It seems these days that “hope” is en vogue. I hear many people talking about how they “hope” to keep their job, “hope” to get more clients, “hope” the economy rebounds, or “hope” they’ll be in a better place in a year or two. Some of these people have crystal clear visions of what it is they hope for while others just have a general idea. But at the very least, they all have something floating out “there” that they want.

I hate to burst your bubble, but “hope” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. While hoping for the best and setting goals is important, if you don’t act, you won’t achieve. It doesn’t matter what you’re striving for. It could be a career change, a PR in the gym, a spot on a team or in a club, a dream vacation, or losing weight. Whatever it is, these things don’t just happen. You have to make them happen!

As much as this may seem like commonsense, most people stay more on the “hope” side than the “achievement” side of the coin for this simple reason—they don’t act! This lack of action can be attributed to one of our most primal emotions, an emotion that holds a tremendous amount of power—fear. Fear can lead us to act in many different ways, many of which are good and necessary for our survival. Unfortunately, however, fear can also lead us in a direction that opposes our goals and ambitions.

When people get stuck before even starting, fear is often the contributing factor. They are afraid to fail, afraid to make a mistake, or afraid they may get ridiculed, made fun of, or tormented by others who don’t understand or appreciate the individual goal. When fear takes the reigns during this stage of the game, people will place roadblocks in the way of their goals, often on a subconscious level, so they don’t even realize they’re doing it. You see examples of this all the time. People will throw out negative statements such as “I don’t have the resources” or “I don’t have the support” or “it’s just not in the cards for a person like me.” By saying and believing in statements like this, an individual can now shift the blame elsewhere when they fall short of their goals.

The best way to break free from this chain—get over it! Realize that you’re in control of your life and stop making excuses. Success in life has less to do with what happens to you and more to do with how you react to it. What do you really have to be afraid of? So what if you fail?! I firmly believe that you can learn more about yourself from one serious failure than a continuous string of successes. So what if you make a mistake?! Last time I checked, nobody is perfect. Even the experts have had their fair share of trials and tribulations. Look at all the coaches and athletes on this site. I think the majority of them would agree that they would not be where they are today had it not been for some sort of mistake or setback along the way.

So what if others try to cut you down?! The higher up the mountain you climb, the harder the wind blows. Stay confident in your direction, and don’t listen to the detractors. What others say to or about you matters so little in comparison to what you feel about yourself. Remember, at the end of this journey we call life, the only person you’ll truly have to reconcile with is yourself.

Conquering fear doesn’t just stop at the first step. No matter where you are in life, it can sneak up on you and stop you in your tracks, knocking you back down to depths you didn’t even imagine. Fear, in this sense, comes from having your eyes set too far on the horizon or too firm on the rearview mirror. You lose your focus for the moment. Goal setting is paramount to achieving something, but if you were to think of all the things you want to achieve over the course of your lifetime, it can be very overwhelming.

Getting stuck looking in the other direction can also hold you back. If you reflect too long on your successes or failures, fear will creep in with thoughts like, “I don’t know if I can achieve that again,” “I couldn’t stand the humiliation of failing twice,” or “This is as good as it gets; I can’t top this.” What’s in the past is in the past. It’s behind us, it’s done, and it can’t be changed. Don’t let what has happened or hasn’t happened to you hold you back from trying to move toward a more prosperous future. The only thing that is guaranteed is each moment that we have, and when you string together successful moments, you will soon find yourself experiencing a successful future. Make a pact with yourself that you will make the right decision on a moment by moment basis starting now, and you’ll be on your way.

I’m not saying that you should throw on one of those old “No Fear” T-shirts, walk around like a hard ass, and act like you aren’t afraid of anything. What I am saying is be mindful and respectful, knowing full well that progress is going to require action and an awareness of subconscious roadblocks. You need to learn how to walk the line between having hope while not relying on it. One of the best examples of this was given by Vice Admiral James Stockdale, who survived seven brutal years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. In Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, Mr. Collins asked VADM Stockdale if there was anything that stood out about those who didn’t survive their captivity versus those who did.

Stockdale’s response was, “Oh, that’s easy—the optimists. They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. They eventually died of a broken heart.”

Stockdale then added, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Penultimate achievement, sometimes our very own survival, is contingent upon facing the moment, whatever it may be. You must find the resolve to “succeed” with every decision you make, but once you’ve made your choice, put it behind you and take the next step forward. If you hit a wall, take a step back and attack again. Make your plan and act by inching closer toward your goal every single day. After all, some people dream of worthy accomplishments while others stay awake and achieve them.

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