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What if reaching your goals requires you to step through fear?

When I think about my dreams – those that have been realized and those that I am working on, many of them require me to do something that I haven’t done before. Some of those dreams require things that are similar to other accomplishments and as a result, don’t seem so scary. But some of them require me to do something so different that I am afraid.

I was thinking about this recently as I returned from a CAT skiing trip. It is called CAT skiing because you take a caterpillar up a mountain and ski fresh powder all the way down. Similar to helicopter skiing, the attraction for me was the wide-open vistas, the untouched powder and tackling a new challenge.

This was my first time CAT skiing. It was definitely one of those adventures I had on my bucket list. I booked almost a year ago and yet, I hadn’t given it too much thought until the week before. That day, I was out skiing with my friends who had been many times before and they started to tell me about all sorts of challenges that got me worried. They were describing how steep some of the runs were and that the snow was so deep that it slowed you down. They described how when you fall, it is really difficult to get up as you have nothing to push down on, and you may spend a half hour and tonnes of effort trying to right yourself. This got me thinking about how little time I had spent skiing powder and that it was so totally different from the icy conditions that I am used to.

So there I was the first day. I wouldn’t say I was terrified but I was definitely out of my comfort zone! I was totally focused on surviving in this new environment. I had lost that joyful feeling I usually get when skiing and found it was replaced with apprehension, seriousness and concentration.

As I reviewed the photos of that first day, I can see myself sitting too far back on my skis, arms outstretched too far to either side, and my feet too far apart. All of these changes to my stance were attempts to widen my centre of gravity and feel more stable in these new conditions – steep terrain and tonnes of powder! The trouble is that most of these changes were unconscious and were actually the opposite of what I needed to do to accomplish my goal.

Upon my return, I thought about the science behind goal attainment and I realized that there were a number of actions I could have taken to improve my outcomes.

Here is what I learned.

  1. Start with gratitude – begin with a positive feeling or intention at the beginning of the task – bask in the sunshine or gratitude for being where you are and what you are about to take on.

  2. Lean in – rather than sitting back, lean in and start with enthusiasm and joy!

  3. Find a role model – identify someone (ideally of about the same age and sex) who has already accomplished the goal you are looking to master. Reach out to them and ask for tips. Most people are happy to share.

  4. Break your goal into smaller steps – for example, one of my ski buddies shared how he broke his goal of making it down the whole mountain into smaller goals about connecting his turns more frequently each try. He started by counting how many turns he was able to do without stopping and then set a goal to increase it by one each time.

  5. Be compassionate – taking on something new can be challenging so go easy on yourself. Treat yourself as you would a good friend.

  6. Celebrate the small successes – make note of each and every step towards your goal and take the time to congratulate yourself on moving forward – even if it doesn’t look the way you want – moving in the direction you want to go is success.

The second and third day of skiing, I started to relax a bit more and enjoy the skiing. I wouldn’t say that I had it totally figured it out, but I did make some progress and that gave me more confidence - enough confidence that I plan to go back and try it again someday.

Next time you are facing a goal that has you sitting in the back seat, spend some time thinking about which of these tools might help you to move towards your dreams. I would love to hear what dreams have you nervous and what tips you are finding most effective in moving past the fear.

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