I have a recurring nightmare that has plagued me since my days at Georgia State University where I was working toward an MBA. A lot of people tell me they have the same dream: It’s the last day of finals and I’m failing my exams. I didn’t prepare enough.
Every time I wake up panicked, imagining a scenario in which I have to start over. Of course that didn’t happen; it was just a dream. But I learned an important lesson about myself when I started having this nightmare: I’m more motivated by the fear of failure than the desire for success. If I’m doing something, I don’t want to let myself or others down. It drives me.
Related: 5 Ways to Turn Your Fear Into Fuel
No matter what motivates you, there will always be emotional enemies lurking in the corners of your mind waiting to derail you. The three major lurkers are fear, uncertainty and doubt. These impostors live inside you and keep you from even trying to achieve your dreams. But I have a few tips to help you fight back.
1. Put things in perspective.
You will never completely overcome your fears. If you let them, emotional enemies will hijack your success and leave you paralyzed and unable to move forward.
The truth is we all take ourselves a little too seriously. When was the last time you spent hours of sleeplessness worrying about an upcoming deadline? Imagine the worst-case scenario because nothing is as important as we make it.
2. Separate the rational from the irrational.
Most of our fears are irrational. Just like my college nightmare, there will always be times when you question your capabilities, your strength, your courage, your success and the entire direction of your life. Pull those pesky thoughts to the front of your brain and assess whether they’re rooted in reality. More often than not, they are simply playing up your insecurities.
When you’re struggling to confront your emotional enemies, write a list of your biggest accomplishments and place it somewhere obvious as a reminder. Personal affirmations are the best way to reinforce the positive things about yourself that you already know to be true.
3. Choose wisely.
I have an intense, lifelong fear of heights. Does that mean I’m going to go climb Mount Everest to overcome that fear? No, because overcoming that fear doesn’t serve my goals or push me toward a better life. But I have overcome my fear of public speaking, and I’m better off for it. Be smart about which of the emotional enemies you choose to face.
4 Fill your brain with positives.
Every day we give up a valuable resource: our attention. Who are you giving the keys of your mind to? Filter out the negative and give your attention to uplifting, positive messages.
When you feel as if emotional enemies are taking over, remember that life is what you make it, and like those exams, it’s going to be just fine.
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
John Addison is the Leadership Editor for SUCCESS and the author of Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose, a Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-seller. Renowned for his insight and wisdom on leadership, personal development and success, John is a sought-after speaker and motivator. Read more on his blog, and follow John on Facebook and Twitter.