Do you have a cherished dream or desire that you rarely work on achieving? If so, you're not alone. Most people don't take action on their biggest dreams because the mental picture of the goal seems overwhelming and they fear failure. This debilitating fear of failure stops people before they even attempt to succeed. To make goals or desires a reality, we have to chunk them down into smaller tasks that are manageable and achievable. Each small step we take is a small success and it motivates us to take another and another. Soon, the fear that had been haunting us subsides and our self-confidence increases.
I stuttered (stammered) into my twenties and could not communicate fluently. I avoided ordering coffee, asking for directions, answering the phone, talking to a store clerk and networking. Simple daily tasks that most people take for granted were excruciating for me. I was frustrated, fearful and angry. The perpetual mind chatter about the words I wanted to say next was exhausting. But the worst part was that people often make inaccurate assumptions about people who stutter and I did not want to be seen as incompetent.
The work ahead seemed overwhelming, but I was determined to speak smoothly and communicate effectively. After gaining some fluency skills from a speech therapy program, I decided to face my fears and do the simple things that I avoided. I knew I would not become an effective communicator overnight, but I also knew that with consistent effort and action I could get there one day. My action plan consisted of:
- Chunking down my desire into manageable tasks.
- Daily practice of fluency skills I had acquired from speech therapy.
- Visualizing my positive result.
- Taking action
I chose tasks that were easier and lower on the fear scale like asking someone for the time.
Part of my daily practice involved pretending to ask for the time, visualizing asking someone for the time fluently and imagine feeling really good about it. It was this feeling that propelled me to take action!
I quickly learned that by making a firm commitment to do what I feared most, I had taken the first step toward dissolving that fear.
I did the same task over and over again until I became very comfortable and fear was no longer the master - I was. Over time, I realized that I was not only overcoming my fears, but my limiting beliefs about my speech were being replaced with empowering beliefs. If I could do things that were low on the fear scale, could I end up speaking fluently without worrying about stuttering? Could the telephone become my friend instead of weighing 1000 lbs? Could I deliver a presentation and make people laugh? These questions signaled the need to challenge myself to go up the fear scale, and I did.
Chunking down our dreams into smaller goals is essential because the conscious mind can only process 7 to 9 pieces of information at a time. Small goals seem more attainable to the human brain than large ones, so we don't feel overwhelmed and fear does not stop us. With every small goal that we achieve our self-worth increases and our fear decreases. Each small success teaches us to believe in ourselves and in the successful achievement of the dream we are pursuing.
My journey to speak smoothly and communicate effectively took 11 years, but it was worth it. There were many ups and downs along the way, but I enjoyed them all because I knew I was becoming stronger and more courageous. I love being able to speak more fluently, but even more than that, I love the freedom of speaking without fear.
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