When You Don’t Know What To Do, Do This

If I gave you a chance to change your life in two minutes, would you take it?

I’m sure you said, “Yes” in your head, but let’s see what you’re really made of.

Let’s walk our talk. I’ll do it with you.

Don’t read ahead, just trust me for two minutes.

Let’s Do This

  1. Get a piece of paper and something to write with. Don’t read ahead! 🙂 Just go do it. I’ll wait here.
  2. At the top, write these words: “Things I Am Afraid To Do”
  3. Skip a line.
  4. List everything you are currently afraid to do. Everything you can think of. Stuff you’re putting off. Don’t worry. No one can see your list. This is just for you. Get really serious about it.
    Afraid to launch your blog/business/product? Put it on the list.
    Afraid to tell someone how you feel about them? Write that down.
    Afraid to make a change? That’s ok. Just add it to the list.
    It’s your list. Make it a good one. Make it really honest. This won’t work if you hold back.
  5. Done? OK. Good. Now, read though your list. Out loud.
  6. Go back to the top of the page where you wrote “Things I Am Afraid To Do”
  7. Cross out the words “I Am Afraid”
  8. This is your list of things to do.

Things I Am Afraid To Do

Fear is normal. The urge to talk yourself out of things is normal. I’ve done it a lot. You have to fight that urge if you want to grow.

If you want to change your life for the better, this is your list of things to do. Pick one thing on the list and do it today. Seriously, do it. Tomorrow, pick another thing.

Add to the list as you confront new fears. Your goal isn’t to become fearless, it’s to become courageous. To do the hard things that others won’t. That’s how you accomplish great things.

If you like this exercise, you can share it on Twitter. Click To Tweet

If you’re feeling courageous already, leave a comment below with one thing from your list. Then, when you’ve done that thing, come back and let me know. I’ll start.

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  1. I’m afraid to publish this post because it doesn’t “fit in” with the theme of my site.

  2. Screw you, John.

    Afraid of the conversation I need to have with my wife that we need to work less and spend more time together
    Afraid that with one more good year I will be Different from my friends and might lose them.
    Afraid that my back injury will never quite heal
    Afraid that I’ll get this parenting thing wrong and won’t know until it’s too late
    Afraid that I won’t find a way to help those close to me be financially better off
    Afraid that one day a man with a clipboard will arrive and tell me that I really aren’t qualified to do any of this and it’s time to shut up shop and get a real job.
    Afraid that I’ll never master anything enough to respect myself

    • Nick!

      Damn. That’s a good list, and I think you’re a badass for posting it here.

      Other than the man with the clipboard, I’d say you’ve got a lot of control over that stuff. Good luck with it, and let us know how it goes, if you want.

    • You’re brave, Nick.

      And you inspired me. So here’s a snippet of my list:

      Afraid of launching my coaching business.
      Afraid that no one will come.
      Afraid that success means less freedom and more overwhelm.
      Afraid that I am a bad girlfriend.
      Afraid of stepping away from the computer.
      Afraid of feeling my feelings.
      Afraid that I will never be a a reliable partner in crime and take care of myself.
      Afraid to be broken.

  3. This kinda made me want to throw up a little. In the best way. I think this fits in really well with the theme of your site actually… what better experiment than to become courageous? Even if it’s a lifetime rather than monthly experiment 🙂 You are awesome. Thank you for this… I needed a little kick today!

  4. Ooh, this was a fun experiment. I didn’t read ahead and that’s definitely not something I expected! Hmm, I should make a monthly to-do (or less, or more) to gauge what needs to change next… first thing on the list is talking to my boss about switching departments so I don’t lose my mind (or quit without a plan)

  5. Things to do:
    Launch my blog. Make it beautiful. Stand for showing up.

  6. Afraid that next year at this time will be too much like this year at this time.

  7. Ooohh I like this!

    10 years ago my biggest fear was public speaking, today I do it for a living. It took a lot of sleepless nights and shaking knees but it got easier and easier and I’m so glad I faced it.

    This post made me realise it’s time to face my current biggest fear and that is to put a product I create up for sale. Didn’t realise I had it till I wrote it down.


  8. Ha, ha! Good one! You know what mine is – launching my website – and sharing my deeper truth – in spite of being afraid that (easy one) no one will care or that (hard one) some crazy fundy type might decide to shoot me for saying what I really think.

    Glad you posted this and thanks for sharing the link with me. And glad to see that people are being open about it all. Gives me hope about the first one (above) – someone probably will care. And that’s a very good thing.

    Thanks, John!

  9. This is the good stuff right here! Going to work on this one with my guy, and see what we come up with!


  10. Ditto Bradley’s fear–that shit is deep and scary.

    Action, action, action.

    Wonderful post John–I am soooooo going to use this for the project (with proper source credit, of course).

    You have to post his in one year and invite us back to share our successes.

    You’re the man.

  11. I’m bad. I read ahead! But before I read ahead as I was mentally taking notes I thought: I am scared to launch JFlo Studios. I am scared to tell someone I’ve known forever that I like him because I’m in a longterm relationship and it would be awkward and not go anywhere. I’m afraid to move to Mindanao because it’s a red zone area.

    But I think your suggestions influenced my answers.. ;P

  12. Damn, John. Here goes …

    Be myself.
    Be alone.
    Die without really being “me”.
    Confront anyone.
    Try to create.
    Run out of Valium.

  13. Thanks for this idea John. Here goes..

    Afraid to:

    Say yes to a 15 month volunteer commitment

    Have a conversation with Mother/Dad about their inability to successfully live independently anymore

    Commit to a more intense exercise schedule

    Hear the details of my son’s move to Italy after moving across the country 18 months ago to be closer to him

    Explore why my migraines are back with a vengeance

  14. Afraid to…
    *touch anything to do with emotions – like,
    -mourn my dad
    -take the cats to the vet knowing they’ll be terrified
    -confront our son about how much his disconnect from the family hurts;
    … hurts ME
    *do anything that is good for me, consistently (exercise, diet, pray, study)
    *write, finish, and submit the grant proposals for funding to ensure the continued growth of Meals by Grace — what if no one thinks we’re worth it?????
    *do the hard stuff…

  15. Hey John,

    Wow…simple and powerful article. After finishing the exercise, it changed my perception about each and every bullet point. Thank you.

  16. Hi John,

    This is an AWESOME exercise! Thank you so much. Sharing my list with others wasn’t on my list so I’m not going to do it here, but I was surprised at how it illuminated the areas I was *stuck* in (e.g. afraid to lose weight, afraid not to lose weight).

    To turn it into a to do list is a master stroke and I feel really inspired now. Going to make a start today by stepping away from the computer. (Thank you to Iris for posting her fear about this – I didn’t realise it was one of mine until I read it)

    With gratitude for the post and to everyone who has been brave enough to contribute!

  17. John this was a great post. Like another reader I too read ahead a little before starting my list. I also felt a little like throwing up thinking that this time I might actually do the things on my list. Lol! I have a disability, Cerebral Palsy, and I have too many times allowed it to keep me from doing things that I really wanted to do. I have always wanted to work in the entertainment field in some fashion and throughout my life I have had numerous people tell me I look like this actor or that actor. I always appreciated the compliment, but it also made me a little sadder each time I heard it because it reminded me it I hadn’t been such a chickenshit my whole life, I might be living my dream or at least working on it.

    Anyway here is my list
    Things I am afraid to do

    1. Learn how to swim
    2. Audition for a play
    3. Sing in a karaoke bar
    4. Start an online business
    5. Start a blog
    6. Sing in full voice at church
    7. Audition for a film
    8. Become a professional speaker
    9. Participate in a wheelchair bodybuilding competition
    10. Dress in an outlandish style like Elvis
    11. Model
    12. Become a professional blackjack player
    13. Take a martial arts class
    14. Write a book
    15. Start driving again

  18. christine yannelli says:

    So I just got around to doing this and since there is no time like the present, here’s my list
    I’m afraid to make money
    I’m afraid to work harder
    I’m afraid to be honest with my family
    I’m afraid to exercise regularly
    I’m afraid to get into a long term committed relationship
    I’m afraid to stop drinking to stuff my feelings
    I’m afraid to commit to health and wellness
    I’m afraid to start my own business
    I’m afraid to address my financial issues
    I’m afraid to let go of the past
    I’m afraid to create a new life for myself
    I’m afraid to take responsibility for my past
    I’m afraid to move through with confidence
    I’m afraid to try a new approach
    I’m afraid to finish what I started
    I’m afraid to show up as “I Am”.

  19. Hey John, finally getting to this after our conversation in December on Facebook. So, second on my list was that I was afraid to ever live with another person, because I like absolute control over my surroundings and am extremely private & introverted. I could never even have a roommate. But, I just moved in with my significant other after nearly a decade of dating. I was pretty terrified, but a few weeks in and things are going well, and I’m actually happy. Thanks for the exercise and inspiring me to move on with my life! 🙂


  1. […] Things I am afraid to do. To do. […]

  2. […] Here’s my favorite post on the topic (and what to do about it): List Your Fears. […]

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