The Integral Role Fear Plays in Goal Achievement

The Integral Role Fear Plays in Goal Achievement

I recently started listening to Andrew Huberman’s podcast, and have been fascinated by the body of information that he provides to the listeners. Huberman is an American neuroscientist and associate professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford School of Medicine. By far my favorite part of the podcast is the ability I gain for practical application of the neuroscientific information he presents. 

When you understand the neuroscience behind behaviors like habits, sleep, goal achievement, and more, you can “hack” your brain and make things easier to start, maintain, and complete, enabling yourself to achieve optimal results. You can start to approach life with more enthusiasm, leaving behind the mundanity of a checkers game, approaching it with strategy, savviness, and tact, as though it were chess. Once again it has imbued me with the child-like wonder and creativity we all possessed when we were young, but maybe lost as we matured.

I wrote my last blog on the topic of taking action in order to catalyze motivation for goal achievement, and I would like to further that discussion here, branching out onto some fascinating topics. Before I talk about fear I would like to discuss an interesting discovery regarding a simple action you can take before starting a work session that will enhance it. 

I would like to emphasize that the following information can be found in episode #55 of Andrew Huberman’s podcast titled The Science of Setting & Achieving Goals.

It has been discovered that by focusing your attention on a singular point (this can be a dot or line on the wall or any still object — it’s more important that the head remains still) your body will recruit an increase in systolic blood pressure. This then creates a body-wide increase in fuel utilization, oxygen availability, and our willingness to move forward and execute. 

What this means is that by simply holding your attention on a singular point (only 30-60 seconds is needed) you are preparing yourself and your body to take action, making the commencement of a work session or task far easier. What’s better is that this is shortly followed by the release of epinephrine (adrenaline) which enables us to sustain our focus and energetic output throughout the task or work session. This can prove to be useful to all, but especially those who struggle with starting things or sustaining focus, and is a viable aid to those with ADHD.

Now let’s discuss fear. I’m sure we’ve all heard those classic encouraging phrases like “Don’t doubt yourself!” or “Don’t let fear creep into your mind!” As much as these may sound like the right things to remember, they don’t provide much momentum. When it comes to keeping your mind strong and locked in on achieving your goals, envisioning your future may be counterproductive, if done too often. Every once in a while can prove to be useful.

Visualization of your life after you achieve your goals, and how wonderful everything will be, is effective for starting projects but offers poor motivation to sustain your efforts. There is a far more effective motivator: fear. It has been discovered that there is a near doubling in the completion of goals in those who routinely focus on foreshadowing failure and the negative effects and emotions it may induce.

This discovery made me think about a video that I had seen where Mike Tyson responds to a question regarding what motivates him before fights. His response surprised me: fear. However, when we break down the logistics of why this happens, it begins to make sense. We often perceive the chance of loss to be much more significant than the chance to gain or win. Because of this, we often push ourselves further, bolstering our skills or preparation, to reduce our chance of failure. The knowledge of failure being a direct result of our decision not to put the work in is what keeps us coming back. Our natural inclination is to eliminate any possibility of failure by perpetually answering the question “What if I fail?” What is that answer: put the work in to ensure its likelihood is as miniscule as possible.

Keep the understanding that the achievement of your goals is not guaranteed in the back of your mind. Return to it wherever you have a lapse in motivation or lose sight of that end goal that provides your Why. I always keep that picture of my materialized vision in my mind, but also that fear of failure. It provides me with a sense of urgency, like I can’t settle down. It reminds me that I always have to keep going, keep stacking brick by brick, regardless.

Life obliges failure.


Failure is a teacher

I’ve learned the lesson of not putting enough work in many times before. 

I keep my foot on the gas in hopes that I will never have to learn it again, and that my only failures come from mistakes in my execution rather than my preparation.

Scared Of Failure?



Failure is a tool. 


Failure is fuel. 


Rowan Paoletti-Newton

MTD Blog Writer 

Back to blog

Leave a comment