Our success, whether it is a lifetime goal or a goal for the year, hinges on our ability to create a plan to get there. One of the reasons that change is difficult for people is because they see such a big gap between where they are and their goal. This perceived distance can feel overwhelming and frustrating. But, big things happen step by step. Usually, there is one piece to the puzzle that once in place makes the goal much more achievable.

The following paragraphs offer some problem-solving tips aimed at helping you figure out and follow through on your plan. How do I pick the right step? Ask yourself: What is one step that I can take today that will lead me closer to where I want to be? Remember there is no substitution for action. If you want to be a writer, write every day. If you want to lose weight, then commit to using the stairs every day.

“I can’t get started.”

Perhaps, you picked the first step but day after day is going by, and you are not doing it. Did you pick a first step that is something you hate doing? Did you say that you are going to work on your business plan at six am in the morning when you like to sleep until at least eight? Or, did you decide that you are going to tackle the hardest part of a project to prove that it is the right way for you to proceed? Make it easier. Pick something you know you can do fairly easily and then make it your number one priority. After you have some successes, these challenging steps will become easier too.

“I quickly lose interest.”

There are lots of reasons that people lose interest. One is perfectionism, which leads to setting very high goals that quickly burn the person out. Sometimes people, with the best of intentions, decide that they are going to go to the gym for 2 hours each day, or they are going to have their first individual show in six months when they just started painting last week. Such ambitious plans are not necessarily bad. It is great to dream big but not when that holds you back rather than sets you free. Consistent small steps are almost always more effective in the long term.

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Sometimes we hold onto a dream that you held onto since we were twenty but the truth now is that you wouldn’t want it if you got it. Sometimes, it is hard to let go of something that has inspired us for so long. But if you let go of the dream then a new one can come in that is in line with the person you are today.

If you are still not sure how to proceed, don’t worry. This may be a time to seek some outside support. Talk to a friend or colleague and help each other develop a successful plan. Or, try a coach. Coaches are trained to help you clarify your goals, determine next steps, and develop a plan.

Steps to overcoming setbacks, fear, and obstacles in life:

1. Recognize your fear

The first step in overcoming anything is to acknowledge that it is there. Look back at the last time you had an idea and never started it, or when you gave up on a project. Were there obstacles that were impossible to overcome, or did you just lose confidence?

Success comes in spite of obstacles, not without them. When your fear of failure is too large, obstacles occur as excuses not to continue. Success only happens when you find a way around those obstacles.

2. Start boosting your self-esteem

The cause of fear of failure is usually low self-esteem. Improving your opinion of yourself and your abilities will weaken your fear. Low self-esteem is often to do with negative feedback or events from long ago. When we are young, we all need acceptance and love, but if you have had constant negative feedback and little praise for efforts while growing up this can lead to a belief that no matter how hard you try, it will never be good enough. As adults, any potential project seems doomed before it’s even started.

Realising that the negative stuff from the past has very little to do with who you are can help you to start thinking about yourself in a different way. Start to see the positives in yourself and recognize your abilities. Rely less on the opinions of others and trust your judgment. Read self-help books and learn as much as you can about building self-belief.

3. Recognize your giving up point

When people expect failure, they tend to lack patience. What’s the point of spending so much time when it’s not going to work out anyway? This is why many people give up on a project far too soon. Think about how much time and effort you have put into previous projects. Did you find that you became too overwhelmed early on and then decided that it wasn’t worth carrying on? Once you start to recognize your burn-out point, you can start putting in strategies to break through this.

4. Be kind to yourself

When you next get to the point where you would normally give up, you can now use a different tactic. Instead of a) giving up or b) struggling on in grim determination, I recommend that you stop for a while and just take time out.

Trying to push yourself forward when you are feeling overwhelmed can do more harm than good and reinforce your fear. Sometimes all you need is a few minutes to go for a walk or maybe a day or two to relax and have fun so you will come back to your project refreshed and in a positive frame of mind.

5. Take small steps

Trying to tackle a project in one go can quickly lead to feeling overwhelmed and fear of failure. Instead, break it down into much smaller and easily achievable steps. When you begin to feel stressed, stop for your “mini-break” and then come back to what you were doing. Once you have achieved one small step, your confidence will increase and motivate you for the next task.

6. Work on activities you are good at

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Working on something you enjoy and know you are good at will also develop your confidence and self-esteem. Choose projects that you know you will love, and when breaking them into smaller steps, start with something you know you can do. Having achieved these, you will be able to move on to the more difficult steps with greater ease and confidence.

7. Surround yourself with positive people and support

Friends and family usually believe they have your best interests at heart, but only you can know what’s right for you. If those who are close to you are in the habit of putting you or your project down, this can re-kindle your low self-esteem and fear of failure. Try to focus on those “true” friends who support you in every way. If you find this difficult, you may want to employ professional support such as a life coach or counselor. If this is too expensive or daunting for you, there are many personal development books and online resources that can support you and help you get over your fear of failure and achieve success.

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