Fear and Goals. In Squash, in life.

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.” Unknown

We all have fears, fears that stop us from doing what we want, fears that don’t allow us to fulfill our potential, fears that we are not capable, fears that others will not come through, fears in God – that he will not show up. I believe many of us are under the impression that fear is an unconquerable opponent. That fear is there to inhibit us, and we let it everyday. Whether it is fearing judgement for helping that handicapped person onto the bus, or if it’s landing a business deal, or parachuting into enemy territory, fear gets to us. This is why courage is such an amiable virtue. Courage is the battering ram which we use to knock down the wall of fear. On the other side of that wall there are riches unending, but two things come into play: the thickness of the wall, and the size of your battering ram.

Denis Shapavalov after his monster win over Rafael Nadal

“Know thyself”, as Socrates remarks. It seems that there is almost always confusion when determining the size of a fear-wall or the size of our battering ram. I think most people have a tendency to underestimate the size of their battering ram, not the wall. We all contain an immense capacity for courage, but until we trust we shall not fulfill that potential. Take into account that the trust will likely not show up in full. When we put our minds to conquer a fear the fear remains until the wall has crumbled. Bash and bash we must with all our might, lest our efforts inhibit our capacity to achieve. In other words, when you set out to conquer a fear try with all your might, don’t let a lack of effort be the reason the wall still stands. If, after giving everything you have you were not able to break down that wall and achieve that goal, it is time to upgrade your battering ram.

Skill by skill, we can increase our capacity for success. Nobody is successful at what they do unless consistent practice and improvement happens. This is where goal setting comes into play. Goal setting is an excellent way to break down the walls of fear and achieve success. It is an art really, that requires practice in itself. Small incremental steps need to take place in order to achieve large goals. If you want to become a better painter a conscious striving towards painting better is not the way to go. An increase in effort is certainly not always effective. However, if this same painter wanted to become a better painter and took a step back and asked “what are my weaknesses? What could I become better at? and how?” This is the path to success. Eventually these improvements accumulate and hit a tipping point of improvement where everything pieces together and a masterpiece is produced.

16 year old Penny Oleksiak after realizing she’s won gold at the 2016 Olympics

Think of successful artists, athletes, businessmen, etc. Any highly successful person you know will likely be able to identify exactly what skill they are attempting to improve at any given time. I encourage you to seek someone out and ask. Beethoven did not produce his masterpieces until over 20,000 hours of deliberate practice. Until then he was nothing special! This is so key a point. Every highly successful person is merely average until the culmination of years of work piece together into a masterpiece. Some people learn quicker than others, some people have more resources than others, but this does not mean that we can not keep chipping away at our crafts. Say you want to become more active, assess your current situation and current activity level and make it a goal to improve something you are lacking. My wife recently realized she could only do 2 push-ups in a row. So she made it a goal to do 3 a day at her own pace. She is now up to 5, soon to be more.

These little goals that we set for ourselves are not only effective but encouraging. Our pleasure center in our brains reward us for every task we complete, no matter how small. This is why phones are so addictive, because every time we answer an email, text message or win at a video game we get a reward. These small goals just out of our current reach are perfect for encouraging us and tracking progress. They thrust us onward to the next goal and eventually to the achievement of our wildest hopes and dreams.

Don’t let fear stop you now.

“Be strong and courageous” Joshua 1:9

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