Chip Is Alive!, Issue 11

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Welcome to Issue 11 of Chip Is Alive!, where we examine thought-provoking life strategies and issues which may or may not be of interest to you. Chip Is Alive! is inspired by Chip Vivant, the app who thinks he's alive and wants to be your friend and help you in ways that other productivity apps can't. You can meet Chip at

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In this issue, we'll discuss:

  • your fear of change, and whether it means you should avoid the change or embrace it
  • temporarily disabling your challenges and To-Dos

Enjoy. Feedback always welcome. If you enjoy this newsletter, please consider Liking the EmpathyNow Facebook page and following us on Twitter. Every little bit helps.

Should You Resist the Change or Embrace It?

When you're confronted with a major life decision, there's inevitably an element of fear which accompanies it. The fear makes you want to avoid that decision and gravitate towards the status quo. In some cases, opting for the status quo is warranted and you eventually realize the decision would be debilitating and counterproductive. In other cases, the decision leads to something positive and the fear was just something to be worked through. However, that's little comfort when you're not far enough along on the timeline to know what the outcome will be. What to do?

(Important Note: In this article, we're going to focus exclusively on change resulting from decisions over which you have control. The fear ensuing from life changes beyond our control is definitely a valid topic, but beyond the scope of this article.)

Sometimes, it's easy to predict that the outcome of a decision will end in disaster and honor the fear in order to avoid the decision. The other scenarios are that the predicted outcome of the pending decision is either unknown or positive. It's these scenarios that I want to discuss here. In both cases, even for the anticipated positive outcome, you still have the fear. What to do?

Let's first examine the situation of a life decision which you are almost certain will lead to a positive outcome. This one is the most fascinating to me, because the fear still comes and it can be very intense. There are a lot of psychological theories floating around which explain the fear of a positive outcome, but I've got a very simple explanation which I haven't heard anywhere else. It has to do with the way our brains are wired. Now I'm not a neurobiologist, so I'll explain this in my own simplistic terms: whenever we need to adapt to a new situation, our brains need to be changed. New neural pathways need to be laid and all sorts of rewiring needs to take place. This is takes energy and is stressful. It's what happens regardless of whether you move to a new place, lose a loved one, or win the lottery.

This explanation makes a ton of sense to me and reframes fear avoidance in terms of avoiding the stress of rewiring our neural pathways, the unpleasantness of which seems proportional to the speed at which this rewiring needs to take place. (I didn't get this theory from anywhere (though it might be on The Google[1] somewhere) so I'm spared needing a web reference.)

When you understand this, it presumably makes working through the fear associated with such positive-outcome decisions easier. There are techniques to cope with such fear. Marie Forleo says that the approach to dealing with this fear is not to try to overcome it, but rather to "party" with it[2]. This fear, she says, is "excitement with the brakes on" and you should cope with it by dissociating yourself from the mental drama that that fear tries to generate and focus on sensation, which is the same you feel when riding an exciting roller coaster ride.

Now what about the fear associated with decisions where you can't for the life of you predict the outcome?

The bottom line is: such a decision can have either three outcomes, positive, negative or breakeven. How you evaluate the outcome is up to you. I've seen two approaches for coping with this fear.

The first approach, for people that don't care much for bringing analytical approaches to bear on this issue, is to try to determine whether your fear is the kind of fear you should "party" with, as described above, or else your intuition, or inner voice, telling you that there's a genuine red flag associated with this decision that hasn't percolated to your conscious mind yet.

Marie Forleo has an answer to this too. The trick, she says[3], is to pinpoint whether the thought of taking the decision makes you feel expansive or contracted. (I like to use the word suffocated instead of contracted.) She says that one way to ascertain this if you have doubts is to ask your close friends how they read your body language as you describe the prospect of taking the decision.

This is a useful tool, and for we analytical souls, I have another. There are decision evaluation methods that involve your listing the factors important to your decision, assigning weights to these factors (relative importance), then rating each of the factors for each decision. A mathematical formula then tells you what decision to take (or whether or not to take a decision) based on your input.

I'm working on a Decision Maker that should be online at sometime soon. If you're an EmpathyNow Silver subscriber, drop me a line and get a one-time decision on me. If you're a Gold subscriber, drop me a line and I'll buy you lifetime decisions on that site.

Either together or alone, the above techniques can greatly help you decide whether to make a decision or choose between multiple ones.

Chip's Tips: Temporarily Disabling Your Stuff

This one will be short and sweet. If you want to temporarily disable a challenge or to-do, don't delete it - simply edit it and flip its state from Enabled to Disabled. You can reenable it when you're ready again.

Juggling Update

As I mentioned last week, I had started juggling but stopped pending a goodie package that the Klutz[4] folks were to send me. Well I got the goodie package and resumed my practice sessions. You can see the results in the above video. Again, I'm using juggling as a metaphor for accomplishing any of your lifelong To-Dos by devoting small increments of time on a daily basis over long periods. My end goal is to shoot a triumphant video extolling the virtues of this while juggling during the entire video.

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Web References

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