Why Are You Not Working Toward Your Goals? Getting Past The Fear of Failure
It’s the last Sunday in March, in the early afternoon. As I’ve been trying to do since the beginning of 2019, I made sure my weekend was as free of plans and obligations as possible by doing household maintenance, cleaning, laundry and working out during the week after work. I saw friends for a brunch on Saturday morning, then ran my required errands (including that dreaded weekend trip to the grocery store)… so that today, I would have as much time as possible to write.
Unfortunately, that paragraph you just read is the first thing I’ve written today.
And I’ve been awake since before eight this morning.
Is it really about not having enough time?
Balancing my goals and projects with my work schedule has been something I’ve consistently struggled with since I started working full-time almost six years ago. Although I know my time outside of work is limited, I seem to have a natural tendency to use a good portion of the time I DO have unproductively. Drastic measures were necessary, so this year I made the decision to quit watching TV for the entire year 2019.
Although it took a few months to get used to this new reality that doesn’t involve coming home from work to watch TV or spending multiple consecutive hours on the weekend binge-watching Netflix, at this point, I’ve mostly adapted to the lack of TV in my life. I don’t automatically pick up the remote when I feel like I need to relax or when I have time that I don’t know what to do with. Limiting TV has led to positive changes in several aspects of my life: I’ve been getting to the gym more consistently, making more meals at home, and staying on top of my household maintenance since the beginning of 2019.
Unfortunately, none of those positive changes are bringing me closer to my blog, brand or business goals.
Now that I have time, why am I still not using it toward my goals?
Is not having enough time actually an excuse?
I should probably be writing my monthly review posts for March right now, since it is the last day of the month. But I felt like this was the post I needed to write first. And this was the question I needed to ask, because this is the question that has been in the back of my mind for the past few weeks:
Am I afraid to try?
I’ve been able to use my lack of time as an excuse for why I’m not working toward my goals these past few years, and it has been a largely valid excuse. However, the new full-time job I started at the beginning of 2019 allows me to work from home a few days each week... freeing up a considerable amount of time I would have previously had to spend getting dressed and ready for work and sitting in traffic to and from work. This newly available time, coupled with the time I’ve carved out by eliminating TV from my schedule, pretty much invalidates the excuse that I don’t have enough time.
Which means that there is something else going on here.
Something that has been preventing me from using the time I’ve been able to free up towards my goals.
And I have a theory on what that something might be:
If I devote 100% of my time and energy toward my goals, but then I fail... there won’t be any excuses that I can make.
It will just be me, failing, with no one else and nothing else to blame.
And that, my friends, is scary.
Pushing past the fear
What if the reason you and I are not working towards our goals is fear? What do we do to combat that?
I write a LOT of content that never gets seen by anyone except the trash can icon on my computer. Sometimes, it takes three or four versions of a post before I get a collection of thoughts ready to publish. Sometimes, my writing flows so easily that I barely need to edit it at all.
One thing I have noticed over these past few years of writing and blogging is that the more writing I do, even if I’m just writing for my trash can, the more days I have where the writing just flows.
The more you push through that wall of fear, the easier it becomes to keep doing it... and the better you get at doing it.
Practice may not make perfect, but it does help to make pushing past fear easier over time. But how do you get started that first time? When the wall of fear seems insurmountable?
Why is it worth it to deal with the multiple drafts headed for your trash can, and the possible negative feedback when you put your voice out there, and the possibility of utter and complete failure with no excuses, no one and nothing to blame that failure on?
Why should you and I put ourselves through this anyway?
Why the fear is worth pushing past
Because although it may not feel like it at the time, there is a scarier option than failing.
Trying is hard: that is what this entire post has been about. No one is discounting the difficulty inherent in putting yourself out there, in establishing your voice, or in building the business, brand or lifestyle you want to create for yourself. It’s going to take not only time and prioritization, but also mental and emotional energy, to get yourself moving in the direction of your goals... and to keep yourself moving in that direction over the long term.
It’s easy to forget to think about the bigger picture when the day-to-day of pursuing your goals is difficult. And pursuing your goals probably will be difficult, at least part of the time.
But there is a bigger, scarier risk than trying and failing that is worth keeping in mind when the going gets tough.
The biggest risk
It is true that if you never try, you’ll never fail.
But you’ll also never succeed.
You won’t even have the option to succeed.
And THAT is the risk I have to remind myself exists on a daily basis, when I'm doing everything under the sun to avoid working toward my own goals.
There’s only one option for success here: dropping these excuses and getting to work.
Risking failure, to avoid a bigger risk.
Because the biggest risk of all is never working toward what you want.
So let’s get going.
If keeping fear in perspective is also something you struggle with, or you have thoughts on combating fear of going after big goals, please reach out in the comments – I'd love to hear from you.