5 Steps to Overcome Your Fears So You Can Live Your Ideal Life

How would you feel if you were living your ideal life? Amazing, right? Take a few minutes to imagine your future life. Sit back. Put your feet up. Ask yourself… Who is near you? What are you doing? Where do you live? Imagine how you might feel. Relaxed? Happy? Stress-free? Loved? Successful?

art beach beautiful clouds

Now that you have basked in the glow of your future life, ask yourself the following question:

Why Aren’t I Living My Ideal life?

Deep down, we all probably know what is standing between us and our future life. Quite often, it is the fear of _______________ (fill in the blank). I would argue that, in most cases, we have the power to overcome our fears.

In pursuit of my All Things Great project, I am testing the following five steps to overcome my own worst fear—public speaking.

  1. Identify your fear(s)
  2. Decide to overcome your fear(s) and its associated obstacles
  3. Practice, practice, practice
  4. Cross train
  5. Continue to seek new and challenging opportunities to face your fear

1. Identify Your Fear

Identifying your fear(s) is the most logical first step toward living your ideal life.

In my case, I fear public speaking. I am a complete nightmare to be around when I have an upcoming speaking engagement, especially when my briefing skills are rusty, I am speaking about an unfamiliar topic, or I am not fully prepared. It is not uncommon for my husband to say, “Geeez, I wish they wouldn’t ask you to brief!” to which I usually respond, “Yeah, me too!” The introvert in me despises the incessant butterflies, the shooting pains in my chest, the dull pain that emanates from behind my right ear and gradually swells into a pounding headache, and the constant trips to the bathroom. The struggle is real. This fear will manifest itself for several days leading up to a presentation. After surviving the presentation, I am always surprised. The experience is never as bad as I imagined it. Yet, when the next briefing request surfaces months later, the cycle repeats itself. My fear of public speaking is undoubtedly the main barrier between my ideal life and me.

Exercise: What is your fear? Write it down.

2. Decide to Overcome Your Fear And Its Associated Obstacles

Knowing what you fear, and deciding to overcome your fear, are two different steps. You have to want to overcome your fear. If you tell yourself, “I don’t want to overcome my fear”, you never will. If you tell yourself that you will overcome your fear, you have a better chance of succeeding.

Exercise: Tell yourself that you WILL overcome your fear. Then, write it down. Using a 3×5 card, write down a goal that will help you overcome your fear. It should be written in large letters, in the present tense, and you should keep it where you can see it. Tape the goal to your bathroom mirror, near your desk at work, in your car, on your fridge, in your wallet, or in all of those places. As an example, my newly created goal card is, “I brief at least 5 people every month for the next 12 months.”

3. Practice, Practice, Practice

The only way to get better at anything, including overcoming your fear, is to practice. Ask yourself… What action will allow me to face my fears? If you’re like me and you fear public speaking, you have lots of options. You could sign up for a briefing class at work, if available, or at a community college, join Toastmasters, or ask your boss or coworkers for briefing opportunities. Once you have committed to a speaking opportunity, pick a topic, write a script and start practicing it over, and over, and over again. Find a quiet room in your house or place of employment and practice until you feel more confident with your briefing.

Exercise: Find one opportunity within the next month that will allow you to face your fears. Then, take the necessary steps to start practicing so you are prepared.

4. Cross Train

Athletes improve their overall performance by cross training. Employees cross train to learn new skills. We can use the cross training concept as well. Select a fun activity that will help you overcome your fear indirectly. In the case of public speaking, there are many ways, besides giving a speech, to become comfortable in front of a crowd. You don’t always have to speak in front of someone to work on your skills. In addition to regular presentations, sign up for a dance or drama class, volunteer to read books to kids at a local school, join the PTA, sign up to become an assistant coach for your kids’ sports team, take music lessons and sign up for a recital. The goal is to put yourself in an environment that helps you overcome your fear.

Exercise: Sign up for a fun activity that will indirectly help you overcome your fear.

5. Continue to Seek New and Challenging Opportunities to Face Your Fear

Unfortunately, overcoming a fear does not occur overnight. Continue to seek new opportunities. If you fear public speaking, don’t stop with one briefing to 5 people. Do another one. And another.

Exercise: Find another opportunity.


As Tim Ferriss said in the last minute of his 2008 TED talk, Smash Fear, Learn Anything, “Fear is your friend. Fear is an indicator. Sometimes, it shows you what you shouldn’t do. More often than not, it shows you exactly what you should do.”


Was this post helpful to you? If so, I would love to know how it helped.

Do What You Don’t Want To Do by “The Study of Great”

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across Robert Krickeberg’s thought-provoking blog, The Study of Great. I was thrilled to see that someone else in the blogosphere is also studying the same topic.

After reading his post, Do What You Don’t Want To Do, I had one of those ah-ha moments! That day, I had been asked to do something I really didn’t want to do. I hadn’t mentally prepared myself to be given a task that deviated from my plan. Up until then, everything I had worked on was in pursuit of a specific goal. I recall spending more time complaining (internally, of course) about the task than just doing it. I had my priorities completely backwards. As it turned out, the lessons I gained from the task I didn’t want to do were crucial for achieving my goal.

The cold, hard truth is that you will encounter roadblocks that you don’t want to deal with but sometimes you have to. As Robert explains, you have to do them because (1) it’s required, (2) it creates enjoyment, (3) it will make you a better person, and (4) it’s a challenge.

I couldn’t agree more! Take a look at his blog post Do What You Don’t Want To Do. You might have an ah-ha moment just like me.

Do what you have to do. Get it done, learn from it, and then refocus your efforts. You’ll be glad you did!

Book of the Week: You Are A Girl Who Can Do Anything!

On Friday, during the early hours of the morning, the book fairy delivered Ashley Rice’s book, “You Are A Girl Who Can Do Anything: A Very Special Book To Cheer You On And Help You Achieve Greatness” to my eight year old daughter. When she awoke, she wasAll The Elements excited to see a new and inspiring book leaning against her door. She loved the book so much that she plans to take it to school in the Fall so she has something inspirational to read if she is feeling unsure of herself. She also liked the bookmark with the star to mark her page and the drawings.

From a mom’s point of view, the book does a really nice job of sharing principles that a girl of at least 8 to 10 (perhaps older) can understand. Several examples are:

  • You are a girl who can do anything
  • You have everything it takes to succeed
  • You are a girl who will go far
  • Reach for the stars and you will catch them
  • It’s a girl’s world
  • Follow your passion
  • Show the world what you’ve got
  • You are brave, amazing and real
  • It’s ok to fail sometimes
  • Look deep inside for the courage you need
  • Remember… you are not alone

Typically, there is one principle for every two pages. The author does a nice job of explaining what each means while providing uplifting words. I might actually add a few of the book’s principles to my own list.

We definitely recommend the book!

If you have any other book recommendations like this for boys or girls, we would love to know.

Primary Greatness: Saving a Labradoodle

Now that I’m actively doing research for my All Things Great project, signs of greatness are appearing in the most unusual places. I am really amazed by how this journey is unfolding.

Saving a Labradoodle

While driving to an appointment on Friday evening, I saw an energetic dog happily playing in the middle of a busy, two-lane country road. The dog was having the time of her life running after three cars like they were large bouncy balls with wheels. The severity of the situation did not seem to phase her in the slightest.

As the cars slowed around her, she bounded off the road oblivious to the danger around her and onto the lawn of a nearby home as if the game was over.

I pulled over a few minutes later to post the below update to the Lost and Found Pets Fluvanna Virginia Facebook page hoping her owners or a neighbor would see it. At the time, I didn’t know the dog’s breed so I did the best I could by leaving a brief description and approximate location.

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When I checked Facebook an hour later, I learned that Erika, the Director of Green Dogs Unleashed (a local nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating dogs), saw my post. Without hesitation, she drove to the area through which I had driven, found and saved Rosa the Labradoodle, and located her frantic owners.

Erika later explained that North Boston Road in Troy, VA claims the lives of at least one animal every week which is why she didn’t hesitate to search for the dog. I couldn’t agree more with her statement that, “it is so important our community works together for the betterment of our animals.”

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Is this an example of something great?

I would argue that Erika’s actions are an example of primary greatness as discussed by Dr. Stephen Covey in his book Primary Greatness. “A successful life”, writes Covey, “is about primary greatness—a life of duty, honor, integrity, perseverance, self-sacrifice, and service, regardless of material rewards or circumstances” (p. xiii).

Erika unhesitatingly drove to the area in question knowing the road is dangerous to pets, searched until she found Rosa the Labradoodle and located her owners. Few people would have taken the time out of their Friday evening to find and save someone else’s dog. I think this is pretty great! Maybe it’s not solving world hunger, but for one dog, and one family, it means everything.

Erika, thanks so much for showing us an example of primary greatness! ❤


Three Thought-provoking Books For a More Fulfilling Life

Self-help books are a dime a dozen, and even then, they are rarely worth the cost or the time to read them.

In the past month, even before starting my All Things Great Project, I read the following books:

I don’t consider these books to be self-help books per se, but they do focus on some of the foundational things that lead to a more fulfilling life. I was surprised to find a common theme in all three books. The authors intentionally created a set of principles to improve their lives and, most importantly, they tracked their progress.

In the early 1720s, the famed American printer, inventor, scientist, and diplomat, Benjamin Franklin, embarked on a moral perfection project which included 13 virtues (temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, humility) which he systematically measured in a journal. Knowing the difficulties of working on all 13 virtues at once, he focused on one per week. Throughout the course of one year, he went through the cycle four times. In the pages of a notebook, he made a chart with seven columns for the days of the week and thirteen rows for each virtue. When he committed an infraction, he would put a black dot in the box. He was surprised how full of faults he was. (Isaacson, pgs. 89-92)

Dr. Stephen Covey, in his book Primary Greatness, believes there are 12 levers, or principles to success—integrity, contribution, priority, sacrifice, service, responsibility, loyalty, reciprocity, diversity, learning, renewal and teaching. He dedicates a chapter to each lever and encourages readers to keep a personal journal to track their progress toward what he calls “primary greatness”. For additional details on what primary greatness means, see my blog post called, Book of the Week: Everyday Greatness. (see chapters 6-17).

Gretchen Rubin in her book The Happiness Project created 12 personalized principles which were: “Be Gretchen”; let it go; act the way I want to feel; do it now; be polite and be fair; enjoy the process; spend out; identify the problem; lighten up; do what ought to be done; no calculation; and there is only one love. Rubin chose these particular principles because they embodied the changes she wished to see in her life. She kept a blog of her progress and later turned her discoveries into a book.

Prior to now, I never considered creating a set of principles for myself nor did I ever think to track my progress. I am beginning to wonder if this is the next step in my project.

While we may be hopelessly flawed, we are unique in that we can improve upon these flaws with time and effort. And maybe, just maybe, discover that we are in fact doing great things in small ways.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

Book of the Week: Everyday Greatness

My All Things Great project is off to a really interesting start! I have already found several books that are must reads.

The first book, Everyday Greatnessled me to Dr. Stephen R. Covey who has written extensively on achieving a happy and fulfilling life. His introduction categorizes greatness into two types—primary greatness and secondary greatness.

Curly Cue-2

Primary greatness, “has to do with character and contribution” while secondary greatness, “has to do with notoriety, wealth, fame, prestige, or position.”

Covey asks the reader, “So what leads to everyday greatness? What is at its roots?”

He argues that the answer lies in the following three choices—(1) the choice to act, (2) the choice of purpose, and (3) the choice for principles. How we answer these choices may lead to primary, or everyday greatness.

As the book progresses, each section presents stories of everyday greatness which correspond with the following chapters:

  • Searching for Meaning
  • Taking Charge
  • Starting Within
  • Creating the Dream
  • Teaming with Others
  • Overcoming Adversity
  • Blending the Pieces

I have read the introduction and the first section and already have a better sense of what everyday greatness is and isn’t.

Be forewarned… you might need to have a tissue handy.

If you have any other book recommendations, I would love to know.

My All Things Great Project

In March 2018, a close family member was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The news was devastating. 😦

Not surprisingly, my eight year old desire to do great things re-surfaced with a vengeance.

Unanswered questions raced through my mind. What if I don’t live to 100 like I planned? What if I die before I have done great things? What if I never make a real difference in anyone’s life? What if…? What if…? What if…?

I vowed to figure out what great means to me… once and for all.

How it began

My mother told me the sad news when I was eight years old. My sister Vanessa Jane died of complications from spina bifida and hydrocephalus when she was four days old. I was born 13 months later.

If my sister had lived, she would have required around-the-clock care. My parents almost certainly would not have had other children. This was a sobering realization for a girl of eight. That year, I decided that I had a duty to do great things (I said this so many times growing up that I lost count) to honor her memory and live the life she didn’t get to enjoy.

The problem is that I never defined what great meant to me; not even when I got older. I spent the better part of 40 years relentlessly pursuing what I thought was great. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but something was always missing. There just had to be more to life, I would say frequently. My husband would look at me patiently. “Why don’t you go for a run, he would say?” You’ll feel great afterwards. I almost always did..

The Project

In honor of my sister, I have begun a journey to define what “great” is, determine what it means to me, take steps to do “great things” and read everything I can on “being great”.

I plan to share updates, thoughts, questions and insights throughout this journey. Please feel free to share questions, ideas, and thoughts as I start my new journey. I would love to hear from you!


Rest In Peace, Vanessa. There are no goodbyes. Where ever you’ll be, you’ll be in my heart. Ghandi