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The One Thing That's Keeping You From Achieving Your Goals

People don't like to talk about fear, but sometimes it's necessary.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Fear is a sensitive subject. Entrepreneurs like to act as if they are invincible, even if the truth is that they are wracked with fear behind closed doors.

Photographer is my life. | Getty Images

As a marketer, the discussion of fear first brings to mind how this tactic is used in business. If you've ever studied copywriting, you'll know that fear is a powerful motivator. People are always looking to avoid pain, so scratching the surface of their fears is a great way to incite action.

The gurus tell you that when you're trying to sell to someone, you'll get a better response if you focus on people's fears over their desires to gain. Humans are more likely to buy something if it helps them get rid of a pain point than if it simply gets them more of a positive outcome they've already experienced.

This is why you see so many presentations that are doom and gloom. For example, if that was my selling style, I may tell you, "If you don't get a newsletter now, you'll lose all your customers and be bankrupt!"

If I could make you believe that, you'd do just about anything to get started with us and not lose your business, wouldn't you?

Related: Sleep In and Make Millions: Why You Don't Need to Wake Up at 5 A.M.

If I told you that you should get a newsletter because it will get you more referrals, despite the fact that virtually 100 percent of business owners say they want more referrals, that isn't enough to get you to drop everything and beat a path to my door.

The amount of power that fear has in our decision-making process is crazy, but I don't want this to be a copywriting article. Instead, I have a serious question for you: If fear is controlling your outside-of-the-norm purchasing habits, what else does it control in your life?

This question can be applied both personally and professionally, but I'll focus on the professional perspective.

Seriously, think about it. What big decisions are you allowing your fear to make for you? What are you not doing because you're scared?

I've found that it is helpful to write down your fears. Once you have defined the fear, answer these next four questions.

  1. Why are you scared? (Be real here. You're the only one who is going to read this.)
  2. What impact is this fear currently having on your life or business?
  3. Reality check: Is this fear justified or are you blowing things out of proportion?
  4. What will life be like 10 or 20 years from now if you don't confront this fear and overcome it?

I'll give you a personal example.

The fear

I'm scared that I'll one day lose everything I've built and be poor again.

Related: Lifestyles of the Rich and Frugal: 7 Thrifty Millionaires and Billionaires


I was very poor growing up, and as a teenage dad, I wasn't exactly swimming in cash. Despite owning businesses, I went through phases during most of my 20s where I had money, and then other times was totally broke and couldn't afford bread and milk. The thought of struggling like that again makes me very fiscally conservative.

The reality

The odds of being broke like that again are slim. I can outwork most challenges, and the connections I've made along my entrepreneurial journey can't be taken away.

Related: 10 Habits That Will Dramatically Improve Your Life

The impact 

As I always say, if you're not growing in business, you're moving backward. If I don't invest and take calculated risks, I'll increase my chances of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy five or 10 years from now.

One of the most important things for your own personal development is to be introspective. If you're not clear on who you are and why you're making the decisions you're making, you'll increases the odds of making a bad choice, which may justify the fear and keep you stuck in an endless loop of fear and failure.

Work today to identify your fears and tackle them head on.

Don't let fear steer your ship.

Shaun Buck

Written By

Shaun Buck is the co-author of No B.S. Guide to Maximum Referrals and Customer Retention (Entrepreneur Press, March 2016) as well as CEO of Boise, Idaho-based The Newsletter Pro, the largest custom print newsletter company in the world—printing and mailing millions of newsletters annually for diverse industries all over the globe.