Fear comes in all shapes and sizes. There is the fear that you feel when watching a scary movie. There’s the fear you feel when walking in a dark room alone. These are natural reactions intended to keep us safe.
I want to talk about another kind of fear, the kind that keeps us from achieving our goals.
While these fears are still a part of instinct, they can often be figments of our imagination. Fears that we bring on ourselves because we worry too much about what others think of us or expect from us.
A very close friend of mine recently came to me in tears. She is an aspiring author and recently had a conversation with a friend of hers that set that fear in motion. The other friend asked the dream-killing question “what if?”. “What if you don’t make it as an author? Shouldn’t you get a job instead?”. Those two simple words from that short conversation gave strength to my friends worst fears. So much so that she was ready to put down her pen and paper for good.
This simple conversation could have robbed this world of someone great. These simple, fear inducing, dream killing words probably have already robbed us of so much greatness.
This question “what if?” not only comes from outside influences, but they can also crop up in our own, internal dialog.
The outside influence is usually a conversation with a friend or parent or loved one that thinks they are helping. They think that you should forget the fairytale and “be real”. I think this most often comes from their honest fear that you will fail and get hurt. They care about you and don’t want to see you go through this pain.
Other times this advice comes from those who have failed or never even attempted to achieve their dreams. It didn’t work for them, or it was too hard for them, or, maybe they let that internal conversation win. They think that this is “real”, that dreams cannot, ever, ever be lived.
The internal dialog can be worse because it starts from within and it churns our thoughts to a distorted reality. In the case of my friend; through tears she said “What if (other friend) is right? What if I spend all this time writing and no one likes it? I know I’ll never make it as an author”.
Right there she let a fear, a simple two word dream killer become a distorted reality. She went from “what if” to “I know” in 3.2 seconds.
I’ve done this, I think everyone has. But you can’t let this question, this doubt win.
I told her, I tell myself and now I tell you the following:
The worse “what if” is “what if you don’t”. What if you don’t follow your dream? What if you go get a job and live the next 40 years waiting for retirement, hating every moment? Do you know what you’re doing then? You’re building the dream of someone who wasn’t afraid.
The only way to achieve a dream is to work toward it. It will likely be difficult. You may get rejected a thousand times before you find success. You will hear a lot of “no’s” and maybe worse. But that can’t stop you.
In my friend’s case, she may not get a publishing deal, but she could self publish. There are many people who are living their dream because they turned that “no” into inspiration to find another way. You’ve heard “no” a thousand times, find a way to get a “yes”, create your own “yes”.
One trick I have is to treat things like an experiment. With experiments, we accept any outcome, good or bad, and learn from them. This helps remove the emotional tie that causes fear. If I do something, I ask myself “I wonder what will happen if?”, then whatever the result I keep notes and try again with a slightly altered approach.
I’ve been asked “but, doesn’t that just waste time?”. No, it does not. Taking action is the first step to achieving your dreams and goals. If I don’t experiment, if I just give in to the “what if” fear, then I’m wasting time.
Take action. Don’t let the fears of others or your own internal fears keep you from what you were meant to do. Experiment to learn what works and what doesn’t. The right combination of effort and luck could put you on the path to your dreams.