Pursuing Our Goals and the Relationship Between Fear and Excitement
How many of us can honestly say that we are 100%, genuinely happy and feel completely fulfilled in our lives? You may have a friend, co-worker or family member who claims to be these things, but if you could delve into their psyche a bit more, you would likely find that they still have a goal they would like to pursue or a change they would like to make in their life, whether it be big or small. We all know that one or two people who always seem to have a ‘plan’ to make a change in their life or achieve a goal this week, month or year, but these people never seem to take the steps needed or seem as motivated as they should be to even begin taking the steps needed to achieve this change or goal. Sound familiar?
This is all too common, and even you, yes you, aren’t innocent of doing this. It’s OK though. We all do it in one way or another each day, whether it be mentally committing to not having that extra scoop of ice cream for dessert tonight, but failing to do so, or planning to walk the dog every day of the week, but only managing to walk them twice, we all make excuses and procrastinate. It’s in our nature. We love to feel comfortable, but who doesn’t? It’s much easier to ignore the consequences of having that extra scoop of ice cream tonight or choose to watch that second episode of Judge Judy instead of walking the dog. These are the decisions we all make that may have a smaller, negative effect on our lives, but aren’t the things that necessarily scare us. They aren’t the monumental tasks that we fear conquering. Those are the goals that we deep down hope to achieve in order to feel fulfilled and are the changes we want to make that we know will take 100% commitment and dedication. Why can some of us seem to so easily commit to the hard work and dedication that it takes to make real, long-lasting change or achieve a personal goal, while many of us have such difficult time doing so? The answer to this question is fear.
Some of you may be saying to yourself – ‘This guy is wrong. I’m not scared at all to achieve ________ goal or make __________ change in my life. I’m just a busy person and I know I’ll achieve ____________ goal or make ____________ change soon.” But I ask you this, how long have you been making such excuses? Yes… excuses. Those things we use as methods of procrastination… when we elect to delay the goals and changes we plan to make in our lives. What I just said is true, but please, don’t feel ‘bad’ or discouraged, many of us are guilty of doing these things. It’s OK to be scared of the road that we must travel to make a change in our life or achieve a personal goal, but unless we address our fears, these changes may never be attempted and these goals may never realized. Sure, it won’t be easy to do, but I am telling you, there is a way to address these fears without requiring a year of therapy (sweet deal huh?). The secret to doing this is doing exactly what ‘those people,’ the ones who seem to make positive changes in their lives without much issue, do. The ones who fully commit to their goals, pledging daily to execute the steps required to reach them and navigating any roadblock’s along the way without discouragement. What ‘those people’ have learned to do is hone their fear and transform it into a genuine excitement about the change they want to make or the goal they plan to achieve.
As someone who has personally struggled with conquering the many fears that accompanied my anxiety as a teen and young adult, I can honestly say that it was not my years of schooling or time I spent working in the counselling field that resulted in the ‘light bulb’ turning on in my head. That ‘ah-ha’ moment that I realized that it is when fear is honed and transformed into excitement that we are able to make significant changes in our lives and achieve the goals we have been fearful of achieving. It was a Sunday evening when I was enjoying a Chinese food dinner with my family that my niece handed me a fortune cookie that this happened. When I opened it, the message inside was – “Fear is just excitement in need of an attitude adjustment.” When I read this, that’s when I realised that, unbelievably, this message is 100% true… as simple as that! It’s not that I didn’t know this as true, deep down as on overall concept from my schooling in psychology, counselling training and time spent working with those with debilitating anxiety, but it was my realization that fear and excitement are actually much of the same thing and are very close ‘cousins’ that turned the light bulb on in my head. I liken fear and excitement to a ‘fork in the road’ in our minds… where both share the same highway, but is also where we eventually must choose to take the ‘excitement’ exit or ‘fear’ exit to either reach our destination or bypass it.
I believe a good example of this is when a man and woman get engaged. This is an instance when much initial joy and excitement takes place, but when this initial period is over, ‘second thoughts’ often creep into the couples minds and the fear of this monumental commitment they have agreed to make to each other takes the mind hostage. Ultimately, most couples stick to their commitment of marriage and live happily ever after. Why? Because they recognize their irrational fears, consider all of the wonderful aspects of spending a future with each other and mold this fear into feelings of anticipation and excitement. In other words, just as my Fortune Cookie alluded to, we are all capable of giving our fears an ‘attitude adjustment’ and transforming those feelings into excitement. But what do we do when fear seems to be winning the battle when trying to feel this ‘excitement’ instead? Here are 3 valuable and effective tools to use when this is taking place:
1) Utilize what is called ‘Thought Stopping.’ Whenever fearful thoughts enter your mind in relation to your goal or change you want to make in your life, pause, acknowledge this thought, and distract, distract, distract. Immediately turn your attention to all of the wonderful aspects of what change you would like to make or goal you would like to achieve are and how amazing the end result will be. Our brains like to play tricks on us when it comes to fears and irrational thoughts. If we recognize our fearful thoughts immediately and complete the above actions, the fearful thoughts aren’t able to snowball into a cycle of more anxiety and additional fear based thinking.
2) Reduce the pressure and stress that come along with and are related to making the change you would like to make or achieving the goal you want to achieve. Much of this stress and accompanying pressure is often caused by our hectic work and life schedules, resulting in limited time to work on obtaining change or achieving the goal we have set. Every Sunday, take 5-10 minutes to plan out your week on a calendar (old school or digital) or day planner. First write down the ‘musts,’ the most important tasks that MUST be completed each week (E.g. hours spent at work, medical appointments, your child’s commitments and hobbies you are responsible for, etc.). Second, take half of your remaining time (excluding sleep time of course), and fill it with daily tasks/steps you must take to reach your goal or make the change you would like to make. Make those involved in your social circle aware of these times and how important they are to you and your success. The people who won’t respect this time aren’t the people who truly care about you and your endeavours... brush them to the side. And lastly, fill the remainder of your time to spend doing the things you enjoy! We all need to time to recharge and reward ourselves for our efforts! You deserve it! J . I also offer consulting and Workshop/Seminar on Time Management if you are interested in improving in that area J .
3) Make yourself accountable to not only yourself, but to a Coach (I happen to know of a good one, cough cough J ), friend, or colleague that you trust. Research has shown that, when we feel accountable to another person when pursing a goal or a change in our lives, we are more likely to achieve our goals and make the change we would like to make (E.g. those wishing to lose weight that elect to work with a Coach or Personal Trainer). When we make ourselves accountable to someone we respect and trust, we not only work harder to not disappoint them, but develop a drive to prove to ourselves, that we are capable of doing the work we have committed to that… the work that is needed to achieve whatever the goal or life change we are striving to achieve.