Fear Doesn't Kill Dreams. This Does.

Carol is in one of the most universally dreaded positions - she is about to give a public speech.

Her palms are sweaty. She can feel her knees trembling. She begins to look down on her notes, then up at the stage where the spotlight is on the person introducing her. Her heart feels like it is about to completely beat out of her chest.

How is she supposed to go up and talk in front of all of these people?!

She is certain that she is going to make a mistake, miss a key part of her speech and have the entire crowd ridicule her. It feels as if she fears the next 30 minutes more than any other 30 minutes she has ever faced in her life.

Then her name is called. She walks up to the podium trying to fake confidence and steps up to the microphone.

Carol is doomed to make mistakes on her speech.

But is she going to fail because of fear? Or something else?


Over the last 50 years, psychologists have sought to end problems like Carol faced that day by increasing our self-esteem.

Parents, teachers, coaches, musicians, and seemingly everyone else who has a voice, have all sought to increase the confidence of the next generation. In theory, this boost in self-esteem would give people the confidence that they need to pursue their goals without fear of failure. [1]

To pursue their passion without fear of how crazy they may be. And ultimately pursue their dreams without fear of what others may say or think about them.

And after several generations of self-confident individuals have started to hit the workforce, we can see that this worked! People have become much bigger risk-takers, passion-followers and dream-chasers than ever before!

Yet, taking a look at the self-confident generation will hardly show you that these are the models for success.

Their grades are not any better.

Their use of drugs or alcohol isn’t any lower.

Their level of obesity is only higher. [2]

That’s because fear was not the problem. Boredom was. 


Techstars Chicago is a startup accelerator that takes 10 promising startup companies and helps them grow over a 3-month period. At the end of the 3 month period, each startup CEO gives a pitch on his or her business in front of hundreds of potential investors.

Some CEOs are naturals at public speaking, but most of them are just as terrified of giving a high-pressure speech as you or me.

So the head of Techstars Chicago makes each and every company practice their speech at least 100 times - roughly 17 hours of practice - before their big pitch.

The result? Each speech is about as close to perfect as one could expect.

Not because they weren’t afraid of public speaking, but because they had the willpower to practice and prepare. When you practice a speech 100 times, the 101st time is going to feel like second nature.

Let’s look at Carol’s situation once again. She is about to give a 30 minute speech in front of a large audience and she is completely terrified. Her palms are getting sweaty, her knees are shaking and her heart is racing because she is afraid of making a mistake.

But would Carol really be afraid to give her speech if she had put in that kind of practice?

Not a chance. She may have some jitters at the beginning, but it would simply be another repetition for her - just like the people pitching for Techstars.


Think about your biggest goals right now. Are you not able to achieve them because of fear? Or because the process is quite simply boring?

Yes, it is scary to go to the gym if you are not comfortable with the weights or with the proper form. You will be vulnerable and you might look stupid in front of people if you get it wrong.

But spend a boring hour or two on the web and you will find the exact exercises you should do as well as the YouTube videos showing the proper form. Practice them for another boring 30 minutes and you will have nothing to fear!

Yes, it is scary to think about quitting your job and starting a business of your own. You will lose money, security and you may end up failing.

But spend some of your free time and money doing boring things like market research, starting a website, coming up with a prototype, and writing a business plan, and you will begin to lower your fear of risk with each passing day. 

And yes, it is scary to "put yourself out there" by giving public speeches, making business connections and meeting new people.

But spend some boring hours researching what works in these situations, learning how others overcame their fear and practicing the skills that helped them, and you will gain the confidence that you need to face those fears.

Fear is a factor in these goals, of course, but fear is not what ultimately stops you from achieving them. Almost any fear can be overcome with a commitment to boring hours of research and practice. 

Willing yourself to spend these boring hours researching and practicing is how you truly reach your goals. Not through a “rah-rah” speech that motivates you to overcome your fears.


Embracing this boredom is easier said than done, of course. Just because you recognize that spending many boring hours studying for your medical exam will increase the likelihood of success, does not mean those hours are going to breeze by.

So how do you embrace this boredom to achieve your goals?

Here are some scientifically proven ways to make those boring hours a little more enjoyable (you can read the full post on embracing boredom here):


The first step to embracing boredom is to understand that it does not signify a lack of passion. You are simply not going to be excited by every step in the journey toward your goals – and that is OK.

The important thing to remember in these boring moments is the purpose behind why you are doing them. The people in Techstars Chicago may not have been passionate about giving a high-pressure speech, but they remembered their higher purpose of building a successful business to motivate them through each and every practice run.

When you face those boring points in the journey, remember your purpose. Remember that greater reason why you chose this path in the first place. That is where your true passion will be found.


We have a natural tendency to put off doing our boring things until later. They are what Mark Twain called our “frogs". Those ugly, disgusting things on our to-do lists that we want to procrastinate more than anything.

Unfortunately, the later we put these off, the less willpower we will have to complete them. Our willpower is the highest in the morning – provided we had a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast. So the sooner in the day that we take on the boring tasks that we need to get done, the easier they will be to complete.  [1]

So understand the importance of getting the boring things done, and get them off of your to-do list as early as possible.


The best way to get a boring thing off of your to-do list is to avoid being overwhelmed by the prospect of doing it. Many people believe that the task will be much more painful and boring than it actually is, so they put it off until later. 

To avoid this perspective use the Pomodoro TechniqueThis technique involves setting a timer for 25 minutes and following it with a 5-minute break. Then repeat until the boring task is complete. This is enough time for you to make significant progress without being completely overwhelmed and tempted to procrastinate. [3]


There is, perhaps, no more boring journey than in becoming a world-class endurance athlete. Imagine just how boring it would be to get up every single day and run for hours on end. Nothing really changes; just the same one foot in front of the other, over and over again. 

Yet, elite endurance athletes do not see it this way. They fall in love with the process of getting better. Every day is a new challenge to see if they can go farther, become faster and get one step closer to becoming a champion. Sure, some days are harder and more boring than others. But by falling in love with the process, they are not nearly as bad as they could be.

In your own journey, find ways that you can fall in love with the process. Begin to track your progress, begin to find the little things that you like, and begin to love the process of getting better. This perspective will help you push through those long, hard, and boring days.


There is a myth in our society that fear is what holds you back from achieving your dreams. Whether that dream is achieving the body, the career, or the life that you have always wanted. But fear is only a part of the story.

The real thing that holds you back is boredom. If you can learn to embrace this boredom, if you can embrace the practice and preparation necessary to take on whatever your challenge may be, no amount of fear can hold you back. 

So remember your purpose, get the boring things off of your to-do list in the morning, use the Pomodoro technique and fall in love with the process. Then get ready to overcome your fears and truly achieve your dreams.


  1. Baumeister, R., & Tierney, J. (2011). Willpower: Rediscovering the greatest human strength. New York: Penguin Press.
  2. Paulhus, Delroy L. "Interpersonal and Intrapsychic Adaptiveness of Trait Self-enhancement: A Mixed Blessing?" Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74.5 (1998): 1197-208.
  3. Allen, D. (2001). Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity. New York: Viking.