What Happens When Worries Get In The Way Of Your Dreams? [DTDB053]

What Happens When Worries Get In The Way Of Your Dreams? [DTDB053]
Dare to Dream Bigger

00:00 / 00:19:46

Today we are talking about what happens when worries get in the way of our dreams. This one’s for you if you have ever had a big dream, a challenge or a comfort zone stretch and you’ve found yourself secretly procrastinating, distracting yourself, being too busy or telling yourself stories that keep you up at 3am, wondering if you’re good enough to make it happen. I’m going to explain why  this happens and give you a super-simple antidote!


Your body can't tell the difference between 'legitimate fears' and 'mind-story fears' - it reacts the same way, as though you're about to run from a sabre-toothed tiger. No wonder worries get in the way of your dreams. Here's how to fix it:Click To Tweet
Psst! Are we really too busy, or are we secretly scared? Find out how entrepreneurial fear can get in the way of our dreams. Click To Tweet



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x Clare


Prefer to read, rather than listen?

This week I’ve had a potent reminder of what happens when fear gets in the way of our dreams.

It doesn’t matter whether those dreams are changing the world or passing exams or learning to parachute or saying hello to Mums at the school gate or introducing yourself at a networking event or giving a presentation or saying yes to a comfort-zone-stretching opportunity: fear is the biggest killer of hopes and dreams.

My main objective this week was to finish the final edits for my new novel – First, Tell No Lies – to get the proof-reading changes done and to work with the cover designer to finish the graphics.

I haven’t touched the project.

Instead, I’ve been a workaholic, barely pausing to breathe, let alone eat, grumpy with my kids, suddenly deciding I had to set up a whole different project which, frankly, could have waited. I’ve done 14 hour days, I’ve taught masterclasses, I’ve worked with clients, I’ve got my new author website up and running (it’s looking great, even if I’m biased), I’ve worked on my media kit and I’ve been active in the EU VAT Action Campaign again, working with people to mitigate the impact of Brexit on UK microbusinesses. I’m even in fresh discussions on setting up the UK online business association, for which I had a meeting with the UK’s Small Business Minster back in May.

But I haven’t once opened my laptop to edit my book.


Well, I’ve been too busy, haven’t I?

No. Most of that could have waited.

The truth is that I have been scared.

Scared to finish my new novel. Despite my editor loving it. Despite my proof-reader loving it. If I don’t finish it, I can’t publish it, so I won’t risk readers not liking it. I felt scared they might think it’s boring. In case it’s badly written. In case they leave bad reviews. In case it’s not good enough.

In case I’m not good enough.

(This stuff always comes down to identity-level fears, which is why ‘mindset’ approaches can feel like sticky plasters).

The fact that book one – You Take Yourself With You – has been described by so many readers as ‘unputdownable’ actually makes it worse. Those reviews were a dream-come-true for me. But it adds in a new batch of fears:

Can I do it again? What if I let them down and they’re too polite to tell me they’re disappointed? What if the trolls aren’t quite so polite?

Fifteen years ago, back when I was studying to become an NLP Trainer, I spent a lot of time reading the work of Milton Erickson, the father of modern hypnosis. One of the stories told about him was of working with an Olympic shooting team. They had to fire twenty shots as perfectly as possible, hitting the middle of the target. They could all do it, but once they had hit sixteen, seventeen, eighteen perfect shots, the pressure got to much and they would flunk it.

He trained them to see each shot as a single event, unconnected to the others, so that the subconscious expectations didn’t create fears that sabotaged their performance. And they won the medals.

It’s the same with anything we’re secretly scared of.

“Oh, my last presentation was great, but I’m bound to mess up this one. There’s no way I could do that again.”

“Sure, the last three exams were good, but I can’t keep up that track record. This one is bound to be awful.”

“My last two clients loved my work, but there’s no way I can keep up that winning streak. I’m bound to fail soon.”

I have a friend who was a midwife and she even quit her career over this, having helped at 2,000 births of healthy babies and being constantly scared that she was ‘due’ the one that would go wrong. She couldn’t handle the worry any more.

The stories we tell ourselves about what scares us are our ‘worry thoughts’ – the ‘what if’ scenarios we run through at three in the morning; the inner dialogue that’s the soundtrack to our day. And your body can’t tell the difference between the fears and stress-emotions they trigger and the fears and stresses of things actually happening in our world.

If you replay an argument with someone in your head, it triggers the same physiological responses as though it were actually happening. These might be at a smaller scale, but those stress responses still kick off, triggering the hormones and emotions that go with the real-world experience, until you’ve gone from calm to crazy-mad and you were sitting at home on your own.

If we do it enough, we create neural pathways in our brain for new autopilot programmes that fire off when that trigger event happens, lead to less-than-rational responses. And if we rehearse those stories for long enough, the brain struggles to remember what’s a genuine memory and what’s a mind-story memory. And we programme the Reticular Activating System in the brain (the bit that filters the sensory information from the world so you don’t have to be consciously aware of the feeling of your shoe on your left foot right now) to spot evidence to support those triggers and autopilots.

Our bodies are programmed to respond quickly to what I call ‘legitimate fears’ – the kind of thing that stops you from stepping out in front of that fast-moving car or walking too close to the edge of a cliff on a windy day.


But your body can’t tell the difference between these legitimate fears and the mind-story fears, created by our worries. It reacts the same way.


Over the past few weeks I’ve dealt with a higher than usual number of ‘legitimate fears’:

  • I’ve been stuck on a plane with moderate-to-severe turbulence for thirty minutes, with people bracing themselves against the seat in front of them and passengers screaming
  • I’ve chosen to deal with my fear of swimming in water that’s 20-30m deep to get to swim in the exquisite warm seas near Göcek in Turkey – I hadn’t realised how scared I was of drowning
  • I’ve been stuck in the middle of a terror alert (false alarm, I’m guessing) near Parliament Square in London, in the dark

The difference between these legitimate fears and the mind-story fears that created my workaholic-procrastination this week was that once I was safe again, the fears subsided – my body chemistry rebalanced. I felt proud of overcoming those fears. My body and brain processed them and let them go. But with the mind-story fears – the worries – they became a new, on-going reality, constantly running in the background, with no pause or relief.

These mind-story worries leave us living on a constant low-level state of cortisol and adrenalin, with our fight-flight-freeze response triggered, our body tense and our mind struggling to think strategically and make long-term decisions. All of this is taken care of by the autonomic nervous system, without our conscious choice.

That makes it really hard to edit a book or to think clearly in an exam or to give that compelling ‘elevator pitch’ at a networking event.

It also makes it hard for the body to heal itself or recharge its batteries or even digest food, as the bloodflow is redirected to muscles, instead of digestion, as we get ready to run from that sabre-toothed tiger.

The mind-story fears make it even harder to take action on our dreams, because we have programmed our brains to spot all of the reasons why they should be difficult or even impossible. Those worries raise the bar so high that it’s easier not to even try to jump it.


And that’s when I remember how great my kids are at limbo dancing.

On holiday at my favourite hotel in Turkey last month, they often put up barriers in the outdoor restaurant area to persuade guests to eat at tables where the waiters are better able to look after them.

I watch adults taking massive detours to get past these barriers, as they make their way from random parts of the site towards the restaurant. I tend to skirt round the edges of the black poles, even if it means walking on a flower bed. It feels a bit more rebellious.

But my kids just go right under them. And they don’t crouch down. They have fun. They turn it into a game – to see who can do the best back-bending limbo without catching the tape at the top.

What if we could apply the same technique to set ourselves free from our mind-story fears?

What if, instead of fighting them, denying them, beating ourselves up about them or even indulging them and believing them to be true, we just called them out for what they are? “That’s a mind-story fear!”

“Is it real? Do I want to let that story limit what I can create? Achieve? Who I can be?”

“Do I really want to give it permission to stop me from making the difference I secretly know I’m here to make?”

“What do I want instead?”

When we call them out for the stories that they really are, we reclaim our power to choose which thoughts to feed. We lift that barrier high enough that instead of having to jump over it or detour round it or smash through it, we can limbo right under it, waving our grass skirts and Hawaiian flower necklaces and singing in the sunshine as we dance.


How do we reclaim that power? How do we press pause? You might be bored of hearing me say this by now… But it’s my ABC:

Accept – Breathe – Choose

Accept that you were telling yourself a mind-story fear. Call it out for what it is.

Breathe – in through the nose and out through the mouth with an ‘ahhh’ – letting that story go – three times (this physically resets your nervous system and gets the fight-flight-freeze response to stand down).

Choose – consciously choose a thought or story that makes you feel better; one that brings you relief and hope.

It really can be that simple.

So why did I spend a whole week avoiding the thing that’s scaring me – getting my novel finished? Because I forgot my ABC. I’m taking time out today to press ‘reset’. I’ll be ‘tapping’ away the stress, worries and fears (EFT). I’ll be using the techniques I teach in A Year Full Of Gratitude to retrain those neural pathways to be my cheerleaders, not my inner critics. And then I’m finishing my book!

I’m curious:

  • Are there any mind-story fears that have been getting in the way of your dreams?
  • How might the ABC help?
  • And what inspired action could you take today, once you have pressed ‘pause’ on those fears?

Remember: I’m here to be your virtual cheerleader! I’d love to hear from you.


And I’d love your help, please!

One of the things that helps me to keep going even if I’m secretly scared is accountability. So I’m throwing a party!


The Big (Re)Read

Starting on Monday (19th November) we’re going to be doing The Big (Re)Read for You Take Yourself With You, complete with a private Facebook group where you’ll get behind-the-scenes stuff on the book, the characters, the story line and sneak peeks at book two – First, Tell No Lies. If you have already read You Take Yourself With You, then we’re going to be re-reading it together. If you’re new to it, this is your chance to discover for yourself why so many people found it ‘unputdownable’ over the past year.


How to join us?

Join us free here:


And on December 3rd, when First, Tell No Lies launches, everyone in The Big (Re)Read will get first dibs on the new book AND the launch bonuses, which will include a Masterclass on The Three Keys To Creating Your Dreams In 2019. It’s going to be pitch-free, high-value and brimming with practical inspiration for how to overcome your secret mind-story fears so you can thrive in the coming year – and beyond.

But it’s only for readers of my novels.

You can join us here.

I’d love to get to share The Big (Re)Read with you – and, of course, the two books!

I hope you have found today’s podcast episode useful and that maybe it has inspired you to press ‘pause’ on one of your mind-story fears. You can let me know via the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

x Clare

Clare Josa | Author | Speaker | Mentor to Passionate World Changers

P.S. I would LOVE to see you in the Facebook group for The Big (Re)Read – we’re going to have so much fun! xx Clare Join us for The Big (Re)Read

About the Author Clare Josa

Clare Josa sets Passionate World Changers free from Imposter Syndrome and their secret 3am fears, so they can make the difference they are really here to make in the world. She is the author of five life-changing books, including the much-loved Dare to Dream Bigger. Her sixth book and debut novel, You Take Yourself With You, has been described by readers as 'unputdownable'.

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