Dale Carnegie, American writer and author of the celebrated novel How to Win Friends and Influence People, once said:
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
While easier said than done, it’s true that acting on our goals and dreams is what helps us grow into the people we are meant to be, people who are confident in their abilities and contributions in life.
But the space between inaction and action can be a scary place. You may want to go out and act but there’s something holding you back from taking that first step.
Giving up that something that’s holding you back can be one of the most important things you do for yourself in this life. Let’s talk about some ways to help you overcome those limitations and find the courage to act.
Why You Need to Give up What’s Holding you Back
Before we go into the “how,” let’s talk about the why. Why is it so important to give up what’s holding you back?
In the words of Indira Gandhi,
“Every new experience brings its own maturity and a greater clarity of vision.”
If you’re reading this article, I can imagine you feel passionate about growth and improvement—otherwise you wouldn’t be here on my side of the Internet. So you probably know the only way to learn and grow is by trying new things and taking on new challenges.
Do you remember the first time you got behind the wheel of a car or rode a bike?
The first time you put your foot on the gas or began to swiftly peddle your feet—it’s both unbelievably exhilarating and a little bit terrifying—because you’ve never experienced anything quite like it before.
For many, learning to drive and/or ride a bike is a necessity as they get older and begin taking on more responsibilities in life. It allows us to work and travel and see what sits beyond our own neighborhoods.
When we learn these new skills, our worlds begin to expand and we get to enjoy the freedom to explore well beyond our own backyards.
If you don’t take the opportunity to learn something new, you end up missing out on all of the beautiful experiences that come along with it.
How to Give Up What’s Holding You Back
As mentioned earlier, the space between inaction and action can be a scary place. It’s where we like to think about all the things that could go wrong, or all the reasons why we shouldn’t open ourselves up to new experiences.
Before you give up what’s holding you back, you have to identify what, exactly, it is holding you back. Is it perfectionism or unrealistic expectations? Are you holding on to someone else’s dream or living by their standards instead of your own? Are you unwilling to get out of your comfort zone because of something negative that happened in your past?
At the root of most of these issues is actually fear. Perfectionism is rooted in a fear of failure. Following someone else’s dream may be protecting you from the fear of causing disappointment in someone else. Refusing to try new things may be driven by a fear of getting hurt or being embarrassed, or a fear of the unknown.
No matter what type of fear is holding you back, there are some important steps you can take to help acknowledge and release that fear so you can continue to move forward.
(a) Ask Yourself: What am I Being Held Back From?
Now that you’ve identified what it is that’s holding you back, it’s time to identify what exactly it’s holding you back from. Is it a career change or perhaps launching your own business? Could it be picking up a new hobby or starting a new relationship?
Whatever it is, there’s something on your mind that won’t go away no matter how much you may want it to. Try engaging with those ideas instead of writing them off or thinking of all the ways it won’t work out before you even try. Really consider what positive things could happen as a result of this new venture or experience.
Changing careers or starting a business could give you the freedom to do something you love. It could help you leave a toxic work environment. Picking up a new hobby, like going to an improv comedy class or taking singing lessons, could help you relieve stress, make new friends, and learn to take life a little less seriously—all of which can positively impact your quality of life.
Identifying the “why” behind what you want paints a clearer picture of what’s possible if you were to go after it, even if you’re afraid. And it reminds you that there are good things waiting for you on the other side of your fear.
(b) Ask Yourself: What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
“What’s the worst that could happen?” might sound like an unproductive exercise, only leading deeper down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts.
However, sometimes asking yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” can actually show you how little there is to actually be afraid of.
What’s the worst that could happen if you took an improv comedy class? You tell a joke and no one laughs or people spend more time laughing at you than with you.
Well, then you decide whether or not you want to go back a second time. Perhaps your ego is bruised for a few days. After a week, it becomes a funny story to tell your friends and family at parties.
Maybe you’re considering asking someone out on a date. What’s the worst that could happen? They say no. Even worse? They say no rudely. Either way, you’re left with a few uncomfortable moments of rejection. Again, maybe your ego is bruised for a few days, but at least you now know where you stand and can make space for someone who reciprocates those romantic feelings.
Try putting a more positive spin on “What’s the worst that could happen?” to remind yourself, and your brain, that there’s really nothing to be afraid of.
(c) Engage in a Cost-Benefit Analysis
A cost-benefit analysis is a process businesses take to assess the value of a decision based on total cost and overall reward of a particular recommendation. The analysis helps analysts decide whether or not the benefit is worth the price.
If you’re looking to start an actual business, as I mentioned earlier, you can probably use this method in a literal “dollars and cents” kind of way. But even if you’re not dealing with money, the concept of cost-benefit analysis is worth exploring.
Let’s take the date example. We ask, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Well, the person you ask out could say no. That is a potential risk that could cost you some confidence. But what if they say yes? What if this person turns out to be someone you deeply love, and they end up loving you back? Are a few moments of discomfort and embarrassment worth the potential of falling in love?
These kinds of cost-benefit analyses can help you pit potential risks against potential rewards and show you that it’s more valuable to take action on things you care about.
- What’s holding you back
- What you really want and why
- The worst that can happen if you decide to go for it
- The potential costs and benefits of being brave and putting yourself out there
I hope these tips inspire you to stay open to new experiences, even when you’re afraid. New experiences invite opportunities for a richer, more meaningful life. Even when the outcome isn’t what you wanted or expected, it’s the things you learn along the way that really count.
So don’t be afraid to go after what you want and see what happens! Or in the words of Dale Carnegie,
“Go out and get busy.”