UK.

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STEP 4: COMMITMENT

The last step of the Flex method is about committing to action. When I reflect on my most anxious moments, I became lost in my toxic thoughts and made a stream of impulsive decisions that only made me more anxious. Flexible thinking is about embracing our anxiety, challenging it, choosing to think differently, and taking action to move us in a direction that supports the future we want to build. Every challenge is our opportunity to learn more about ourselves and grow. The term ‘growing pains’ is quite literal; it is painful to grow but a necessary, wonderful part of life. I sometimes get jealous of friends who are experiencing tough moments because I know that the rainbow after the storm will shine even brighter. The harder the storm, the bigger the rainbow and metaphorical pot of gold.

If you are currently stressed out about the future, instead of asking, “Why is this happening to me?”, swap for, “Why is this happening for me?” This question reframes whatever situation we are in. We are no longer a victim with a disempowered perspective, but have learnt to positively embrace the experience, knowing it will lead us to a magnificent future.

The four steps of the Flex method are explained in further detail along with exercises in my new book, Happy Not Perfect: Upgrade Your Mind, Challenge Your Thoughts and Free Yourself from Anxiety. If you are interested in learning more about how you can become a flexible thinker and nurture self trust, confidence and self acceptance, my book is the perfect place to start.

Although the future is unknown, it doesn’t have to be something we dread and can become something we look forward to with the help of a flexible mindset. If you have any thoughts or questions, please get in touch via Instagram at @Poppyjamie. Until then, happy flexing.
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