01/21/2015 05:25 EST | Updated 03/23/2015 05:59 EDT

5 Ways to Get Past Your Bogeyman and on With Your Dreams


What's Stopping You?

You really, really want to quit your job, go live in Paris, take up belly dancing, dye your hair pink, or jump out of an airplane (with a parachute). But you can't because...

Whatever you've been dreaming of but not actually doing, chances are you've got some really solid reasons why. Which would be fine if they were actually true.

But our perceived risks and other obstacles to action are morphing geniuses; although the biggest ones usually come down to fear, we often dress them up as logistic problems in order not to have to face our demons. No time, no money, too many obligations we can't possibly alter. It's way easier to believe those things are stopping us than to admit we're just too darned scared.

Lurking fears

Fear is often deeply irrational but that doesn't mean it's not real. Trying to ignore it only sends it under the bed, where it can leap out when we least expect it. Better to look the bogeyman in the eye and deal with him head-on.

Consider the many ways adventures, both large and small, can be scary:

"My loved ones, friends, and even co-workers might think I...

• am dumb or silly;

• have lost my sense of priorities;

• have lost my mind altogether; or

• am being selfish at their expense."

Conclusion: "They might therefore reject me and withdraw all love."

Or this angle: "I might...

• lose money;

• lose my ability to make money;

• lose important possessions or status."

Conclusion: "I might therefore be out on the street with all my belongings in a single plastic bag."

Are those conclusions ridiculously extreme, or are they the true bogeyman lurking beneath our anxieties? Most of the individual points on those lists aren't biggies in themselves. Who hasn't been silly after a bit too much wine at a party? Or been momentarily selfish? Or lost some money or status at some point? What we really fear is the conclusion: what could happen as a result.

A Bogeyman Vanquishing Toolkit

Fortunately, there are ways to fix this problem. When I talk with people about their acts of daring-do, I find that they consistently use the same tools for vanquishing fear, regardless of what their adventure is. These are tools anyone can use. You might only need one or two of them to zap your bogeyman out of the way, or you might need every single one.

Tool #1: What's the worst that can happen

This is my absolutely favorite fear-busting tool. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to frighten yourself with extreme catastrophe in order to stop worrying about it, asking this question does two things. First, the extreme is usually not as drastic as we imagined, unless you're doing something life-threatening. Second, once you identify the worst, you can plan for it -- thereby reducing the risk of it ever actually happening.

Tool #2: Find a master

So many successful adventurers have mentioned the presence of a master, it could almost be considered mission-critical. This doesn't mean you need to take lessons from an expert -- although that's one way. You can Google pretty much anything these days to learn how to get the skills or advice you need from people who've been there. Sometimes it's just seeing that someone else like you has managed to do the thing you want to do. Masters are everywhere.

Tool #3: Embrace your victories

It's a strange aspect of womanhood that we seem hardwired to downplay our accomplishments and expertise, but that's what millions of us do. So if you want to feel like you can really pull off that daring thing you want to do, you need to remind yourself of the goodies you're bringing to the party. Remembering your victories reminds you that you've got all kinds of competencies that are going to help make you successful at this new thing you want to try.

Tool #4: Unburden yourself

Very few obstacles are really insurmountable. They might take more time or money than they're worth to you, based on your priorities; they might require too much sacrifice. But those are choices we make, not crosses we are forced to bear.

What are you choosing over your adventure? Maybe you're making the right choice for now. But maybe you've just accepted the status quo for so long you're on auto-pilot with your priorities. Try writing down everything you put before this thing that you're dying to make happen, and you'll astound yourself with how much stuff you let get in the way without even considering the options.

Tool #5: Get a good cheerleader

Maybe you bristle at the well-intentioned zeal of loving friends and family who say things like, "You could so be the next Rembrandt" when you've barely taken up painting classes. If you're like me, you think, "I'll only believe that when I have proof." However, the unbridled enthusiasm of people who care about you helps see you through inevitable moments of self-doubt and fear. They remind you of your strengths when you forget them yourself. They reflect back to you a person who has more courage and ability than you're able to see when you look in the mirror. In the best cases, they acknowledge your doubts and help you find ways around them.

Intention is everything

No, I'm not about to go off on a Buddhist riff. The crazy thing about these tools is that you probably use them all the time already, but unconsciously. It's when you become conscious of them that they gain real power. You apply them with intent, focused on your bogeyman like a laser on a boil, and zap, zap! It might take a few tries, but that bogeyman will be blasted out of your way.


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