Break Through the Terror Barrier to Achieve Your Goals

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How many times have you started a new project, reached for a new goal, or set out to accomplish something big, only to abandon the project or goal soon after starting? Maybe it was a yearly gym membership that you used only once or twice…or a work task you initiated but never finished…or even a home improvement project you gave up on midway.

Why do people often start out with grand aspirations, and then throw in the towel relatively soon? In a word: Terror. In fact, the terror barrier is the number one reason why people don’t achieve their goals.

Everyone has a comfort zone—a mental place where they feel at peace. The problem is that if you stay in your comfort zone too long, you don’t grow and achieve new things. All growth takes place outside the comfort zone. But when most people step out of that zone, they hit that phase when the “old ways” (aka: the comfortable ways) try to get them back. That’s when they hit the terror barrier and become frightened, procrastinate, make excuses, and do any number of things to validate why they should give up and go back to the way things were.

If you want to stretch yourself, set high goals, or learn new skills, you must step up and get out of your comfort zone. Use the following strategies to overcome the terror barrier you will face so you can push through to your ultimate objectives.

1.    Set goals that are emotional to you.
Logical goals never make anyone’s pulse increase. Yet many people set their goals very mechanically, such as “Increase my sales by 10%.” Because people don’t get excited about the goal, they’re not willing to push through the extra mile to reach it. The key to creating emotional goals is to start with visualization. Create a picture in your mind of you achieving your end result. For example, if you want to increase your sales, envision yourself at your company’s year-end meeting, standing on stage and receiving the Salesperson of the Year award. Hear the crowd applauding for you. Feel the pride of being recognized as the best. That’s an emotional goal.

Next, write down the goal. But be careful. Don’t start writing the individual action steps yet, as that actually stops people from reaching goals. Too many people think they need to know exactly what to do and how to do it before they can start toward their goal. But if you spend too much time thinking of details and action steps right now, you’ll get too scared to start. So just decide on the goal; you can map it out along the way. Rather than create action steps, write down ten reasons why you want the goal. Why will it be worth it? You will need this list later when the going gets tough.

2.    Take notice of how the terror barrier appears in your life.
When you are doing something new, how do you go off track? Do you feel fear? Do you procrastinate? Do you worry? Do you make excuses? Do you get distracted easily? For example, if your goal is to workout and lose twenty pounds, you may continually say, “I’ll skip my workout today and go to the gym tomorrow” (procrastination). Or if your goal is to increase sales, you may get sidetracked from making prospecting calls because your desk is messy and you need to clean it first (distraction).

Whatever gets you off track is simply an internal mechanism to keep you in your comfort zone. But understanding this process and how it manifests in your life is a fantastic source of energy. Now you know why you are procrastinating, why you’re not sleeping well at night, or why you feel fear. You know that it’s simply an indication that you’re growing. Now you can recognize the sign and can acknowledge that you’re at your terror barrier. This helps take the pain out of it so you can continue to move forward. Remember that the world is constantly changing. If you’re not moving forward, then you’re falling behind.

3.    Take action toward your new goal.
Live, breathe, feel, and be your new goal. Take both small and big steps toward your destination. Map out your next steps as you go. The key is to simply move in the right direction—you don’t have to get there all at once.

Remember what Earl Nightingale said: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.” Unfortunately, many people feel that they are successful only when they reach the end goal. They don’t recognize the steps along the way as successes, especially if an individual step did not turn out the way they wanted. That’s why you need to redefine what success is. It’s the process where you’re moving toward your goals. Yes, you’ll have some bumps along the way and make some mistakes, but those are important parts of learning. Your failures are necessary in order for you to get the knowledge you need to push through.

4.    Celebrate when you hit the terror barrier.
Hitting the terror barrier simply means you are growing. Be happy that you are widening your comfort zone and moving toward your goals. Think of it like remodeling a kitchen. Before you can get the dream kitchen you’ve always wanted, complete with granite countertops, custom cabinets, and top-of-the-line appliances, you first need to work through the rubble, exposed walls, and the giant mess. When you see your previously functional kitchen completely gutted and useless, you could say, “This is too much work. Just put everything back the way it was.” Or you could push on with the remodel and slowly see your dream kitchen take shape. The same holds true for any worthwhile goal you want to achieve. You have to live through some discomfort before you can get to the other side.

If you are an employer, understand that when you are asking your people to step out and take on a new challenge, they will feel fear. Therefore, have a plan ready of how you will support your team so they have the confidence to move forward. And if you are an employee, know that at some point you will face the terror barrier. Find a co-worker or someone who can hold you accountable and help you through it.

5.    Know that repetition is the key to changing your habits and reaching your goal.
Keep on and push through! Just like professional athletes who practice and train regularly, the more you persevere and keep moving in the direction of your goal, the better results you’ll achieve. When the going gets exceptionally rough, refer to your initial list of ten reasons why you want the goal. Read the reasons you outlined slowly so you can think about them and envision them. Connect to the emotions of achieving the goal so you stay motivated.

Unfortunately, many business professionals are afraid of failing. But failing is good; you simply have to decide whether you want to fail forward or fail backward. In other words, either you can fail, learn, and move on…or you can fail, get stuck, and give up. The choice is yours. When you’re willing to work and take daily action—despite any setbacks—you can fail forward and accomplish your goal sooner.

Freedom from the Terror Barrier is Freedom to Achieve Your Goals
If you don’t feel like you’re hitting the terror barrier on a regular basis, then realize you’re not growing and need to take some serious action…right now. Celebrate the terror barrier, be grateful for the opportunities available to you, and always have new goals in mind that you can strive for. As humans, our natural tendency is to grow and to want more out of life. Embrace that mindset as you press on. When you acknowledge the terror barrier in your life and use it to your benefit, you’ll have the ability to achieve any goal you set for yourself and reach greater levels of success.

Ingunn Aursnes is an author, business coach, consultant and owner of Quantum Leaps Consulting, LLC.  She has a master's in business and marketing and more than 12 years of experience in large multinational companies like Eastman Kodak Company and Kraft Foods.  Her focus is on assisting people and companies to set high goals – and reach them. Contact her for speaking or coaching at 561-868-1815

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