How to Reach Your Goals in Spite of Your Fears
All of us have dreams and goals. We aspire to be better and to achieve things that will afford us meaning and fulfillment. This could range from wanting to start a business, getting a better job, finding the perfect partner, traveling the world, losing weight, learning a new skill, etc. In spite of this, a large number of people never achieve their dreams and goals. Why is this so?
I believe that the biggest reason some of us do not attain what we want is because we are fearful. Fear is a normal part of life. It can keep us safe in dangerous situations as it has for our species over thousands of years. However, fear can also be paralysing. When our fear causes paralysis and leads to inaction, it is no longer working for us. It starts to have adverse effects on our lives.
It is normal to experience fear when we leave our comfort zones and attempt to do something new and challenging. When we venture out into the unknown, our fear starts causing a lot of commotion inside our heads and that is when the alarm bells go off. We start thinking of all the things that could go wrong if we embarked on a journey to venture outside of our comfortable cocoon. The inner voice in our head starts to shout, “Danger!”
Ironically, it is actually more dangerous staying exactly where we are and not stepping outside of our comfort box. Why? Because we can never achieve anything of significance and meaning if we always play it safely. We do not grow and will never find out our true potential. As the famous French author, Andre Gide, said, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore”.
Like most people, I am guilty of having allowed fear to paralyze me into inaction. Here are some examples: in the past I have neglected to ask others for help because of my fear of rejection; I have procrastinated exercise because of my fear that it would be too difficult; I have avoided changing my diet for the better because of my fear that I would be missing out on foods that I like; I even took longer than necessary to start this blog because of my fear of exposing my life and weaknesses to others.
What changed for me was that I got sick and tired of allowing my fear to dictate and limit my actions. I wanted to improve my life and fear was standing in my way. I wanted to achieve certain goals and the voice of fear inside my head kept insisting that those goals were too lofty and unrealistic. I finally came to realize that I was giving my fear too much attention and it was time to strip it of its power.
The interesting thing is that we will always experience fear in our lives. Fear keeps us alert in dangerous situations, for example, crossing a busy street. However, fear does not have to rule every aspect of our lives. We can simply acknowledge our fear but not give it the constant attention it clamours for. Put another way, fear can come along for the ride, but we can relegate it to the backseat while we do the driving.
So how do we limit the influence of our inherent fear and not become paralyzed by it? There are three methods I use that work effectively when combined:
We need courage in order to conquer our fears. Courage is not the absence of fear. It simply means taking action despite our fear. We should acknowledge our fear, accept it for what it is, and act anyway. When a mountain climber attempts to scale a mountain, there is little doubt that he or she experiences fear. This fear keeps us alert. But the mountain climber does not let the fear pin him or her to the living room couch. That is the attitude we need to adopt if we want to achieve our goals and live a great life. We need to have courage in order to venture outside our comfort zones and accomplish great things.
It is also important for us to recognize that fear is just a feeling. Just like anger, sadness, regret, and jealousy, we can simply allow ourselves to feel it, but not get attached to it. For example, someone might do something to make us angry, but we do not have to act on that feeling. We can simply acknowledge and observe our anger from a distance without becoming wrapped up in it. Our awareness of the feeling without becoming attached to it has a liberating effect. This is what it means to be mindful.
We will always have random thoughts inside our head because human beings have restless minds. However, we can ‘watch’ our thoughts and not get caught up in them. This is a power that all of us have. Therefore, when we feel fear, we can take a step back and acknowledge the fear, but not get tangled up with it. If we do this, the fear loses a lot of its power over us. We can then use courage to take the first step to scale that mountain we want to conquer.
3. Just Start and Gain Momentum
One of the best ways to overcome our fears is to just get started by taking the first step. If it is your dream to write a book, write the first few pages now. If you want to exercise and lose weight, go for a short walk now. If you want to eat healthier, eat that apple for lunch today. If you want to learn to play the piano, sign up and attend the first lesson. Whatever you do, just start NOW.
What I have learned is that forward momentum is very powerful when it comes to instilling confidence and belief. Inaction has the opposite effect. Paralysis makes us feel like we are helpless and can even lead us to hopelessness. Taking the first step builds momentum and that momentum has tremendous power. The absolute worst thing we can do is to not do anything at all. Take the first step and build momentum because there is power in motion.
Interestingly enough, when we have courage, are mindful, and take the first step, we often find that the fear we felt was not justified. We learn that our fears were exaggerated and that we are actually more capable than we give ourselves credit for. Like a child, we discover that there is no monster living under our beds and that we have worried needlessly over the years.
To conclude, you deserve to fulfill your dreams and live a life of freedom. Fear will always be present. Make it your friend and do not try to run away from it. Just remember that you are in control and not the other way around. Now go and take that first step!