Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” One of the biggest dream-killers is a fear of shooting your shot. When we talk about the phrase “shooting your shot,” we are describing moments where you go for something that seems or feels unachievable. Whether in sports or in life, most people fail because they refuse to start. We see it every day in every aspect of life: A person doesn’t have the courage to ask their crush on a date, a job has too many qualifications listed so people decide not to apply, or a student decides not to sign up for honors classes / a difficult exam because they assume they will fail it. Unfortunately, we can only improve by pushing our limits, not by living within them. Let’s dive into the root of this dream-killer, see why people don’t shoot their shot, and determine ways to overcome those obstacles.

Why it’s difficult to shoot your shot:

1) High expectations“The job requires more years of experience than you have. The test includes subjects you haven’t studied before. A scholarship requires a competitive, difficult to write essay.” High expectations of a position lead many to fail to try. It can be overwhelming to attempt something that seems impossible for you to get. 

How to go for it: If you reach beyond your limit, you begin to create a new limit. By attempting something that has expectations higher than you feel like you can reach, you allow yourself the opportunity to go for it. You will either get the position and raise your level quickly, or you will not get it and receive a valuable experience. For example, interviewing for jobs above your qualifications will get you used to high pressure interviews and will help you become more persuasive in convincing employers to hire you. That valuable experience is lost when you don’t make an attempt.

2) Competition “Other people are more qualified. Other people are better looking than me. Someone else deserves it more or worked harder for it.” Whatever the excuse, many fail to shoot their shot due to a feeling that someone else is better than them. A typical thought that leads this failure is “why would they pick me when they have better choices.”

How to go for it: When you compare yourself to others, you willingly give up your right to see what you can achieve at your own best. It doesn’t help that it is easy for you to spot your own flaws, while recognizing only the excellence of other people. It’s time to play lawyer! You need to make the most convincing arguments for why YOU deserve the success you are hoping for. Ignore the competition and focus on your own excellence. Write it down so you can see that you are worth taking the shot.

3) Excuses are easier“I don’t have time to put in the extra work. I would need to learn this extra skill. I would have to pay for another book.” When a huge, difficult goal is looming, it is so much easier to make an excuse than it is to go for it wholeheartedly. Even if you convince yourself that a shot is worth shooting, an excuse can suddenly hamper your progress and allow you to just forget about it.

How to go for it: Accountability can do wonders to reducing your excuses. You should employ self-accountability and accountability from trusted friends, family members, and/or mentors. Be clear in what you need to do daily to accomplish your big goals, and ensure that you have a punishment/reward system in place for meeting your daily expectations. Check in regularly with trusted friends and ask them to be on your case in doing those daily tasks. Remember, it’s not about focusing on the end result so don’t look for accountability on whether your shot is successful, just that you are making progress towards taking the shot. 

4) Unmotivated “I’ll give it a shot next week. It’s not really that important to me. I’ll see if I can fit it into my schedule.” The hardest part of shooting a shot is getting started. Once you get momentum, obstacles can be overcome much easier. Overcoming the initial feeling of being overwhelmed and having so much to do can end a dream before you get a chance to explore it. 

How to go for it: Break the big goal into very small tasks. Start with the smallest and easiest task and accomplish it. Don’t look at the goal as one big project, as then you will always feel overwhelmed. A checklist can be very handy for assuring that you have broken the tasks down and can make consistent progress without adding weight to your own shoulders. 

5) Lack of self-belief / limitations“I just can’t do it. It’s too difficult. I’ve never done something like this before. I’ve already tried it once and it didn’t work.” The last and most effective barrier to shooting your shot is not believing in yourself. When you decide that you can’t do something, your thought becomes truth. It is difficult to believe that you can accomplish something that you’ve never seen yourself do before. This is the largest wall standing in the way of an exceptional life.

How to go for it: A lack of belief in yourself shows a focus on results mixed with high levels of nerves and anxiety. You only don’t believe in yourself when you care about the results and nothing else. If you think it’s all about getting the test score you want, and you put no thought into getting better and improving, you will crush yourself before you even start. It’s time to switch your thinking to the process and forget about the result! Spend time attempting to get better. Mark your improvement somewhere so you can see that you are getting better. Monitor your progress and do not allow the results to change what you feel about the progress you’ve made. Replace the nerves you feel over the results, with excitement and gratitude for the opportunity to grow!

Every great accomplishment I’ve had throughout my life started with me attempting something I had no business achieving. Instead of dwelling on the idea of not being good enough, I became curious with how good I could potentially be. Drop the fear and go find out what you are actually capable of when you go for it! 

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