You know how it is, you set your mind on a new goal and you are really excited to get started. Things seem to be off to a good start. You are making progress. Then…something happens. You hit a wall. It could be something as simple as losing motivation or something way more complex. Either way, bam the progress has stopped, the excitement is fading. Here is the deal though, no matter who the person is or what the goal is, this is going to happen, there are inevitably going to be setbacks. There are going to be to be forks in the road, obstacles that feel insurmountable, and distractions that seem to lure you away from your task at hand. These obstacles and setbacks are going to happen, they are going to happen regardless of the size of the goal or complexity. I know you don’t want to hear it, but these setbacks are part of the process.
These challenges, these rough spots along the way are where growth happens. This is where you decide to persevere or give up, where you figure out what is important to you or what isn’t. These crossroads are where you figure out who you are and what you are made of. This is where you have the opportunity to become your best self, or not, it’s up to you.
These challenges can be scary, but often the fear we are feeling is a fake out. It’s the brains natural reaction to the unknown. The brain likes the status quo, it likes predictability. When you enter a challenge or come to a crossroad you don’t know what is ahead and your brain tries to alert you to that fact. If you get scared, this is when you have to pause and ask, what happens if I try and succeed versus try and fail? If you think about it, often the worst possible thing that could happen by trying and failing is that you end up a little embarrassed and back where you started. If money is involved, you might end up with a little less than you have today. And the best possible thing? Well, that depends on the goal. I am willing to bet it is something good, or you wouldn’t have set the goal in the first place.
The fact is you have to try. If you try and fail you have at least faced the fear of trying. That may not sound like much but it is. It makes facing the fear next time that much easier. And that in itself is an accomplishment. Giving into the fear and not trying, letting fear win, that gives fear strength. You do not want to give fear strength, you want to give you strength and you gain strength by trying and doing.
I’ve been on all sides of this equation. I’ve tried and succeeded, tried and failed, and not tried at all. The only regrets I have are the ones where I didn’t try. When I went after my goals, I didn’t always know how things were going to work out, but hell or high water I was going for it. If I made a little mess along the way, like when I tanked my credit in college (a story for another day), fine. It didn’t matter to me. All that mattered was reaching my goal. I’d figure it out, I always did. I was often scared, but not trying wasn’t an option I would even consider. When I went after my goals I felt a sense of accomplishment, I learned I could rely on myself, I grew as a person, I built self-confidence. The more I pushed through hard times, the more I grew into a person I actually liked and was happy to be.
As things in my life got easier, more comfortable, as I started feeling like I had things worth losing fear saw an opportunity. Fear reminded me of all I had to lose and I started to give in and not try. I was scared to rock the boat. I would tell myself I was trying by making little gestures of effort, but I wasn’t giving my all. That is what happens when fear is allowed to win. It gets harder to try, harder to get past the setbacks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
What I ultimately realized is that regardless of life’s situations fear is still nothing more than a fake out. Regardless of our situation in life, we have to go after our goals. We need to take risks, we need to face fears, and we need to keep growing. For me, yes, I have more to lose, so the kamikaze approach of my youth as fun and freeing as it was, is no longer the best path forward. But there is still a path, multiple paths, there is never just one. And fear, it goes away when you confront it. The obstacles, the challenges, they may not be easy, but pushing through and finding a way is always worth it. There is only one way to move forward on any path and that is trying. The act of trying is a win in itself, so don’t hold back. Go for it. Recognize when you are at a crossroad, when the hard part is coming, when the distractions are luring you away and pause. Then brace yourself, remind yourself what you want to achieve, and keep pushing forward. Keep trying, that is how you will reach your goals and that is how you grow.