How to Achieve Your Goals when You’re Quaking with Fear

Our popular contributor Kara-Leah writes about all kinds of things, from home practice and parenting to the etiquettes of yoga class and the ethics of yoga. One of her specialities is the psychology of achieving dreams. It’s something she knows about intimately, from the inside out. 

by Kara-Leah Grant  

You’ve finally done it – you’ve committed to that big dream of yours even though you’re shaking with fear right down into the tips of your boots.

Yes, you’ve taken that big, bold step that shifts your dream from being something inside your head, to something that other people can see.

Maybe you’re even a good way towards making that dream of yours an actual reality out there in the big wide world.

Maybe you finally pitching an article to a national magazine, or entered in your first marathon, or recorded your first single, or signed up for yoga teacher training. It’s done. Now you have to wait. And while you’re waiting…

The mind chatter starts.

Whispered thoughts of doubt. Lingering feelings of fear. Dread at the bottom of the belly.

Before you know it, the mind chatter has turned into a mind cacophony and you can’t hear anything at all except the voices of Doubt, Fear and Dread.

You’re not good enough. Your writing sucks. Your music is boring. You’ll run so slow the officials will be all packed up by the time you make it home. You can’t even touch your toes, who are you to teach yoga? Who are you to even try? The world doesn’t need more mediocre offerings of crap.

All you want to do is cancel, pull out, quit, and hide. The thoughts are loud, the feelings are awful, and everything is terrible.

I know this place. I know it all too well. And I know that it is a lie. It’s always a lie. So I’m here to talk you through how to deal with…

A Crisis in Confidence.

That was #1. Name it.

As soon as the thoughts and the feelings start arising and you notice that you’re falling into the pit of dread and the sloth of fear… Name it! Say out loud;

This is a crisis of confidence.

Naming something is powerful. There’s a reason that fairytale characters never ever gave away their true names. When you name something, you have power over it, because you can see it for what it truly is. So name it, straight away.

I am having a crisis of confidence.

Excellent, now you’re on your way to dealing with your crisis of confidence, rather than succumbing to it.

#2. Get out of your head

Crucial, because it’s your head that’s spinning all those damn stories about how you’re not good enough and you suck. Heads know nothing. It’s the heart that knows, and the body. That’s where you need to be. So do whatever it is that you do when you need to make a trip out of your head and into your heart and body.

Maybe you run. Maybe you dance. Maybe you swim. Maybe you practice yoga. Maybe you have sex. Whatever. Just do it.

And do it with presence. That is, if you’re running and all your head is doing is freaking out about how much you suck… stop! Come back to your breath, and come back to the sound of your feet on the ground, and come back to the only place that really exists which is Now. Right now.

#3 Cultivate presence

This is where your yoga and/or meditation practice is so important. It’s a tool to use in times just like this. Once you name what’s happening;

Oh I’m having a crisis in confidence

You know what you need to do.

I need to get out of my head and I need to practice… being present. Get thee to a yoga class, go on a meditation retreat, do whatever it is you do when you practice. And again, when the mind throws up the same old stories about you not being good enough, kindly and firmly say:

Thank you for our opinion. However I happen to believe something else.

And go back to your breath and your yoga and your meditation and being present as you find your way back down into your heart again.

#4 Journal it all out. (Or sing it, paint it, cook it, crochet it…)

We all have a means of self expression that helps us work through the on-going dross of the mind while connecting to our true self. Do that. If it’s writing, it sometimes helps to give the doubt, fear and dread a voice on the page. To write it all out so you can see exactly what it is that’s bugging you so bad. The purpose here is to be with your experience, while connecting to the true self.

Getting the thoughts and feelings out of the Self and on to the page, canvas, stove top, knitware shifts it out of our being. There’s magic in this.

#5 Write out a list of all the things you’ve ever done well in your life. Everything.

Go on, I dare you. Start writing out all the things you’ve done well in your life. Write down all the reasons you’re an awesome person. Write down all the ways you’ve added value to other people’s lives. Write done all the times you’ve made people laugh and made people smile. Write down the names of all the people who love you.

After awhile, this gets so silly, you start to laugh. And if you haven’t got there yet, keep writing. If you’re struggling to come up with things to write, make it small and silly. If you’re thinking this is a stupid think to do, get over yourself and start already.

The biggest difficulty people have with this task is even doing it. They don’t want to… because as soon as you start writing… you’ll know you’ll never stop. There’s always more to add. And there’s a part of us that wants to stay stuck, and stay in fear, and stay in doubt and that’s the part of us that doesn’t want to do silly writing exercises like this. Because they work.

#6. Call a near & dear friend who you can trust to respond with kindness, compassion and love

It’s really important you call the right person, so if you have any doubts about who to call, don’t. And work on cultivating just the right friend for this very important task.

Call your friend and say:

I’m having a crisis of confidence about chasing my dream and I need you to remind me of why it’s so important I follow through on this.

Notice how specific your request is. You don’t want a friend who will feed into your doubts, fears and dread. You want a friend who can tell you straight up that you’re doing the right thing, and the world does need your expression of Self, and even if what you do isn’t excellent, it will only get better and better and better.

If your friend is a great listener, even better. They may be skilled enough to listen to your doubts, fears and dread and point out the obvious delusions that you’re having. Because that’s the thing about the thoughts inside our heads that drive us crazy, they’re mostly delusions based on the past that have nothing to do with who we are and what’s going on in our lives right now.

Plus ask your friend what makes you so great…. and notice how many of the things they say you’ve already written on your list from #5. You do great things. And other people know you do great things. So it’s time to get on with your Big Dream.

#7 Get clear on why you doing what you’re doing and why it matters to you

See, doubt, fear and dread can be excellent guides. They can point towards a lack of internal clarity that’s muddying your actions.

Maybe you’re signed up for a local talent agency, and you’re freaking out about your first big audition. Some self-inquiry (perhaps with that wonderful friend from #6) reveals that the reason you’ve signed up to the talent agency is not because you love to act, but because you want to be famous.

In this case, the thoughts and feelings help guide you towards your own deeper truth so you can take clear action.

So look at what you’re doing, and ask yourself why. Write down the first answer that comes up. And the second. And the third. And the tenth, eleventh and twelfth.

Keep asking why and keeping writing faster and faster until you’ve got at least twenty reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing. Now read back over the list. Notice if the last reasons are different from the first reasons. Writing down the answer to the same question over and over again is a way of getting past your internal censor and finding out why you’re really doing something.

Now do the same thing but ask why it matters to you. Why is it important to do this?

Often we think we’re doing something so we can be “successful”, whatever that means. But when we question into ourselves, we discover that there are reasons other than success that make it important to do this… and what this does is help us to realise that whether we’re “successful” or not doesn’t actually matter. It helps us to let go of results and focus on process.

#8 Using the clarity you’ve gained from #7, write out an intention

Oh the intention.. much maligned and ill-used as a result of The Secret. Forget what you think you know about intentions. Here’s the real deal.

Focus on the experience you want to have that’s devoid of results.

A results-focused intention would be:

I intend to finish the marathon in less than 7 hours

An experience-focused intention would be:

I run a strong race, always playing on my edge and bringing myself back into the zone whenever my mind wanders.

Notice the difference? One is something that is achieved, and is outside of the Self. The other is something that is experienced and is inside the Self. In the second, how fast you run the race is irrelevant, what’s important is your mastery of self during the race. And that’s all that’s ever important. Mastery of Self.

Take that intention and do something with it. Make it into a screensaver. Write it on your mirror. Turn it into a bookmark. Whatever, but any time those thoughts and feelings of doubt, fear and dread surface, say your intention out loud.

#9 Put together a game plan

Now you’ve done some serious work – you’ve got clear on why it is you’re doing what you’re doing, and you’ve figured out why it matters to you. You’ve written down an experience-focused intention. Now you need some concrete steps. Take a piece of paper and divide it into three columns. Today. This Week. This Month. Start writing down what you’re going to do to create your experience.

Three items in each column, on one line. That’s today you see. Make ’em do-able. Maybe you run two kilometres today. Maybe you read up on nutrition for marathoners. Maybe you get a book out of the library on famous runners. Three things you can do today. And then do them.

Tomorrow, look at what’s on your This Week list. Write down three things to do today. Maybe one of those This Week things. If you do a This Week action, add another This Week action.

You always want to keep three actions in each column. And each day, you want to cross off three actions. Each week, cross off three actions, each month, cross off three actions. You’ll be so busy doing things those doubts, fears and dread won’t have time to surface.

#10. Enjoy living your Dream

That’s it – enjoy living your dream. Because I guarantee, if you do #1 – #9 whole-heartedly and take action every single day toward your dream, you will one day be Living Your Dream.

Crisis In Confidence, dealt to.


PS. I wrote this article when I was having a crisis in confidence about writing my first book. I wrote this article as a way to talk myself through the process and deal with the crisis – and I took my own advice. The result? Within six months I had successfully published my first book, Forty Days of Yoga.


About Kara-Leah

Kara-Leah is a writer and yoga teacher who has always been infinitely curious about the make-up of the human psyche and body. Regular yoga helped her heal and recover from chronic back issues, including a spinal fusion at age 16, and two episodes of psychosis at age 29. 

Her daily home yoga practice began in earnest when people kept asking her to teach them yoga.  She’s since trained as a teacher with Shiva Rea, and immersed herself in practicing, teaching yoga and writing about yoga. Kara-Leah lives just outside of Queenstown, New Zealand with her son Samuel. 

She’s the publisher of The Yoga Lunchbox and published her first book, Forty Days of Yoga – Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice in 2013. Her second book, The No-More-Excuses Guide to Yogahas just been releasedShe’s also a regular contributor to the Elephant Journal

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1 reply
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