What scares you? I’m not talking about worries for family safety or the irrational freakiness of a nightmare. I mean, what makes your heart race and your mouth go dry? What makes you anxious to even entertain the thought of risking it?
Maybe it’s public speaking. Or starting your own business. It could even be something that everyone else makes look easy. (Remember how afraid I was to drive stick shift?)
Maybe it’s publishing …
Whatever it is, chances are, you slam into a wall of fear when it comes time to take a leap into the unknown. Especially when you’re chasing a goal. But why? Most of us are fortunate enough to live in comfortable homes, to have enough to eat, and feel safe from predators and danger. So, then why do we grapple with a lingering fear of success?
For me, it would be easy to embrace a comfortable life and to avoid scary decisions and changes. But I remember my Grandpa Amos.
This is him:
(I know. Cutie!)
In the photo, he’s in his seventies and on a hunting trip with his brothers. He’s holding on to a horse with one hand. And the other hand? Not a hand. He lost his arm just below the elbow in a factory accident. It must have been especially bitter since he’d made it home from the war physically whole and the accident was due to another’s negligence.
He never spoke to me about his recovery or the days following the accident. It was long before I was born, and I never asked. But, looking back, any reasonable person would be faced with fear and uncertainty about learning to live without a hand. And it would have been easy to wallow in the fear, bitterness and unfairness. But I don’t remember him ever indulging in those feelings. In fact, my memories are all centered on his abilities. He did what he wanted to do and he went where he wanted to go.
I don’t know whether he made a conscious decision to do it scared. But I know there were times when he would have been afraid. (I know I would have been afraid to ride a horse in the snow with one hand and a hook! Hello, tangled reins?!) When he was faced with an obstacle, he created interesting ways to overcome it. He made tools and gadgets to go fishing, do housework and complete everyday tasks. (Bet you never wondered how you’d wash your hand if you lost one. Answer: suction cup scrub brush on the sink basin.) I thought of him a lot when I broke my hand and had to wear a splint for six weeks. It took me forever to get ready to leave the house in the morning. He was always ready early.
I can imagine him deciding he’d made it through the dangers of WWII to live life to the full, not to play it safe. If literally losing a limb didn’t keep him from the life he wanted, am I going to give up my goals because I might not succeed? Do I want to be remembered as someone who had really lovely dreams I never risked living? No.
Do It Scared
So how can we take steps toward our scary goals? According to a study featured in Psychology Today, “…developing and maintaining our sense of competence plays an essential role in our ability to pursue our goals effectively.” What if you acknowledged your fear — expected it, even — but took forward strides, anyway? To keep your momentum, break your big, scary goals into smaller and smaller tasks until they’re doable. As in, 15-minute tasks. Then pick the first one on your list, and do it. That’s all. Every day.
We know that habits are powerful. When we create a habit to push our fear, and to chip away at the less-intimidating, little tasks, we’ll be taking steps every day toward achieving big goals. Every morning, remind your Big Goal that, no matter how scary it is, you’re still approaching, and you’re not going to stop!
What’s your Big Goal? What can you do this week to one step closer to achieving it?
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