Fear is the biggest reason we don’t do what we want to do. It is an unwelcome visitor that keeps us busy. Fear hinders us from seeing how much we can actually do.

And it’s your best excuse for putting off your dreams. What if I don’t make enough money, don’t get that new job I want so badly….., or if I’m not good enough? This is how we have countless “good” conversations with ourselves. That takes up a lot of your time and mental space. And you need both of those things to be able to Pursuing dreams and making them come true! Where does this fear come from and how do you address it.

Good excuses as balm for your ego

The irony is that the things we strive for and want most also carry the most risk. Because the outcome is important to our self-esteem, it directly touches the domain of our vulnerability. Just by thinking about how much you want something, you can immediately see the loss if it is not achieved. The pain of that loss makes us vulnerable and immediately we jump into time-honored excuses. Fear is a phenomenon I know all too well myself. Only I don’t call it fear, I put a twist on it so it sounds a little better. Such as:

‘Suppose I launch this project, will they (who??!!) appreciate it (what??!!), maybe I should think about it a little longer and work it out better’

Sounds very real, but in essence it comes down to the same thing. The fear is wrapped in a nice excuse. You may recognize these “excuses”, you want X but you can’t do it until you complete condition Y, they sound like this:

‘I do want to get promoted, but I won’t be able to until I complete that extra training’

‘I would like to spend more time with my partner, children or friends, but that will only be possible once I have completed my project’

Dent in your ego

These excuses, find their roots in a deeper layer. Fear of ego loss. It starts with fear of being successful and those fear feelings are very real. After that, the ego immediately comes around the corner. If you do persevere and you turn out to be successful, you also have to admit that all the excuses you made leading were wrong. And admitting your mistake is a dent to the ego. Thus, fear acts as a lightning rod for any future damaged ego. The ego has been saved, the fear turned into a good excuse, and your situation has not changed one bit.

100% ready to be successful

You know what you want to achieve or who you would like to be with but something is still missing, the certainty that it will work. The truth is that you can never be 100% ready. The perfect conditions do not exist and you have no control over the outcome. You have control only over your intentions and your efforts.

Back to that coveted promotion. It is a few levels higher than your current position. You come up with excuses why you probably don’t stand a chance. Other candidates are likely to be better qualified and more experienced. And a vicious voice in the background also whispers that your ego will take a dent if others know you applied and were rejected. Fear of failure holds you back. You don’t get the promotion. Not because you didn’t want to, nor because you weren’t the best candidate, but simply because you gave your fear so much power that you didn’t even apply in the first place. What a missed opportunity!

Our greatest fear is not that we are imperfect. Our greatest fear is that we are moderately powerful. It is our light, not our shadow that most frightens us.
Nelson Mandela

Scientific evidence for positive thinking

Instead of focusing on all the elements of why you are not the perfect candidate, you could have spent all that time and attention on what you already are. You could have saved yourself a lot of worry and anxiety. In addition, seeing and recognizing what you can already do and where you can add value gives energy.

Positive thoughts change the structure of the brain. So states Norman Doidge M.D in his book The Brain That Changes Itself. You can break new ground just by changing your thoughts. Just as exercise gradually changes the body, positive “brain workouts” can actually change the structure of your brain to disrupt negative thinking patterns.

Perhaps one of the more surprising positive facts is that the power of positive thinking can make you better at your job. Optimism causes you to increase your skills and start using more of what you already have. American professor and psychologist Barbara Frederickson, calls this the “Broaden and Build” theory. In addition to becoming more proficient at your job, you also become more receptive to new information. Having positive thoughts, broaden your sense of what is possible which actually allows you to learn more.

From fear of failure to chasing successes

How open-minded are you to move from fear to success? With small steps you already achieve greatest results. Where the power is in the repetition. Great benefit, your stress level will drop significantly and your enjoyment of what you do will increase correspondingly. The following are a few tools you can use to transform thinking from fear to thinking from possibility. Good luck!


Thinking from Fear Thinking from positive thoughts
I’ve never done it before It is an opportunity to learn something new
It is too complicated I can approach it from a different angle
I don’t have the resources If I really need this, I’ll find a way to get it
I’m too busy to do this It doesn’t fit into my schedule, let me rethink my priorities
It’s never going to work I can try how far I can get
This is too radical a change Let’s see what it can bring
No one bothers to inquire with me I’ll see where I can get some information
I will not get better at this I will try again


Want to know more about personal leadership? Watch: The Leader in You!