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10 Ways To Achieve A Goal That You're Anxious To Do

A 10-step process to address nervousness when attempting to do anything that elicits anxiety.

    1. Clearly define what you want.

    If possible, quantify the thing you want. For instance, if you want to start running races, define the race distance (ex: 10K) and the date of the race (April 1).

    2. Work backward from the goal.

    Start to list out the steps that it would take to achieve what you want. For instance, if today is December 1, you know you have four months to train for the race; so, you can break down a training schedule with that time frame. Additionally, you might list out visiting a local running store to purchase shoes, joining a local running group, or reading about what to eat when training for a 10K, and so on.

    3. Break down any tasks on your list that induce anxiety.

    For instance, if you're nervous about changing your diet, try to just change one thing a week rather than a massive overhaul of everything you eat.

    4. Use graduated desensitization.

    Similar to breaking down tasks into bite-size chunks, graduated desensitization (also known as systematic desensitization or exposure therapy) is a cognitive-behavioral psychology approach to behavior change. It allows you to work toward a behavior change by slowly exposing yourself to it. For instance, before jumping into a group run with a local group, you might attempt to consistently run two miles every day. Then, try running with a one trusted friend once a week, before finally joining the group run. The exposure can be stretched out as much as needed to feel comfortable moving forward.

    5. Have an accountability partner.

    There is power in numbers. Often, it's easier to move towards a scary new goal with someone who is on the same journey.

    6. Get a mentor.

    In the case of running, a good mentor could be a running coach or simply someone you know who is a more experienced runner from whom you can learn.

    7. Read.

    This could be a step in your graduated desensitization process. Gather as much information as you can about the goal you want to achieve, and absorb as much of it as you can. The more you expose yourself to it, the more comfortable you will become with it.

    8. Show up every day.

    Don't "break the chain," as it's sometimes called. Get a consistent daily streak going toward your goal. For running, this could literally be running every day. If that's too much for you, then consider mixing in days when you strength train or stretch - so long as your daily activity somehow helps to move you toward your ultimate goal. The act of doing something consistently will help to reduce feelings of anxiety around the behavior.

    9. Stop complaining.

    Complaining never helped anyone move closer to doing something about which they already harbor anxiety. If you're complaining about doing something *and* you feel anxious about it, then you might as well quit now because you're going to hate it if you keep going in such a manner.

    10. Just do it.

    Sometimes, good old-fashioned grit, determination, and self-discipline are what's needed to get something done - no matter how you feel about it. As Susan Jeffers famously stated, "Feel the fear...and do it anyway!"
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