Dealing with the Sweat-Inducing Fear of Launching a Major Project

By Leo Babauta

Last week, I launched my new app, Habit Zen, on Kickstarter. Immediately the fears started surging through my body.

What if people hate this? What if no one funds it? What if I publicly flop in front of a million people?

And what if it gets funded, but I do a horrible job at it?

Fear grips you, and doesn’t seem to want to let go. You start worrying about every little thing, start getting desperate, start trying to figure out ways you can control the uncontrollable. Letting go would be the answer, but it’s not so easy. Fear rules with an iron grip.

But what is my alternative? I could never do anything big, never push myself into the wild territory of fearfulness, never try anything difficult that I might fail at.

Launching something big is freaking scary, but also it’s what I need to do to grow.

So here’s what I do:

Ask myself what my intention is. Why do I want to do this project? Is it to look good, to accomplish something awesome, for my ego? Or am I doing it to help people, out of love? How much do people need this help?

The truth is, if it’s for my ego, I probably shouldn’t push through the fear. It’s not worth it. But if I’m doing this for someone else, it’s worth the struggle. I should definitely make myself go through the fear if I think people will benefit from this.

Ask friends if I’m crazy. It’s possible that I’m deluded. So I ask people I trust: do you think I should do this? If I have good friends, they’ll be honest with me. They might be crazy too, though, so that’s worth considering. :)

My friends told me to do this. They’re supportive, and they don’t let me back out of stuff just because I’m scared. Thanks guys! It also helps to calm my fears if I have voices of sanity talking to me.

Stare the fear in the face. I am very likely to try to run from my fear, hide away in some safe comfort zone, or run to try to control my fear somehow. It’s a defense mechanism, and I’ve conditioned myself to do it for years.

Instead, I’m trying to teach myself to just sit still and face the fear. Look at it kindly in the face, and see what it’s like. What kind of courage does it take to stay with my fear? What is it like to not run? I try to explore this, with curiosity.

And what I find is that it’s not so bad. Fear can make me panicky, but when I face it, I find that it’s not the end of the world. Not such a big deal.

Stop myself from taking desperate actions. When I’m fearful, I can do desperate things. Anything to try to get things to turn out the way I want. But the desperate things are often harmful, not helpful.

So I’m trying to get myself to breathe, and take a more rational look at the actions I want to take. Ask myself questions like: am I doing this out of fear, or is this actually going to be helpful? Am I doing this because of ego, or will others benefit from this action? What would happen if I do nothing? Is there a better action I can take?

And once I calm down, the actions tend to be less self-centered, and more compassionate. When I remember.

Give myself compassion. If I’m filled with fear, I like to look at the scared part of me like it’s a little kid. We’ve all been that scared little child before. And instead of ignoring the scared child, instead of scoffing at the child … why don’t we just give it a little compassion? By sending love towards this fear, I can get it to calm down a bit, and not run.

What I’ve found is when I give myself compassion, I learn to trust that things will be OK. They won’t necessarily turn out the way I want, but they’ll be just fine. I’ll figure things out. I’m a good friend to myself, and a good friend will help you pick up the pieces when things fall apart. And they will. I’ll be there with compassion when that happens.

Tell myself to plunge into the water. I’ve stood at the edge of ice-cold waters before, dreading the iciness that would shock my body. And no matter how long I stood there, dwelling in my fears, it didn’t help.

What worked for me is just diving in, without thinking too much about it. Stop the dwelling, and just plunge. Brace myself for the shock, and accept that it will be uncomfortable. And that the discomfort would be temporary. And worth it.

With this latest project, I know there will be overwhelming fear. I know that things could collapse. And yet, I’m taking the plunge anyway. I’m going to trust that things will turn out differently than I hope, but that I’ll be OK anyway.

If you’d like to help allay my fears, go ahead and help fund my Habit Zen app on Kickstarter!