What Hidden Emotional Anchors are Holding You Back?

hidden anchorsWhen you are happy you are confident. You make choices that give you a better chance at success. Don’t let the fear of making a mistake take over.

Pulling up your emotional anchors and letting the “happy you” sail is hard.

“Some people are afraid of what they might find if they try to analyze themselves too much, but you have to crawl into your wounds to discover where your fears are. Once the bleeding starts, the cleansing can begin.”
– Tori Amos

When you think too hard, too many problems arise. This is when worry and fear take over. Your fears are just trying to protect you from emotional pain. It’s you trying to protect yourself.

It’s a weird dynamic that stunts us from creating great stuff.

My Story

I was afraid of trying to get two of my novels published.

I didn’t want to put the time and effort into contacting agents only to be rejected (sad view, but true). I didn’t understand this at the time, but I do now. My two novels currently sit on my hard drive because I’ve taken my writing in a new direction.

I was too afraid of being rejected to try to make my novels a success.

I’m no longer afraid, but that’s because I’ve taken baby steps to overcome this. I’ve written a blog that is read by tens of thousands of people. I realize that nothing I create will be perfect.

It came down to letting go of my fear in order to allow success to happen.

Your fear is only trying to protect you from the pain, but it is also holding you back from being truly happy.

After studying my own fear, I came up with a system that’s simple and easy to apply in every circumstance.

Overcoming Fear

1. Listen to the self-talk.

2. Know that whatever you feel is okay.

3. Create a plan that you can emotionally invest in.

4. Take small actions.

5. Review your progress.

6. Find the fun.

The only way you will overcome your fear and allow your creativity to flourish is practice. If you want to master your emotional intelligence, you have to have fun with the process. The great writers, musicians, and gardeners all make mistakes, but they still have fun improving on them.

Let’s break down how you can handle your fear and enjoy the process of being creative.

1. Listen to the self-talk.

Your fear starts with how you communicate with yourself. If you feel energized by an idea but before you even begin your thoughts are tearing the concept apart, then you will lose motivation quickly.

You need to sit down with yourself and watch the patterns that arise. Are you worried that people will laugh at your effort? Are you afraid that you will fail?

By sitting down with your thoughts and noticing what occurs, you will have a better grasp on what is stirring your fear.

2. Know that whatever you feel is okay.

Your feelings have a right to be there. They are, after all, trying to protect you. You have to be compassionate with how you feel because you can’t change these feelings.

To overcome your fear, you have to accept your feelings and find a way to move in a more positive direction.

I’ve struggled with the idea of allowing my emotions to be as they are without trying to force myself to feel happier. Recently, I made the mistake of trying to force new feelings when I was rejected for a key note address because they wanted to take the concept in a new direction.

I thought I was going to land the job, so I felt sick to my stomach when I found out that the job was going to someone else. I went for walks and practiced Yoga like a mad man, trying to change my feelings. I was trying to change how I felt instead of acknowledging my state of being. It wasn’t until I was able to accept this disappointment that I could move on.

3. Create a plan you can emotionally invest in.

You can wallow in sadness, or you can create a plan of action that will focus your energy. You have to create a plan that will pull your emotions toward action. If you can’t get excited about the next plan then you will stay stuck.

I constantly made the mistake of trying practically the same plan over and over again without making any changes. You need to create a new plan that will give you a better chance at success. This new plan should bring that internal motivation back up and leave you feeling energized for a renewed effort.

Your new plan has to be more important than the lingering pain of the last failure or you won’t take action.

4. Take small actions.

You have to take small actions that help you build confidence. If you’ve created a plan that you can emotionally invest in, now it’s time to break down the goal to quell your fear.

It’s important to take actions on small goals because it makes it feel easier to achieve success. If you look at the project as a whole, it’s going to feel overwhelming. These small achievements will build confidence. When you believe you can accomplish a tough goal, you will have a better chance at success.

Once you are chipping away at the project, you will gain momentum. A setback can easily slow that momentum down, so you need to make sure you take the time to assess and enjoy your accomplishments.

5. Review your progress.

After completing small tasks, you should review your progress. Your motivation will dwindle if you don’t. So take the time to appreciate what you’ve accomplished and think about how you can be even more productive.

Fear is a tricky emotion. You may see the negative in what you’ve accomplished, which will bring down your mood and motivation. Remember #2 (Know that whatever you feel is okay). Acknowledge these feelings, but at the same time keep looking for the positive in what you’ve done.

I’ve been working on an eShort (short ebook) for this site. I want to give more in-depth information about the emotional development that you can achieve at work. After I would finish a chapter, I usually would look back over it and internally beat myself up (Don’t do this to yourself). I’ve learned to stop this negative behavior (on most days).

Once these feelings pass, I settle myself and ask ‘What needs to be fixed?’ I’ll then start taking baby steps (#4 Take small actions) to keep the process moving forward.

6. Find the Fun.

The last part is making the work as much fun as you can. If you aren’t having fun dealing with your fear and overcoming it, then you are losing out on some amazing self teaching moments.

You need to discover a way to find the fun.

I used to hate editing. I would rather create something new all the time. The problem with not enjoying the editing process is that my writing sounds like a 9th grader wrote the piece.

Now when I edit, I imagine myself as one of my favorite writers (Bukowski, Trunk, or Hemmingway), put on some music (Mozart, Bach, or Beethoven), practice 60 seconds of deep breathing, put out a little thanks into the universe for giving me the skills to reach wonderful people such as yourself and then I get started.

This set-up releases the hidden anger and impatience and allows me to enjoy the editing process.

Putting it All Together

Your fear is the heaviest detriment to your creativity. An anchor on your imaginative thoughts.

When you allow your fear hold you back, you are letting your emotions dictate your confidence.

You need to appreciate your fears, recognize their need to help you, and then let them go. This will allow you to do the great work that will bring you so much joy. You’ll then find that the next try and the next try after that will fill you with so much passion that you can’t be stopped.

What do you do to let go of your fear so you can create great results?

Need a boost to your work happiness? Then check out Happy at Work Project and start one yourself.


Stephen Mills of Rat Race Trap wrote a wonderful post called Optimizing Your Working Memory – Part II. I thought it was superior to Part I.

If you enjoyed this post I think you’ll like this one too:

Image courtesy of david.nikonvscanon


14 thoughts on “What Hidden Emotional Anchors are Holding You Back?”

  1. Good post, and a good reminder!

    I’ve been having a mental block on some things – this post reminded me that I should write down a “which is worse” comparison – facing the problem or not achieving the goal? I think I’ve got a burst of energy again.

  2. Karl,
    Something I have taken away from my life coach is in the power of visualizations. So – for me that means visualizing success (at whatever is currently holding me back). This has been a great help in getting me beyond barriers that can stand in the way.

  3. This is a really great post… Fear can be so difficult and I think it’s the primary factor that holds most of us back from living our lives as we’d like to. Great suggestions for overcoming fear!

  4. That Tori Amos quote is AWESOME! Wow… so much wisdom in those words. We have to bleed in order for the cleansing to begin. I love that metaphor.
    There are days when my confidence is affected by my emotions, and being a woman I can clearly point to the calendar and know instantly when a better day would be to attempt something big & bold. I’ve found I can muster my courage by looking at others who succeeded, but may have struggled a bit. I don’t think many people just rise to the top without being challenged – either externally (rejection) or internally (self-doubt). It’s part of being human, so when I see stories about now-famous authors who were turned down 100 times before finally getting something published, I think, “Yes, perseverance pays off.” John Grisham is a GREAT example of that.
    Thanks for sharing your story so openly with us, Karl. We’re all in the same boat, so to speak — these human bodies and minds mean we all suffer, but the great news is, we also have the power to overcome and rise to our greatest potential!

  5. “Your fear is the heaviest detriment to your creativity. An anchor on your imaginative thoughts.”

    This is my issue right here. I’ve been taming my fears for a couple of months now and currently they are mostly non-existent.

    I could also relate to you trying to get rid of feelings vs becomeing at peace with them.

    Like Megan, I love the Tori Amos quote. And can relate.

    The Chicken Soup people suceeded because the stories are written at a 7th grade level. That’s the readihg level for the majority of the population. I say go with it…Thanks for helping me set sail on Monday morning, Karl!

  6. This was fantastic to read Karl – how motivational!

    It is so true, fear holds us back from so much, and in the end why? We sabotage our own happiness and success.

    Now a big question, you said “I realize that nothing I create will be perfect.”

    But Karl, perfect according to whom? In my view what you write is perfect – perfect for you and perfect for whoever reads it and resonates with it. There is not one perfect out there, and I just want you to give yourself more credit. You are awesome, your writing is awesome. Look how far you have come already!

    Keep believing in yourself, keep creating and keep enjoying your creations. That is perfection in itself 🙂

  7. What really leapt out at me was “It came down to letting go of my fear in order to allow success to happen.” Sometimes we fail to see such things as fear for what they really are – dream-stealers.

    The only way that I have learned to conquer this emotion is walking through it. As I’ve I heard it stated on many occasions,”Feel the fear, and do it any way.” By no means am I trying to over-simplify the process, but ultimately, that’s what it comes down to – either I feel the fear, and do it anyway, or allow the fear to be bigger than me.

    Thanks for the post.

  8. Hi Ed, Hope that burst of energy served you well.

    Hi J.D., Thank you.

    Hi Lance, Visualization is a great tool. I’ve been experimenting with more of this process. So far I love the results.

    Hi Positively Present, When we let go of our fear and stop trying to hold on to it we can accomplish amazing things.

    Hi Megan, Perseverance does pay off. The more we try, adjust and try again the better chance we have at success.

    Hi Tess, When we find a way to find peace with our feelings it’s so much easier to enjoy difficult situations.

    Hi Evita, Thank you. It’s always nice to hear kind words about my writing. Some times I’m a little too tough on myself.

    Hi Iman, Feel the fear is a great way of putting it. When we decide to feel it’s wrath we realize we made more of a big deal out of it than we really should have.

  9. Thanks for this Karl — I can definitely relate to the nauseous sensation in your stomach you described when you felt rejected — and like you say, those are moments where we can take a look inside and ask “whoa, I’m reacting as if I’m in serious danger here — what might really be going on?”

  10. Excellent post. I have found that the moment we let go of the emotional baggage we know is there, new opportunities arise really quickly. It’s like we prove to ourselves that we can accept the greater and bigger opportunities ahead by first letting go of the old. If we hold on to things that no longer serve us, how do we get to where we really want? That is the question one must ask when they aren’t willing to change.

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