Do you have dreams? Of course, you do. We all have dreams — exciting new career, financial freedom or a happier life. The problem is, many people never pursue their dreams because of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of losing financial security, to name a few reasons.
In fact, I’ve seen many people forgo happiness for fear of losing financial security, but there are no guarantees in life. Job security can be fleeting. Like the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” The reality is, by letting go of your fears and pursuing your dreams, only then can you really find true happiness.
Don’t let fear paralyze you to act
Fear is a funny thing. On one hand, we absolutely need fear. Without it, our fight-or-flight response wouldn’t trigger, saving us from attack or threat of survival. Fear can also be a motivator. But when fear takes hold and clouds your better judgment, then it may also prevent you from realizing your dreams. Sure, you can get through life without experiencing fear. But those who never face their fears, don’t grow. And that can leave you feeling stuck and lacking self-confidence.
Like many, I have had my share of dreams. Some I have fulfilled, others fell flat. But the truth is, the dreams that fell flat did so because I feared rejection. It wasn’t until I actually faced my fears that I could pursue my dreams wholeheartedly.
Feel the fear
Over 25-years ago, Susan Jeffers wrote the best-selling self-help book “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” In her book Jeffers explains that there are three types of fear:
- Level one fear describes fear on an external level. External fear might represent fear of being alone in life or fear of dying. It could also describe a fear of asking the boss for a raise.
- Level two fear describes fear on an internal fear. Internal fear might represent fear of failure or fear of being rejected.
- Level three fear is the core of all fear — the real fear. According to Jeffers, this fear happens when you start to tell yourself: “You can’t handle it.” But what you’re really telling yourself: “You can’t handle how you’ll feel, if you don’t succeed.”
Most people don’t get to the third level because they shut down at level one or two. You need to ask yourself, “What do I have to fear if I can handle anything?” And, the answer is, nothing! So, to lessen your fears, you have to trust yourself and your own capabilities. Jeffers suggests that to face your fears, you simply turn it around by saying: “I’ll handle it.” This diminishes fear, over time.
How to let go of fears
No one is fearless. We all have fears, some of us are just better at hiding them than others. When I’m blocked by my fears, I write them down. By listing my fears, I can recognize exactly what’s keeping me from realizing my dream. It might be fear of failure, rejection or simply looking foolish. Once you have identified your fears, think about the reasons why you are afraid of those things. Are your fears based on logic and truth, or simply governed by your lack of confidence and emotions? Only by acknowledging your fears can you let go of them.
I think one of best ways to release fears is by simply becoming proactive in your dreams. Without a plan, it’s very easy to lose your purpose. I’m a big fan of organizational charts. When I have a dream that I want to accomplish, I literally create an organizational chart in PowerPoint. I add my dream or goal to the top of the chart, and then simply break it down into steps. I then break those steps down further, until I’ve uncovered every possible angle towards accomplishing my dream.
Goal setting will give you direction and force you to move beyond your fears to achieve the things you want in life. With each step you reach towards your dream, you’ll quickly discover that you really can do anything you set your mind to.
Be careful who you share your dreams with
Here’s what I discovered. There are some people in your life that you can share your dreams with — we’ll call them your cheerleaders. They’re genially excited for you, and truly want you to succeed. And then there are others. Because of their own insecurities, inadequacies or jealousy, they’ll burst your bubble and cast a dark shadow of doubt on your dreams and relish in feeding your fears. A dear friend of mine recently shared his dream of becoming the president of his local union with fellow co-workers. Bill had over 20 years of experience serving the membership of his union and the administrative experience to support his dream.
Unfortunately, he chose to share his ideas with a coworker who quickly turned Bill’s dream into his own reality. His co-worker not only stole Bill’s ideas and presented them as his own, but even went so far as to bad mouth him in an attempt to tarnish his reputation. The moral of this story is this: Choose your confidants wisely. If your gut tells you someone cannot be trusted with your dreams, then stay as far away from them as you can.
When I took the leap to leave my job and start my own business, I had a lot of support from my spouse. But I was surprised at the somewhat hostile response I received from someone who I thought had my best interest at heart. Stay away from the naysayers and protect your dreams carefully, because there will always be someone out there trying to divert you.
Make your choice sooner than later
There comes a time in your life when you must choose. Either follow that dream or don’t. But you need to make this choice, and you need to make it sooner rather than later. Just remember, the choice you make will define the rest of your life. Don’t let fear be the catalyst that fades your dreams into oblivion.
— Katherine Marko