How to Bolster the Will to Win: First Steps to Finding the Motivation to Overcome Your Fears

Last week we introduced an overarching philosophy on how to win control over your own mind so that you can overcome your fears and pursue your dreams. It’s a model that is supported by two pillars: will and resources. Today, we will look at how we can increase our store of will to conquer our toughest fears.

Motivation—the will to succeed—is foundational to conquering your core fears

The theory of motivation is a perennial hot topic for social psychologists and management scientists. One of the more famous is Abram Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It posits that once a need is met, it ceases to be a driving force. A well-clothed, well-fed, well-sheltered worker, per his theory, will not be as driven by the desire to meet these basic needs (food, clothing, shelter) as another who lacks these essentials. A more recent work is Daniel Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pink argues that meaning, not money, is a better motivator. Hence, according to his view, employers should focus more on helping employees find meaning in their daily work.

The reason why motivation is a subject of continuous research is apparent. Motivation is a distinct competitive advantage in business as in life. A motivated workforce wins often, and recovers faster from setbacks, than a repressed one. Companies go to great lengths to keep their workers engaged because they know it can make the difference between growth and bankruptcy. Motivation is also essential when we set out to overcome our fears, especially those that are hindering us from achieving our greatest desires—whether professional or personal. We, as individuals, should find ways to keep our spark alive, if we desire to win in life. The following three steps show you how to bolster the will to win over fear.

Step 1: Adopt counterfactual thinking

To change, your current situation must be viewed, by you, as intolerable. Most real-life situations aren’t this dire, so you need to magnify the minuses of the present and reduce the pluses. This altered view may be contrary to fact, but the distortion is a necessary starting point. Sometimes the only thing that will keep you going on your journey is the repugnant thought of returning to your “hellish” square one. The enemy of great is good; the enemy of excellent is average. To be great and excellent, don’t start from good and average; start from bad and poor.

Step 2: Feel the dream

Paint a vivid picture of your destination. Describe what will be different about life in this new state. Engage all five senses to make it very real. If your dream is, say, to be a world-class pianist, see the host of dignitaries coming to hear you play. Take in their applause after delivering a great piece. Feel the sturdiness, and elegance, of the grand piano; smell the food served at the reception to honor yet another accomplishment of yours. Taste it. Gold-winning Olympic athletes and other top professionals use this visualization technique all the time because it works. It bridges the gap between dream and reality faster. Neuroscientists argue that visualization is so effective because the brain cannot distinguish between dream and reality when the dream is sufficiently detailed. Therefore, your subconscious works overtime to accomplish the dream and make it reality.

Step 3: Set little reminders everywhere  

Step 1 is the push; Step 2, the pull. Step 3 is the compass to keep you on the path. Between the start and the finish line, we need a way to keep the fire lit. That’s where this step comes in. Write your goals on postcards and place them where you are bound to read them several times a day. For example, I have my next goals written on a small piece of paper, and I keep a copy in my wallet, I stick one on my mirror, I have another in my desk’s top drawer, and there is another one on my whiteboard. These little reminders are my own way of telling myself that I will get there. There’s incredible power in autosuggestion, i.e., speaking to one’s self. I will cite three examples, all from ancient times, to show that both the high and the lowly have used this technique to stay focused on what is truly important to them.

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Step 1 is the push; Step 2 the pull. Step 3 is the compass to keep you on the path.

-Michael Taiwo, author of DREAM


My first example is from Darius the Great, King of Persia. He was de facto the most powerful man in the world at the time, with vast responsibilities, but his focus was on conquering Greece. To remind himself of his desire to invade Greece, he had his cup-bearer say, “Remember the Greeks” at every dinner. He later summoned enough resources to wage war with Greece. While he failed to conquer all of Greece, he succeeded in vastly expanding his empire.

My second example is Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome. A biographer described him as “favored by the gods, feared by men, loved by women, respected by all.” He commanded his personal aide to whisper “You are only a man, Marcus” into his ear anytime someone praised him. Marcus feared that hubris may lead to his fall, so he prized humility. His aide’s constant reminder is the way he retained his humility–-a competitive advantage for him at that time.

My third example from antiquity is neither a king nor an emperor. In fact, she was an unnamed woman. Her story is captured in the Gospels. She was weak, having continually lost blood for years, and poor due to this ailment. Yet, she found the strength to fight through a crowd of men to get her cure. How did she overcome the resistance of men who were much more powerful than her? The answer lies in autosuggestion. She heard that Jesus was near and told herself “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” She repeated this statement over and over (autosuggestion), and this bolstered her will to break through the crowds to seek her miracle. Even Jesus was amazed at how she pulled this off! “Daughter,” He said, “your faith has made you well.”

Make no mistake, any worthwhile dream will take significant effort and considerable time to accomplish. Without the ability to tell yourself every day that you will make it, a thousand other things will swoop in to dilute your focus and energy. Autosuggestion is a time-proven way to keep your motivation strong and increase your will.

All three steps work together to strengthen the resolve you need to overcome yours fears and pursue your dreams. Step 1 is the push; Step 2, the pull; Step 3, your compass.

Why this matters

To lead the life you are capable of, to turn your dream into reality, fear must be contained. Fear is an enemy that must be fought because fear is at war with dreams. This is why we discuss how to win war using the model introduced last week. The first part is having a revved-up desire to fight, the subject of today. The second part is getting the resources you need to overcome your fears, the subject of next week. 



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Break your fears today

For more insights on how to overcome your fears, check out the book Dream: A Little Reminder to Graduates and Anyone Beginning Anew by Michael Taiwo