LIFE IS All ABOUT SKILLS. From the moment of our conception until our last breath, our brain is perceiving the environment around, and in, us, defining that environment, and reacting or responding to that environment.

Emotions are not magic. They are the feelings part of our memories and our predictions. Will we succeed or will we fail.

Anxiety is the primary negative emotion, but far from being an uncontrollable incurable mental illness, anxiety is one of the most important conscious processes we ever developed. Originally, it allowed us to imagine things that were actually dangerous and develop skills and strategies to avoid being harmed.

Today, almost all the “dangers” we face are virtual. They won’t cause us physical harm, but they might cause us emotional harm.

At least 95% of that harm comes from worrying about not being able to do three skills we have to do well to feel good about our life, relationships, make choices, and manage the negative emotions we feel when things do not turn out well.

Do our skills create desirable, tolerable, and sustainable results, or do they end up producing results we do not want? Anxiety is really about the unwanted results we believe we will create with the skills we have.

Need proof? Look at your own experiences. Do you remember how anxious you were when you were learning to drive, cook, interview for a job, take tests, date, learn a sport, or any skill that either has real or imagined serious consequences if not done correctly or carefully?

The following graph shows you everything you need to know about the anxiety process.

To avoid causing the unwanted outcomes and consequences, you had to learn how to do those skills a specific way. These are conduct-critical skills. How we do them will determine the outcome, and the better we do them, the less anxiety we will have.

Learning to drive is an excellent example because we clearly understand the consequences of not driving correctly or carefully can be fatal. In the beginning, we are all very anxious, but as we gain competence, we learn to trust ourselves to drive safely, and our anxiety about creating unwanted results, as in crashes, decreases accordingly.

Almost all our negative emotions share a common origin. What we know about the world, our place in it, our limitations in it, our expectations of it, our coping skills for it, our attitudes, biases, and prejudices, were all learned before we were five years of age.

We need to embrace the facts, not the fantasy, of our identity. Who we think we are is the expression of skills we learned as tiny children. We can re-learn, upgrade, practice, and master better versions of those skills as adults.

Our lives will be significantly better, but our children will be the ultimate beneficiaries of our personal transformations. Their skills will be better from the beginning so they will be able to realize more and more of the amazing potential they are born with.

Thankfully, the ability to change our mind instantly is built in, and the way our modern brain works makes updating our skills a lot easier than we ever believed possible.

Upgrading your skills will allow you to create and maintain closer, more nurturing relationships, make consistently usable choices, and significantly decrease the negative emotions that happen when things don’t turn out the way you wanted them to.

Your skills with relationships, emotions, and making choices, developed before you were five so they frequently don’t work in the complex situations you encounter as a teen or an adult. To upgrade your skills, and your life.

As a First Responder, you are already saving the planet one life at a time, but you need the skills to save your brain from the profoundly harmful effects caused by danger and the negative emotions you face every day.