Fear is an incredible emotion. It is super useful, until it’s not. Fear is the body letting you know that life is challenging you; pushing you forward to an unknown where you don’t have control. That is the scary part – not having control. We would rather live the majority of the time in the superficial bliss of being comfortable. Fear, though, smacks you right in the face, punches you in the gut, then knocks your legs from out of you, all in the name of pushing you out of that blissful comfort zone.
Sometimes we are so consumed with fear that we allow it to paralyze us from reaching our goals. Goals are needed; they help us strive for that next success. But, all too often, be it from lack of confidence, experience, or trust within ourselves, our big goals become those looming dark clouds following us around day-in and day-out and stopping us from moving forward.
In the face of fear and paralysis from setting big goals, try these three easy ways to refocus and start taking immediate action:
1. Breathe, or rather, focus on your breath.
Having the ability to breathe and be mindful of our breath is the simplest, yet most underutilized tool in your fear-calming toolbox. You may feel yourself doing this unexpectedly sometimes, like right before you have a hard conversation or walk into a situation you perceive as stressful. It’s like your body automatically sends a gentle reminder to you to take advantage of its free offer. Most days, though, life gets in the way and simply taking a few minutes focusing on your breath seems comparable to running a marathon. There is just “no time,” you tell yourself! However, making an intentional effort to focus on your breathing daily does some pretty powerful things. The most important of these is taking your mind away from the immediate fear. Every time you focus on your breath, those few moments, give your brain a chance to focus on something other than that paralyzing fear or overwhelming goal.
Try this: Picture a square or a box in your mind. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, and breathe out for a count four, hold for a count of four. Repeat for 3-4 cycles. Work your way up to doing this several times a day.
2. Focus on the process.
Too often we focus strictly on the outcome and forget about the process involved to get to our goals. By focusing on the outcome only, we immediately fall into the trap of seeing ourselves as inadequate. We beat ourselves up because we “should” already be at a certain point, which takes energy away from actually making progress towards your goals. This usually leads to us comparing ourselves to others and then a downward cycle of fear, shame, guilt and self-bullying starts, which again leads to more energy being taken away from action towards your goals. By focusing, instead, on the process it takes to reach your big goals, you are more likely to appreciate the journey and celebrate even the smallest of wins. Each small win, in turn, creates more confidence, excitement, and motivation to continue towards your goals.
Try this: Look over the past 6 months and write down every single success you have had, no matter how small or insignificant. Use this as a starting point and add to it weekly or monthly to keep your process-focused perspective in check.
3. Make a move.
It doesn’t need to be perfect; it just needs to happen. Perfectionism is real and it can be debilitating and fear-instigating, especially when it comes to big goals. There is a real fear about how you will be perceived or how your actions may have unintended consequences. This is fear talking, though, and its face is far from perfect. To combat perfectionism, you literally need to make a move forward. Do something; even the smallest of steps is a forward motion. Once you have made a move forward, it becomes easier to make the next move, and so on.
Try this: Write down your big overwhelming goal. Reverse-engineer it so that you include every single thing you can think of to get there. Once you have done this, then reverse-engineer your starting point you came up with to get to that big goal. Lastly, take one small step in the direction of accomplishing that starting point goal. Continue this process.
So take a breath, focus on the wonderful journey you are on, and make that first move towards reaching your BIG goals.