07/16/2014 01:42 pm ET Updated Sep 15, 2014

Outsmarting Your Fears

Whenever you set out to do something great and difficult, count on fear to rear its head. The first step in outsmarting your fear is to recognize its many disguises. See how many of these sound familiar:

  • Perfectionism -- waiting until all the planets align before making the next move.
  • Endless research or ruminating -- reading about how to swim vs. getting into the water.
  • Endless training or education -- "As soon as I get one more degree, I'll be ready..."
  • Procrastination/busywork -- "Gee, I really should clean these cupboards..."
  • Boredom -- using boredom as an excuse to quit, instead of pushing through the boredom.
  • Giving up too soon -- If we're looking for a reason to quit, we'll find one.

So how do you outsmart your fears? The best solutions are the ones you come up with yourself, because those are the ones you'll most likely stick with. But if you're looking for suggestions...

  • Trade perfection for progress or excellence. Save perfection for where it truly matters.
  • Ask yourself what you're really afraid of. The fear of success, for example, can be as daunting as the fear of failure. Listen to your fears, but remind yourself that you are bigger than your fears.
  • Do something -- anything -- to move toward your goal. The slightest progress will help put fear in its place, and fuel your motivation to keep moving forward.
  • Remind yourself you're on a mission. That's usually all it takes to get back on track.
  • Don't let small things stand in your way. Be willing to set aside lesser tasks so you can focus on your desired result. Remind yourself why your desired result matters.
  • When procrastination strikes, set a timer for 15 to 30 minutes, and use that time to get going. "Beginning is half done." You can also use a timer to limit procrastination.
  • When boredom sets in, find ways -- no matter how small -- to change your routine. This will inspire you to find even more ways, and this in turn will ease your boredom.

As you read this, I'll be nearly halfway through a rather stringent 30-day eating plan -- which is how I learned the boredom tip. It's not the hardest thing I've ever undertaken. Yet it represents a level of performance previously unmatched. What keeps me going is the fear of not succeeding, which is not a bad fear to have.

How does fear show up in your world? What can you do this week to prepare for it and ultimately declare victory?