Turn Your Fears into Goals

How to start taking action today.

I break out in a nervous sweat at the thought of networking. It’s mostly a fear of not knowing what to say when I meet someone new.

To get over this fear, I had to come up with a few practices I can take action on regularly. I want to share those practices with you because they can be applied to any goal or fear you are trying to conquer.

  1. Set Bite-Sized Goals

What is at the core of your fear and what small thing can you act on regularly to overcome it?

The core of my fear is starting a meaningful conversation with people I do not know.

To get over this I set a small goal for myself that I can accomplish every day: talk to a stranger. In an elevator, checking out at the grocery store, buying coffee. Any chance I get, I want to try to connect with someone to practice getting over that initial fear.

To identify your own small daily goal you can take action on, think about what makes you most anxious about your fear.

For example, if your goal is to do more public speaking, your anxiety might be being the center of attention. What are the smaller, everyday steps you can take to practice being the center of attention? It could be presenting internally to your team or to your family once a week.

Whatever it is, find something small you can accomplish every day or every week.

2. Be Aware of Opportunities for Facing Your Fear

Kelly McGonigal ‘How to Make Stress Your Friend’ TED Talk

After setting my daily goal, I started to become aware of opportunities throughout my day for talking to a stranger. When I identify that opportunity (e.g. being alone with someone on the elevator), my instinct is to pull out my phone and be quiet, but instead I recognize the chance to act on my goal and just go for it.

I’m actually starting to love these opportunities. It’s becoming a little game to the point where now I seek out situations where I’ll be surrounded by people I don’t know so that I can practice starting and holding a conversation with them.

You will start to notice these opportunities too. Don’t shy away from them, embrace them. Listen to that voice inside of you and take the leap and remember that Kelly McGonigal says stress is just your body’s way of preparing you to face a challenge.

3. Measure Your Progress

There is nothing more rewarding than looking back in time and seeing concrete items that prove you are taking steps to achieve your goals.

I built a simple scorecard for myself to keep track of every time I achieved my daily goal of talking to someone I don’t know. It looks like this:

Pretty simple, right? But it’s a great feeling at the end of the week to look back and see that 4/5 days I hit my goal.

This step is crucial because it will encourage you to keep going. On days when you feel like you’re still being crushed by your fear, look at your scorecard and acknowledge all the times you actively faced that fear. It will motivate you to keep going.

Consistently acting on your small goals is what leads to conquering your big goal.

4. Tell Someone What You’re Doing

Talking to someone about your fear may be a little awkward at first (especially for someone like me who doesn’t like being vulnerable) but you have a better chance of achieving your goals if you are being held accountable by others. So tell someone what you’re working on and what your goals are. It’s all the better if they share that goal so you can help each other through it.

Tell this trusted friend or family member to ask you about it occasionally. It seems simple, but knowing they are checking up on you motivate you so you have some success to report.

Also, if people know what your goals are and what you’re working on every day, they can help you. They may suggest ways to achieve your smaller goals, introduce you to people who can help, give you tips, or give you opportunities to act on your fears.

You can take a small first step and write your goal on a sticky and put it somewhere you’ll see it all the time. This is a great way to hold yourself accountable and keep your goal top of mind.

5. Raise The Stakes

I love to run, but I am not the most disciplined person. I need a big race or event to look forward to to push myself. I sign up for races a couple months out that are just beyond my capability so that I really kick it into high gear and start training.

This “hack” may work for you. If you have a fear of public speaking, tell your boss you want do a presentation in a few weeks or sign up to speak at a local event or conference. Schedule time with your manager to do a small presentation. Whatever it is, get something concrete on your calendar so that you have no choice but to prepare.

For me, I have a fear of networking, but I want to get more comfortable with meeting new people. To motivate myself, I’m signing up for networking events once a month that force me to consistently hit my small daily goals so that I’m prepared for these events.

Conquering your fear is no small task. In fact, if you take any action at all after reading this, you are leagues beyond the majority of people out there.

Action is the first step. Start small, with bite-sized goals and start taking action today.