You know how to reach your goals, but it’s the feeling that will take you there

“This is one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind.”
Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969

When Armstrong stepped out of the lunar module Eagle and on to the surface of the moon and uttered those words, it was a magnificent thing to behold. I vividly remember sitting in my uncle’s cottage surrounded by family and cousins watching it on TV. At the age of 12, I knew this was a huge deal.

When Armstrong became the first man to walk on the surface of the moon, it was the culmination of a BHAG—a big, hairy, audacious goal—for the United States. This was during the Cold War; Americans were happy to stick it to the Soviet Union.

Most of us have BHAGs for ourselves, such as losing weight, lowering our handicap, changing the way we show up in a relationship, moving our careers forward, and so on.

But taking that first step often feels like a herculean task, and our ambitions go unfulfilled. What we want often seems out of reach, and we may believe it’s unrealistic, we’re weak willed, or we’re deficient and we’re just kind of pathetic. It’s defeating and depressing.

‘I want to go to the gym, I know I should go to the gym, my friends go to the gym‘. But it doesn’t happen.

Most of us know what we want, and what to do. … and yet. It’s not a matter of lacking the brains, or convincing ourselves. It’s not an intellectual issue.

The greatest impediment to taking that first step is fear—the dreaded feeling that you’ll fail, look foolish, or you won’t be good, and so on. Fear that someone—a spouse, a parent—won’t like my choice, or I can’t overcome my bad habits.

How to overcome the feeling of fear?

Feel some joy.

Yeah right. How the hell to do I feel good when I feel bad that I’m not doing what I want to do?

Take a risk. A small one.

Consider Armstrong for a moment: To prepare for his giant step on the moon, Armstrong took millions of small steps. He began with simple simulations at NASA headquarters, and over the course of thousands of hours, he ratcheted up the complexity.

In my Commit to Freedom workshops, I faciltate a group exercise where everyone in the room pairs off with a partner and sets a personal goal that they can commit to and accomplish within the next week.*

I encourage the participants to set an easy goal; one that they know they can meet. Something exceedingly do-able. When the participants announce their goal to the group; the energy is high and the participants are excited. There’s lots of cheering.

For someone who wants to lose 30 pounds, for example, the goal might be to go to the gym three times for 15 minutes over the next seven days.

You might think, ‘That’s not so tough.’ That’s the point. We’re gunning for that first win. The can’t-miss-easy victory.

Here’s why: making good on a commitment feels good. Especially when you’ve overcome some resistance.

Feeling good. It’s the underlying reason we do anything. Not because we’re praised, or meet some standard. It’s because of the feeling of joy that radiates within us. Your feelings are far more powerful than what your mind can come up with.

Most everyone thinks they run their lives rationally based on their intellect. But your subconscious—where our feelings reside—runs the show. Intellectually, you may know you burned some calories walking the treadmill, but what brings you back the next time is that you felt freaking good having done it.

When we move toward the things we want in life for ourselves—in our personal and professional lives—we gain energy, a sense of encouragement, we see new possibilities. We build evidence that we can reach our goals.

Using the gym example, having savoured that victory, you might crank up your commitment and plan on going to the gym for 20 minutes the next week. And four times the next, on and on.

It seems easy.

And yet it’s not.

Otherwise you would already be doing things that you’ve been putting off, or acting in different ways.

Getting past fear is difficult. That’s why we set the bar low.

When you get those first few wins—even if they didn’t go completely smoothly—you realize you didn’t die. You finally moved toward your goal, and you survived.

In fact, you feel good.

Do you have a big hairy, audacious goal?

Start small and feel swell.

*In my commitment workshops, each partner asks the other to hold him or her accountable. The pair checks in with each other on a date they agree upon. It’s called support accountability and it’s one of the techniques that I teach in my workshops, and it’s one of the most effective ways to progress toward your goals.

For information on my Commit to Freedom workshops, visit or send me an email to

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!