Facing Fears and The Next 5 Things

Life is too short to spend time doing things you don’t like.

We hear this all the time. Why waste time with things that make you miserable?

This well-intentioned advice, while true, can leave us with discontent.

Why don’t we act?

Have you ever been incredibly pumped about revolutionizing the way your live you life only to end up doing nothing about it?

What happens? You dream big. Then the hangover sets in. Your dream is so far away from your reality. Taking the first step feels worthless in the context of the distance you have to travel.

I talked to a guy yesterday. He is about to do something very brave. It’s something he has dreamed of since he was a little kid.

“I just hope I don’t end up wasting my time,” he said.

This is a valid emotion. He has failed in the past. He’s struggled with the decision of giving up, pursuing more realistic goals. But…he keeps coming back to this one thing.

We hate the feeling of failure. We don’t want our efforts to be wasted. We don’t want to face rejections and I told you so’s from the critics in our lives. We don’t want to fight the voice in our heads that want us to be comfortable in our current state.

You have to take a step.

Here’s the thing. You can’t get to where you are going without taking the steps to get there.

You have to try out if you want to make the team.

You have to interview if you want the job.

You have risk your comfort and security if you want to start a company, jump out of a plane, travel around the world, or whatever your dream is.

You can’t sit still.

Get over your fear in 4 steps.

This is what you will realize when you do this. Facing fear is easier than you think. You will realize how stupid it is in the first place.

Here are some steps.

  1. Write down the worst thing that will happen if you face your fear. What does total failure look like?
  2. Ask yourself how likely it is to happen.
  3. Write down how you would fix it if it did.
  4. Write down how amazing succeeding would feel like. What would your life be like if you accomplished what you set out to do.

You will realize your fears are exaggerated and the odds of you accomplishing your goal is more reasonable than you think.

Focus on the next 5 things.

Next and most importantly, write down the top 5 things you will do each day to move you closer to your goal. Plan in days and weeks not months and years.

In “No Shortcuts to the Top”, Ed Viesturs (irrational honesty: I completely butchered Ed’s last name when I first posted. It’s not Viespers.) talks about how he broke down climbing the worlds highest mountains. He said instead of looking at the next 100 yards which seemed completely undoable, he would look at a rock ten feet in front of him. Then the next ten feet and so on until he had made it.

Looking months and years down the road is great for dreaming, but it is foolish for planning. There is no way to accurately plan. It will seem too far way anyway.

It is much easier and more realistic to plan your next 5 steps than your next 1000 steps. Break it down.

The most difficult part in all of this is changing our habit of discontent and pessimism. I know. I am a recovering idea guy and info-maniac. I have been replacing the active role of doing with the passive role of reading and planning.

In the end, I just planned my way out of trying because the work seemed too much and too difficult.

What are you next 5 steps? Write them down each day. Then do them.