We all have a way in which we secretly want to change the world, but we’re scared to death to try. I want you to bring that secret desire into your awareness, to feel it in your heart and soul, right now. Maybe you want to publish a novel, or leave your job and start a business. Maybe you want to paint or sculpt or write poetry.
But if you’re like me, every time you try to get out of the box that it feels like you’re in, a thought or two pops up and says “No. Not You. Not Now.”
I’ve found a way to push through those thoughts.
There are a lot of things that probably need to happen for you to realize your dream. And while the whole thing might scare you, there are a lot of pieces that aren’t scary at all. The fear maker in the brain, a walnut-sized region called the amygdala, only gets triggered with urgent, immediate danger. So that means you can sneak up on it with a lot of success. And you can do it a little at a time.
Break your dream down into very specific tasks. Each day, do one specific thing to make progress toward your dream. If it’s writing a book, or a screenplay, start writing in a journal. Write every day. Read things that are similar to what you want to write. Learn and practice technique. You can probably fill in a hundred other things that you need to do to make a book a success. Do them. One at a time.
To maximize your chances of doing this, you’ll want to set up a specific place and time to do this. Time for you and your dream. Every day. Even if it’s only 15 minutes, you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish, how much momentum you can develop.
Sometimes, even with the momentum you’re establishing, one of those tasks is going to bring up fear. It’s going to feel big and daunting. And here you have a couple of options.
The first one is to do it anyway. To push through. That’s the preferable approach. But sometimes it just feels impossible. Like there is a wall standing in your way. Like you have one shot at something and it has to be perfect. That if you fail you’ll not see a chance like this for some time.
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That’s a lot of pressure, and it can paralyze you. But you can break these kinds of scary tasks into even smaller chunks than you did before. This can actually mean more work sometimes, but it can really pay dividends, too.
Let’s say you’ve written a screenplay and your agent (getting an agent was one of your tasks) has lined up a pitch meeting for you. You’ve never done one before and you’re scared to death. Paralyzed.
But I doubt you’re afraid of asking your agent about pitch meetings. I doubt you’re afraid of reading a book on how to pitch your screenplay. I doubt you are afraid of writing a pitch. And I doubt you’re afraid of practice the pitch in a room by yourself (though you may feel a bit silly).
So you can go a long ways toward your goal without bringing up much fear. But there’s even more you can do, and probably should.
What if you gave your thoroughly rehearsed pitch to a person who knows you and loves you and will only give you the most well-intentioned feedback?
And what if you took that feedback and gave your pitch to three more people? To a group you’ve cultivated who support you? And what if you kept doing that, kept tinkering and refining until the feedback that you got was that it was outstanding, compelling, perfect? Until you literally could not find a way to improve upon it?
By the time you actually have to give the pitch, with several rounds of feedback and several drafts, with every word tested and refined, how much fear do you think you will have?
The fear will still be there, but it will be much more manageable. When your thoughts will turn from things you can do to things you’ve already done, you’ll know that you’re no longer making things better. You’re just delaying. It’s time. Time to push through.
By taking on big goals as a series of little steps, I’ve found I can not only accomplish a lot more, but because I am getting feedback along the way, I can also put out better stuff once I do get to the “big day.”
And while I don’t do this for each blog post, I do keep an eye on which ones are shared most, which ones are liked, which ones are forwarded. And every time I write I keep those past lessons in mind.
This kind of focused practice works wonders for our abilities, but it also decreases our fear. Because no matter what we do, we’re always more confident when we’re prepared.
What are the thoughts that keep you from acting? And what do you do to get past them?