How often do you feel like you are your own worst enemy? You frequently may find that what stands between you and the life of your dreams is… you. I have been a psychologist in Los Angeles for over three decades, and I’ve designed several strategies that can help you to get over the fears and resistance that keep you from living a life you will love. But, first, I want to explain why you feel this fear and resistance in the first place.
Fear drives all of our decisions. It’s a biological fact, and it comes from evolution. If human beings weren’t a fearful species, we wouldn’t have survived for long in a world where many other creatures were bigger and stronger than us. We were afraid, so we were careful, and we survived. Fear also kept us in communities. We were afraid of being cast out of the tribe — and thus starving to death — so we learned to behave in a way that made others like us and want us around.
Fear-driven motivation worked well over thousands of years of human evolution. The first step toward breaking free from these fears is to thank your early-human ancestors and recognize that the voice in your head that’s telling you to stop, slow down, and be rational comes from their reality, not yours.
As soon as you formulate a vision for what you would love, that fearful voice starts questioning its validity, and your authority and ability to pursue it. That voice is trying to keep you safe. Thank it, then set it aside to refocus on your vision.
Remember: the real purpose of life is to truly live.
Dismissing that warning voice won’t come easily. Choosing your heart’s desire over fears and insecurities may be a daily struggle. But moment by moment, day after day, choosing your dreams over your fears is the most important choice you will ever make.
You must allow yourself to feel all of your feelings. Denying that you’re afraid won’t do any good; instead, you will be helpless to make a change. Acknowledging “what is” will help you take the power out of self-doubt. Then you can move forward by trying these five strategies to help you combat the fear and resistance holding you back:
1. Start Right Now
“There is no time like the present” becomes truer the older you get. Every moment is a potential starting point to create the change you want in your life. Knowing you’re finally on the path will feel exhilarating and will help drive you farther forward. Start now by taking one small step toward your goal. That small step can be number 2, below.
2. Create a Workable Plan
Break your goal down into manageable steps. If your dream doesn’t seem “realistic,” it may be because you’re trying to do too much all at once. Even “unrealistic” goals can be achieved if done one small step at a time. Find a quiet moment to sit down and write out a plan to achieve your dream, one step at a time. If it still seems unworkable, break down each step further.
3. Be Flexible
Even when you’re working on a project of your own choosing, it can sometimes feel like you’re being forced to do something you don’t want to do. This is when procrastination can happen. It’s your counterwill — your instinctive resistance to being told what to do — at work. To overcome your counterwill, build some flexibility into your plan. If you’ve always wanted to write a book, for example, give yourself flexibility about what time of day or where you write, or what order you write chapters in.
4. Be Proactive and Resourceful
Part of being a good steward to your life and your dreams is anticipating your needs. Educate yourself about the challenges you may come up against as you work toward achieving your goal. Then build a structure that will help you overcome these challenges. If money is a challenge, for instance, don’t push off dealing with it. Be proactive about it. This may require some creativity and persistence.
5. Let Go of Notions of Success and Failure
Stressing out about your progress or worrying what others think detracts from your focus on what you love. You can experience life only one moment at a time, and, by living fully according to your heart, you cannot fail, no matter the outcome, because you are living a life you love.
Whether your goal is to write a novel, build a home, or travel around the world, you can make your dream real once you overcome the fears and resistance holding you back. Afraid to start? If you read this article, you just did.
Andrea Brandt, PhD, MFT, has over 35 years of clinical experience as a renowned psychotherapist, speaker, and author. In her work, Dr. Brandt reveals positive paths to emotional health that teach you how to reinvent and empower yourself. She emphasizes the mind-body-heart connection as a key to mental, physical, and emotional wellness.