How to Achieve Goals and Overcome Fears!

By: Dan Carpenter

Approximately 5 minutes Reading Time


Brief Article Overview


  • To understand where you want to go, you must first know where you are at present.
  • To clarify a goal, apply the SMART principle: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant and Timed.
  • Address inaction and ambivalence by “fear setting”.
  • Make “worst case scenarios” explicit and put appropriate preventative measures in place to minimise their risk.
  • Run a cost benefit analyses of action vs inaction, then extrapolate this over the next 6months / 1 year and 2 years.


Know Thyself


I bet you didn’t think we’d start this article with some Ancient Greek philosophy did you? Well…here it is. According to our trusted source (Wikipedia) the Ancient Greek aphorism ‘Know Thyself’ or ‘Nosce te ipsum’, is one of the Delphic maxims and is inscribed on the Temple of Apollo. So, it carries some weight for just a few words! It is a call for introspective thinking into past errors and transgressions, as well as understanding and awareness of your current situation. 


Let’s bring this into the 21st century. SatNavs get you from point A (where you are) to point B (where you want to go). When it comes to goal setting people often emphasise point B, but overlook point A, without which, a navigation system would be completely useless. 


To put it simply in order to formulate a plan to get anywhere, you must first know where you are right now! Hence the aforementioned aphorism. Set your position first, then set your parameters, and only then can we voyage on the journey. 


Setting your Parameters, Be SMART


Once you’ve got to grips with your current position, it’s time to create your goal. When doing so, we follow 5 easy to remember rules using the acronym SMART;


1. Specific 


An ambiguous goal is next to useless, be clear and concise about your goals. If you have multiple goals, you can separate them in order of priority, we like to use the terms ‘primary goals’ and ‘secondary goals’. 


2. Measurable 


Being able to measure the outcomes of your goals allows them to be trackable. Tracking goals helps us troubleshoot a prescribed intervention, so that we can adjust if and when necessary. 


3. Attainable 


Goals should be challenging, but not so much so that you set yourself up for failure. This is why understanding where you’re at right now is so important. 


4. Relevant / Realistic


Goals should align with your personal life “mantra”. This may take some reflection, but once achieved the goals you set will gain a gravitas and you will be much less likely to stray away. 


5. Time Bound


Set a realistic timeline, which can keep you going through tough times and sets a point when you can troubleshoot to refine your approach. 


Lessons from Stoicism


More philosophy… this is relevant, so bear with us! People often think of stoic thinking as inactive and passive. But if properly understood and implemented, it can be an extremely useful and powerful mindset. It has been described as “an effective operating system for thriving in high stress situations”. 


Stoicism is a school of thought in which virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge. The truly wise live in harmony with reason and are impervious to fate, fortune and extremes in pleasure or pain. A stoic is not indifferent, no one is impervious to the chaos of life, they are just not emotionally volatile or reactive. 


Understanding that there are things in life we can’t control, and identifying the things that we can, improves the efficiency and effectiveness of our decision making, enabling us to take action and achieve goals! To put it simply, control the controllables.


Action vs Inaction 


To do or not to do, which is more damaging for your development? How often have you set yourself a goal, but never pulled the trigger for reasons initially unbeknownst to you? 


Fear of action due to overthinking can lead to a “paralysis by analysis”, which can leave you stuck in a rut. As a famous stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger put, “we suffer more in imagination than in action”. 


Whilst the world around you keeps moving forwards, if you stay stuck in the same place, you end up just falling behind. Action and development are a constant necessity. This is why people often regret things they don’t do and not what they do, even if the results are unexpected. 


Fear Setting


Fear setting is a term coined by Tim Ferris (author and serial entrepreneur), who took the philosophy of stoicism and created an actionable framework, which can significantly improve your decision making. Once you’ve decided on a goal, and applied the SMART principle, you need to be willing and able to action said goal, this is where fear setting comes in.


How to do Fear Setting


Fear setting is a reflection exercise, used to clarify your goals and understand what is holding you back from achieving them. 


What you need:


  • 3 pieces of paper
  • A pen
  • 30-60 minutes.
Fear Setting Guidelines


At Common Purpose, we love goal setting and goal achieving even more! Applying the SMART principle helps us set goals which are explicit, measurable and achievable, which is a great start.


Many of us however get stuck in a state to ambivalence when it comes to putting our plans into action. In our minds, we often overemphasise the negative impact decision making and underestimate the positive impacts they may have. Writing down our fears and performing a cost/benefit analysis can help clarify these discrepancies and helps put things into perspective, so that we can get the ball rolling!



Food for thought? If this has encouraged you to think about your health, fitness & wellbeing, why not click this link and fill out our enquiry form. We’d love to see how we can help you on your journey.


Disclosure: This is article is not to be used as medical advice. If you are currently experiencing physical or mental health issues, please seek professional advice from a fully qualified Nutritionist, GP or Physiotherapist.