Something I’ve started to pay attention to lately are the stories that pop up in my head. Little wonderings that trick you into thinking something has or will happen that hasn’t or won’t. In your mind, you see an elaborate depiction of how (you think) something will play out; if you’re not careful, these stories can lead you astray. They can convince you that something has gone wrong—or will—and actually control your emotional response to a situation. Even if everything is perfectly fine, you can fool yourself into thinking something bad is going to happen.

Stories lead to hesitation, stopping you from doing or going after what you want. In some instances this is useful—yes, you will go to jail if you rob that bank—but most of the time it does more harm than good. Consider: what have you held yourself back from not because of empirical evidence, but because of something you cooked up in your head? It’s not fun to think about, but acknowledging when you’re holding yourself back can have a significant impact on your ability to live your life to the fullest.

A few days ago, I decided to ignore a—negative—story in my head. Instead of hesitating, I hopped on the train and went to see someone I wanted to see. The story in my head was decidedly negative, but the result? Perfectly fine. Great, even. It was one of those moments where you realize that what you tell yourself about a situation can really hamper a good thing. Instead of indulging in a stream of nonsense, you find that—more often than not—what actually takes place is a complete 180º.

Challenge the stories in your head. Don’t let the fear of something that hasn’t happened—and likely won’t—stop you from doing things. It’s far too easy to get caught up in the picture book of your mind, all the while missing the more interesting world in front of you. It’s likely that, with the theater of the mind shut down, you’re capable of far more than you ever imagined.