By Dr. Cindy McGovern
You dream big. You dream of success, love, luxury. You dream about how you can give back. You dream about the job you hope to land someday.
But dreams are just dreams until you take some action to make them come true.
That action might be a plan. A good, solid plan—no matter what it’s for—is the best way to guarantee that you will get done what needs to get done if you are ever going to live your dream.
The biggest stumbling block people tend to have when it comes to making a plan that will lead them to pursue their dreams is not a lack of time or know-how or desire.
What are you afraid of?
Believe it or not, that’s a pretty hard question to answer. So let me ask you an easier one: Which of your dreams have you put on the back burner because you just can’t bring yourself to take the first step toward achieving it?
If you can answer that, then answer this: Why can’t you bring yourself to get started?
It’s fear of failure. Fear of what others will think. Fear of missing out. Fear that it won’t turn out how you hoped. Fear that you won’t be good enough.
And, in way too many cases, it’s actually a fear of success.
People fear success because they’re not sure they’ll be able to live up to it once they get it.
But they will be able to—if they have a plan.
Fear puts blinders on you. The fact is that every choice you make—hard ones and easy ones—has both an upside and a downside. If you quit your job for a better one, you could make more money, meet some great people, enjoy the work more and put yourself in line for even better things. But you might not like the new job as well as the old one; you might not fit in; you might not do well. It might be too difficult.
Even when we can put as many “pros” as “cons” on our “should I or shouldn’t I” list, we tend to look only at the downside. That’s fear. It makes us blind to the possibility that something could be awesome.
Fear is like a lock on the door that leads to the unknown. It prevents us from trying anything new or unfamiliar. It keeps us in a place, where we’re comfortable. Fear won’t let us act on our instincts. It keeps us stuck. It keeps us safe.
Is “stuck” what you’re going for in life?
Want to get unstuck? Make a plan.
Choose just one change you’d like to make in your life or one dream you would like to pursue. Then, schedule an appointment with yourself to think about every single thing you would need to do to make this change and to make it well.
Write all of that down. Consider many scenarios. Think about the pros and the cons. List the people who can help you get what you want. Create a realistic timeline for accomplishing your goal.
And then, from your plan, choose just one small step you can take today that will get you an inch or two closer to your goal. Choose something that’s not scary, like filling out an application, asking a former teacher for a recommendation or doing an hour’s worth of internet research.
Even if you’re scared to death, try it. Do something small. One tiny step is unlikely to result in the kind of failure that you fear.
Now that you’re an inch or two closer, choose a second small step and execute that. Then a third and a fourth. Before you know it, you will have done what you need to do to put the wheels in motion for reaching your goal.
Take one baby step after the other. Along the way, face your fears head-on. List them, and then write a sentence for each one that describes how you will overcome it.
For example, if you’re afraid that you’ll make the wrong choice and that you’ll miss out on whatever you leave behind, make a list of what you actually will miss out on. For each item on the new list, write how you can either get that from your new situation or keep it in your life even though you’ve left your old job, apartment, relationship, city—or whatever you want to change.
In other words, beat your fear by getting rid of the unknowns. Think about every possibility. Plan for how you will handle each of those scenarios. Then, you’re less likely to face something unexpected or something you can’t handle.
You’ve planned for it. Your plan has made you ready.
One more tip: Instead of giving your fear the power to allow you to look at only the potential negatives of a change, ask yourself, “What’s the absolute worst thing that can happen?” Chances are when you actually write the answer down, you will find that it’s not nearly as bad as you thought it would be.
It hardly ever is.
Dr. Cindy McGovern, known as the “First Lady of Sales,” speaks and consults internationally on sales, interpersonal communication and leadership. She is the author of Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work. Dr. Cindy is the CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, a sales management and consulting firm. For more information, please visit, www.drcindy.com and connect with her on Twitter @1stladyofsales and on LinkedIn.