“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” – Henry Ford
You may be familiar with Henry Ford’s quote about remaining focused on your goals and refusing to allow obstacles to detour you. What I love about this quote is how he acknowledges “those frightful things” we see when we look around us. We’ve all experienced it: a spirit of fear that comes upon us just when we’re starting to reach higher. So as we contemplate our goals, dreams, and resolutions for the year, let’s take a moment to recognize the two most common fears hiding behind the obstacles that can run us off the road:
Fear of Success
The fear of success isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when reaching for your dreams. But sometimes, taking hold of a dream can bring up a tiny voice that tempts us to fear how life might change. When that new venture takes off, how will it impact the time you have with your family? When you make the transition into that new industry or start that church plant, what will people think or say about you? Any change, be it your job, the dynamics in your marriage, or the way you lead your staff, will include loss. The loss of what is. The now. The loss of what is known. Sometimes the fear of success has to do with letting go of what’s comfortable now for what will be unfamiliar then. A small anxious part of you wants to take a step back, rather than a leap forward. Which leads us to the classic ..
Fear of Failure
This one is pretty well known and worn well, like a familiar and comfy pair of jeans. I remember the very first group I facilitated. Will they be able to see that I’m nervous? What if the other facilitators are all better than me? But that’s how it is with fear, the more we feed it, the more it grows. Until that distraction becomes attractive enough until we veer off into avoidance, or busy-ness, so that we don’t have to do the hard work of achieving our dreams.
What to Do About It
Before we jump to trying to “fix” our fear, take a moment to decide why the spirit of fear is upon you. Are you afraid you are doing something outside of God’s teaching or his plan for your life? Then, your fear may be there as correction. Put your plan, and fears, to the test with your community, a trusted friend or mentor. When I was offered the opportunity to perform in a band after college, I was afraid. A lifestyle in bars late at night, traveling to places and persons unknown, was simply not what God wanted for my life and my faith journey. My path needed to be more straight and narrow. God gave me the fear, and the courage, to step away from a dream.
But, if you know in your heart that your goal is aligned with God’s plan for your life and his kingdom here on earth, then be assured that the spirit of fear is meant to hold you back. As a famous preacher once said, “New Level, New Devil.” The devil doesn’t go after the souls he’s already won. He goes after the minds, lives, and relationships of those who are living for the Holy One. Just look at the fear that surrounded Christ coming into the world. The angel told Mary, “do not be afraid, you have found favor with the Lord.” Then, the Lord had to convince Joseph not to be afraid to bring Mary into his home. The angels had to quiet the fears of the shepherds because God needed them as witnesses. I imagine fear is not the emotion we think of as we reflect on this past Christmas season. But that is what was going on in the hearts and minds of some of the most important figures in salvation history. Later, Jesus actually calls Peter out, “Devil, get behind me” when Peter expresses his fear that the Lord must suffer.
I don’t believe that scripture is telling us not to feel fear. God knows that we are going to experience fear when we are building his kingdom, both within ourselves and in our jobs, churches, and families. I believe scripture is telling us not to act on that fear. Don’t run away. Don’t stop trying. Simply, don’t listen to it. Do it afraid. That is what we call courage. If you’re not afraid, then it doesn’t take bravery. Or faith.
So, how do we address our fear before it becomes a road block? Try these simple guidelines:
- Increase your peace. In whatever ways that work for you, seek peace, as strength to work through the fear. Have a difficult meeting in the morning? Do something that brings you peace first. Pray, meditate on scripture, or connect with others.
- Redirect your mind. Do you start to have fearful thoughts every time you try to work your action plan? Have an affirmation, scripture verse, or beautiful image to distract your mind away from the fear. Whatever is pure, lovely, admirable – think on these things (Phil 4:8). Do something that allows you to actively redirect your thoughts.
- Reward yourself. What is your favorite part of your job? Of your day? Make it your reward for doing the thing you fear. Don’t’ allow yourself to do that task (or have your favorite latte) until you take one step toward your goals. Afraid of cold calling but love doing market research? No web browsing for you until you make 3 cold calls. And guess what happens .. you start feeling proud for meeting your goals and earning your rewards, and you get to celebrate the good!
We all know goals come to life with action items that are measurable, specific, and limited by time. That’s so the fear can’t get ahold of you. To keep your eyes on the road ahead. And so I close with offering one way to chart your progress:
Success is to be measured not so much by the position one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. – Booker T. Washington
Michele Fleming, Ph.D. is a UL facilitator, speaker, writer, and executive coach. You can find out more at drmichelefleming.com