You’ve decided to claim your potential. Congratulations!
You spend quiet time reflecting on what you really want to accomplish with the life you’ve been given. You tap into your inner wisdom and discover what will make you truly happy and content. Next, you outline goals you’ll need to achieve to reach your potential. All is going well. You’re super excited about the progress you’re already making by coming up with monthly, weekly and daily action task lists to meet your goals. Maybe you even set up a fancy spreadsheet or added a goal tracking app to your phone so that you can access your tracking guide on the fly. The day comes when it’s time to start taking the action you’ve planned for. And you freeze. You start to wonder who you think you are to create the life you’ve always wanted. All the plans you’ve come up with suddenly seem overwhelming. The negative self-talk starts and won’t shut up.
Though this may sound disheartening, it’s a very real situation that many people face when they decide to invest in themselves and their dreams. Fears that we didn’t even know we had, start to spring up from everywhere. And they lead us to rationalize why we should stay small, right where we are.
Overcoming various fears is one of the biggest ways we limit our potential, and we may not even be aware that fear is the problem. That’s because the fear makes us act in ways which may surprise us. Have you ever:
- Procrastinated doing something you really, deeply wanted to do?
- Been such a perfectionist about your creative work that you never finished it?
- Allowed other people’s opinions about what you plan to do with your life squelch your enthusiasm?
- Let life get in the way of your dreams? Did there always seem to be something more urgent or important to do?
- Buy into the memories of past “failures” and believe it will be the same this time?
Practically everyone who’s ever wanted to make a significant change in their lives has encountered fear in at least one of the ways above – usually more than one. So, if you are or have had these thoughts, feelings or behaviors, you’re in good company! The exciting thing is that many people have gone on to face their fears and move through each of these limiting beliefs or behaviors. I’m sure you know some of these people.
Sometimes we are so afraid that we can’t even admit it… even to ourselves. We just find ourselves facing another evening realizing that another day has gone by without any headway being made. Day after day, this frustration can build until we give up and stay stuck right where we are. But, we don’t have to! You can conquer your fear and move through to the other side. And the first step in doing that is to be aware of the way fear can infiltrate our spirit to keep us right where we are in life.
Our biggest fear is usually some form of the fear of failure. We worry about what other people will say about us if we don’t make it. We even worry about how people will react to us if we do make it.
How to Face your Fears and Win
Fear plays out in everyone’s lives in similar ways. Once we recognize that our non-action stems from fear, we can do something about it. Below is a list of common ways that fear plays out in our lives and how we can push through it, one step at a time.
As mentioned before, most underlying fear is some form of the fear of failure. Somewhere inside we believe either that we aren’t good enough to get what we want (so we don’t deserve it) or that if we do reach our potential, we will lose all that we hold dear. Our family and friends will abandon us or we’ll outgrow them (because we’ll suddenly turn into a snotty, rich person). Either way, our subconscious believes failure will be the end result if we take action. So, we just avoid taking action.
If we look closely though, we can see that procrastination only ensures our failure. We can’t have what we never try to get. So, we condemn ourselves to a life stuck in regret.
The absolute scariest part of taking action – any big action – is starting. Once we get started, things flow more easily as we go along. So, the first step to overcoming fear is to claim it and then decide you are going to do what you are afraid of anyway. Take one little step forward. That’s it for today. Just one little step. If you’ve always wanted to go back to college to get a degree, look at the local college’s website to see what their entrance requirements are. Then tomorrow, make one phone call to get your transcripts sent to the college. Once you’ve done the first thing, each consecutive step will get easier! Guaranteed!
Setting Too Big a Goal
Many productivity gurus encourage us to take on a huge goal and start chipping away at it. What they don’t add into the equation is that fear can cause us to turn into a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. We don’t know what to do first because it all seems so unbelievable and overwhelming.
When this happens, we may do one of two things. We may take action that won’t get us any further along, and will in fact only confuse us more. Or we take no action at all – we stay paralyzed.
The obvious answer to this issue is to start out with smaller, more attainable goals and work your way up. You can still achieve the big, hairy goal you eventually want, but by focusing on a shorter-term goal first, it’s easier to work up the courage and belief in yourself to take the required action. Once you mark the first short-term goal off your list, start working on the next logical one. One day you’ll realize you are ready to take on that next, final goal that once scared you so fiercely.
Focusing on Approval
Belonging to a peer group is one of our most base needs. It provides us with security – we need to know that our group understands us and that someone’s got our back. So, it makes sense that we want our peers’ approval for the plan we have to reach our true potential. The problem with this is that some of our peer group will be threatened by our advancement. They want us to stay right there with them, stuck. Those “friends” may bring up all the ways your plan could fail and offer you advice on how to move forward (or not).
Heck, we might not even give them the chance to dissuade us. We might lose enthusiasm for the project just by letting our mind call up all the horrible things that could happen if we undertake this feat. We could fail and have everyone talk behind our back about how foolish we were. Or, if we do succeed, we’ll end up without a friend in the world because we ended up losing our peer group in the process of winning. That kind of winning doesn’t seem like winning at all. We can just as easily let our minds talk us out of taking action towards our goal as allowing someone else to.
The truth is, you may lose some “friends” along the way. You may outgrow them or you may decide you don’t need them if your life if they are going to ridicule you at every turn. But if one of those things happens, you will realize they weren’t the friends you thought they were. A true friend doesn’t revel in the other’s misfortune or pain. They encourage them.
And, you’ll likely be surprised by those who do stick it out with you. You never know – they just might join you on their own journey to unlocking their own potential! The thing you can be sure of is that if you let the fear of others keep you from obtaining your dream, your life will be full of regret later. And that’s simply not worth the risk of losing a few people along the way.
If this is where you are now, try this. Choose one person to tell your decision to. Make it the person you know will encourage you in reaching your goals. Don’t tell those you think will question the intelligence of your decision – you can wait to tell them when you start making progress and they notice the change. Or, you can simply stop spending time with those who you no longer trust to uphold your highest good. Either way, you win!
We don’t have to let fear keep us from reaching our full potential. Many have gone before us and have made their dreams come true. You can be one of them. But to do that, you must face your fears and take small, steady steps to overcome them.
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