Unfinished projects and abandoned goals are a major source of frustration and unhealthy stress. Every time you see evidence of something you wanted to finish but didn’t complete, you are reminded of a broken promise that was made to yourself or someone else. If this happens too often, you start to lose faith in your ability to do what needs to be done; and the people you’re trying to engage, influence and encourage start to lose faith in you.
It’s easy to be passionate about a project at the beginning. Most people are excited about setting and achieving worthy goals, but we all know the setting requires much less effort than the achieving. As a result, when times get tough–as they always do–and our plan does not seem to be working, we will either spend our time creating “good excuses” or we will create a sense or urgency to do whatever it takes to ethically accomplish our objective.
Excuses justify, at least in our mind, why we need to be released from an obligation or duty. We feel better, in the short term, after we identify a legitimate reason why we can’t accomplish our objective or complete a project on time. Even if other people don’t accept our point of view, we feel a temporary relief because we have found evidence to support our opinion. Unfortunately, our relief soon turns to regret because we know we were capable of doing better.
If you want to eliminate the option of making excuses when things don’t turn out as expected and encourage those you lead to do the same, you’ll have to confront your fear of failure. Fear makes us a prisoner of our comfort zone and prevents us from taking the positive actions required to turn defeat into victory.
I’m not suggesting you attempt to live without fear. I think that would be foolish. Fear is a gift that keeps us safe from life-threatening situations. I am recommending you learn to transform your fear into the ability to take positive action every day.
Responding positively when faced with fear requires discernment and courage. First we have to decide if the thing we fear has the power to destroy us. Fortunately, with rare exceptions, our life is not in danger when we are afraid. Failing to reach a challenging goal or not completing a project on time might destroy our ego but not our life. So the next time you feel fear, ask yourself…”What am I afraid of at this moment?” The next question to ask is…”What am I capable of doing now?”
Fear is really the foundation of our success and failure. It can paralyze us into doing nothing constructive and rationalizing our lack of action with a good excuse or it can be the source of courage, creativity and positive progress.
As Thomas Edison once said, “If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” However, to do what we are capable of doing, we have to be committed to finishing what we start. Nothing great would ever be accomplished if leaders quit when faced with adversity.
I don’t know what your goals are or what challenges you’re facing today, but I do know if you want to achieve something important, keep fighting for it. Don’t be tempted by the thought of giving up. The greatest regrets in our life were not created by failing to reach a goal but rather quitting when times were tough. Keep moving forward toward the finish line by focusing on what you can control. Just do what you know you are capable of doing every day, in spite of the fears you feel, and your results will be remarkable.
When you and I develop the habit of dealing with fear in a more positive way and learn to use our fear as motivation to complete our goals and projects successfully, our co-workers, clients, family members and friends will be inspired to do the same thing.
What “scary” goal or project do you want to finish? How can you use your fear as fuel to make progress on that objective today?
Let’s Get Better. Together! Bill Durkin